Wandering around The Duke’s Hall at the Royal Academy one afternoon between rehearsals I noticed one particularly odd portrait among the many splendid 19th century oils. It was Sir Harrison Birtwistle, painted by his son, Adam. In a modern, almost Francis Bacon-like style, Sir Harrison looks like he might be pronouncing his famous commentary on pop music. It’s too loud and uses too many cliches, he said.
Sir Harrison on YouTube
That was one among many surprising and inspiring artifacts of the long history of the academy. Kenny Wheeler will soon be honored there with a year-long retrospective exhibit of photos, letters, album covers and instruments. In the arena of young jazz players, there is a rich and varied group of talented musicians destined for great things. I was also touched by the Junior Academy, which meets on Saturdays and hosts an astoundingly good group of players aged fifteen to eighteen.
And so last Thursday I was truly honored to be given an Honorary Membership in the Royal Academy, a tradition that began around 1843 with Felix Mendelssohn. As director of Jazz Nick Smart put it, I was made an Honorary Chap. I suppose that’s the first step towards a Bloke-hood. Thank you.