Composer John Williams awarded RPS Gold Medal for introducing millions to orchestral music

18 November 2020, 20:30

John Williams receives RPS Gold Medal award
John Williams receives RPS Gold Medal award. Picture: Royal Philharmonic Society

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

‘He has dedicated his life to ensuring orchestral music continues to speak to and captivate millions of people worldwide.’

Internationally treasured composer John Williams, 88, is the recipient of this year’s RPS Gold Medal.

The legendary film maestro, who composed the enduring music for Star Wars, Harry Potter, Schindler’s List and many more, won the coveted award at the 2020 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, for introducing millions to orchestral music.

His win, one of the highest honours in music recognising outstanding musicianship since 1870, was announced during a digital broadcast on 18 November featuring performances filmed at London’s Wigmore Hall.

Accepting the medal via video, Williams said: “To receive this award is beyond any expectation I could possibly have. For any composer to be able devote his or her life entirely to the composition of music is very fortunate indeed.”

Director Steven Spielberg presented a special congratulatory message to his long-time collaborator via video message, saying: “John, you have brought the classical idiom to young people all over the world through your scores, and through your classical training and your classical sensibilities. You are in the DNA of the musical culture of today.”

Read more: John Williams’ ‘Schindler’s List’ voted UK’s favourite film score >

Watch the full video via the RPS website >

In his wonderful introduction to Williams’ win, which was determined by the RPS Board and Council and voted for by RPS members, RPS chairman John Gilhooly said:

“Some of us are born into classical music, never recalling a time without it. Others are drawn to its magic by the spell that orchestras cast in bringing soul, drama and humanity to motion pictures.

“The recipient of this year’s RPS Gold Medal has dedicated his life to ensuring orchestral music continues to speak to and captivate people worldwide in this way. Aged 88 and still at work, he is an international treasure, writing score after score of sophistication and impact, many transcendent of the films for which they were written.”

Elsewhere, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason was presented with the Young Artists Award for “captivating listeners worldwide”.

Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw received the Singer Award, while the Scottish Ensemble received the Ensemble Award for their innovation in their 50th birthday year.