Three times Grammy nominated, two times Brit nominated, winner of a coveted Ivor Novello Award, winner of the Gold Badge Ward, singer/songwriter Joan Armatrading MBE has come a long way since her birth in the West Indies and her upbringing in Birmingham. With 20 stunning albums to her credit including her album, Starlight released in 2012, Joan's subtle and sublime music has touched millions of people all over the world.
Known as a true craftsman, her distinctive vocals and consummate musicianship – she has arranged as well as played every instrument, with the exception of drums on the last four albums – have led to unanimous, widespread and, perhaps most importantly, consistent critical acclaim. Effortlessly eclectic, her sound has ranged from jazz to true soul to sophisticated pop driven by her passionate guitar.
In musical terms Joan Armatrading has achieved what performers dream of - she has constantly played, with some of the finest musicians around. She has received countless gold, platinum and silver discs, she has figured large in VH1's Top 100 voted poll The Most Influential Woman In Rock…..But more than that Joan has been honoured by the Queen receiving an MBE.
In 2008, one month from her 58th birthday, Joan ran her first marathon. She ran the New York marathon of 26.24 miles and helped to raise £76,000 for her chosen charity.
In addition, she has performed for Nelson Mandela, twice. Joan performed on his 70th birthday at Wembley. Then again in 2001 she was asked by the LSE, to perform "The Messenger" the tribute song she had been invited to compose for him. Mr. Mandela danced throughout the performance. Joan has been given the keys to Sydney, is Patron of various charities, has presented and continues to present BBC Radio 4 and Radio 2 series.
Joan was made an Honorary Fellow of the John Moores University of Liverpool (2000). Joan was also made an Honorary Fellow of Northampton University (14th November 2003). She has received a Doctorate in Music from the University of Birmingham (12th December 2002, an Honorary degree from Aston University in 2006 and on the 25th of June 2008 Joan received an Honorary Degree from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
Moreover, after years of committed studying, Joan achieved a goal she had held since childhood, she gained her BA Honours after studying history from the Open University – a feat very few other working artists would attempt, let alone while on tour (she took her final exam the day after the last gig of her 2000 dates).
Joan Armatrading's dedication to her studies while consistently producing wonderful uplifting music says much about the woman, her vision and her commitment to excellence.
The first non-jazz artist to play at London's Ronnie Scott's in the main room, Joan has many distinctions to her credit. A long time Ambassador and performer for the Prince's Trust, she lends her support to various charities across the world. In December 1998 she released a CD, "Lullabies With A Difference" in aid of PACES, a charity for children with Cerebral Palsy. Joan is an avid support of CAMFED a charity that is dedicated to the education of girls in sub Saharan Africa
In 1996 Joan was awarded an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection while a platinum CD was received for her part in the BBC's "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed.
March 2003 saw the release of the "Lovers Speak" album featuring 14 tracks in all written arranged and produced by Joan. In addition, with the exception of drums and horns, she played every instrument herself. An exceptional CD that combined strong upbeat melodies, riffs that stuck in your head and passionate, stirring soulful ballads, it was the result of a long-held desire to make a truly solo album.
In 2007 - JOAN ARMATRADING - hugely influential and pioneering British singer-songwriter released "Into the Blues" the blues album that she had always wanted to write and record.
The album debuted at #1 in The Billboard Blues Chart. Joan Armatrading was the first ever UK Female Artist, to do this. The CD remained at #1 for 12 consecutive weeks. She was nominated for a Grammy in this category. Again Joan Armatrading was the first ever UK Female Artist to do this. In 2007-2008 Joan toured the world with the success of "Into the Blues" which culminated in the release of the deluxe edition of "Into The Blues CD & DVD" which showed Joan at her best – live on stage, performing material that spanned her illustrious career.
This "creative force" spent 2009 writing and recording new material. You would think that this would be enough. It seems not!! Being such an accomplished guitarist, Joan decided to do a series of 5 interviews, for the BBC, with other guitarists to discuss their different styles and influences.
The sainted quintet of guitarists were an eclectic throng. Mark Knopfler, originally of Dire Straits, is an obvious rocker, John Williams, the classical axeman best known for the tremulous "Cavatina" on the soundtrack to The Deer Hunter, Bonnie Raitt, the flame-haired country singer of "Love Has no Pride", Bert Jansch, the rumpled veteran folkie of Pentangle, the late-1960s band and Russell Lissack, the twenty something, floppy-fringed Essex vegetarian from Bloc Party. Again this series has had hugely positive reviews.
In 2010 she released another fine work which headed straight to number 1 in the Amazon overall download chart. THIS CHARMING LIFE is a collection of eleven new compositions that saw Joan return to a more rock/pop format, both commercial yet also contemporary. From the anthemic opener and title track This Charming Life that, has hit single written all over it, to the hard rocking Heading Back To New York City and the "hands in the air" Best Dress On, Joan is back with an album that appeals to fans old and new. A consummate performer, Joan Armatrading is indeed the whole package, an excellent song writer, a powerful vocalist and as a guitarist, she is certainly one of the best players of today.
In 2012 Joan released her 20th CD a jazz flavoured album called Starlight
In 2014-2015 Joan undertook an epic 240 date series of concerts and called it her last major world tour. By no means ready to retire Joan has stated that from now on her tours will be shorter.
Evelyn Glennie is the first person in history to successfully create and sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist, performing worldwide with the greatest conductors, orchestras, and artists. She fondly recalls having played the first percussion concerto in the history of The Proms at the Albert Hall in 1992, which paved the way for orchestras around the world to feature percussion concerti. She had the honour of a leading role in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Photograph by Philipp Rathmer
Evelyn regularly provides masterclasses and consultations designed to guide the next generation. She is also a leading commissioner of new works for solo percussion, Evelyn has more than 170 pieces to her name from many of the world’s most eminent composers. The film ‘Touch the Sound’ and her enlightening TED speech remain key testimonies to her approach to sound-creation.
To this day, Evelyn continues to invest in realising her vision – to Teach the World to Listen – while looking to open a centre that embodies her mission: “to improve communication and social cohesion by encouraging everyone to discover new ways of listening. We want to inspire, to create, to engage and to empower”.
Dont miss the opportunity to hear Evelyn speak on Monday 25th July.
Darren Henley was appointed Chief Executive of Arts Council England in December 2014 and will take up his post in April 2015. He previously spent twenty-five years working in radio, leading Classic FM for fifteen years, first as Managing Editor and then as Managing Director. He was appointed an OBE in 2013 for services to music.
Darren has chaired or sat on a range of government advisory boards in the area of cultural education. His two independent government reviews into music education (2011) and cultural education (2012) resulted in the creation of England’s first National Plan for Music Education, new networks of Music Education Hubs and Heritage Schools, the Museums and Schools programme, the BFI Film Academy and the National Youth Dance Company.
He is the author or co-author of twenty-nine books, including The Virtuous Circle: Why Creativity and Cultural Education Count. It argues that an excellent cultural education is the right of everyone, bringing personal, social and commercial advantages that can only benefit the lives of all individuals in our society.
Dont miss the opportunity to hear Darren speak on Tuesday 26th July.
Photo by Ariane Smolderen
Randy Weston has released more than sixty recordings since 1955, including work for solo piano,orchestra,compilations and many featuring his African Rhythms ensemble. His compositions have been recorded by Lionel Hampton, Abbey Lincoln, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Turrentine, Carly Simon, George Shearing, Melba Liston, Pharoah Sanders, and others.
Randy received a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship for Music Composition that enabled him to compose An African Nubian Suite, a major new work for jazz orchestra. The piece is based on his lifelong research on and interest in the culture, heritage and music of Africa. Weston notes: "An African Nubian Suite is a testament to the profound effect my African heritage has had on my life. I hope it will also be my message to others to help them know and feel proud of this heritage, that when I play the work, our common heritage will touch and inspire my audience. It is a labor of love to the culture, the people and the music that has so inspired and informed my life."
In 2014, Randy received a Doris Duke Artist Award. This will allow him to compose a new work, Seven African Queens, and travel to Morocco to document the traditional music of the Gnawa.