Composer and international treasure John Williams is the recipient of this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Gold Medal. It adds to a phenomenal legacy of honors. A few of them are pictured below (Academy Award, AFI Lifetime Achievement, Knighthood, Olympic Order, National Medal of Arts)
The legendary film maestro, who composed the enduring music for Star Wars, Superman, ET, 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 recognizing 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.”
Williams has recorded many of his iconic scores in London, and given numerous concerts there over the decades where he maintains a major fanbase.
For children around the world, his compositions for projects like Star Wars and Harry Potter continue to be their first exposure to orchestral music. His frequent appearance on Pops concert programs can be someone’s first exposure to a live orchestra. Even casual musicians can play his themes. This year he won his astounding 25th Grammy and has a record 52 Oscar nominations.
The medal was launched to celebrate the centenary of Beethoven‘s birth. Previous recipients of the RPS Gold Medal include Brahms, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Sibelius, Richard Strauss, Bernstein, Stravinsky and in more recent years Simon Rattle, Martha Argerich, and Jessye Norman.
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.”
The online ceremony was opened by RPS Chairman John Gilhooly with a speech challenging politicians and encouraging the wider classical community to make sure that our current if curtailed musical life survives the pandemic, and thrives thereafter. Viola player Lawrence Power, whose recent projects include a series of commissions filmed in lockdown, was named Instrumentalist of the Year. Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who together with his siblings regularly invited virtual audiences into his family home to witness uplifting music-making during lockdown, was named best Young Artist.
William’s is still actively working at 88. His recent projects include Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and best selling album Across The Stars with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.
More at the RPS website.