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Bram Tovey and Ian Porthouse honoured by Worshipful Company of Musicians

Wednesday 13 May, 2020

Conductors Bramwell Tovey and Ian Porthouse are to be honoured by the Worshipful Company of Musicians for their outstanding service to the brass band movement.

Ian Porthouse is to receive the Iles Medal, an award established in 1947 by John Henry Iles which is presented to musicians who have made a significant contribution to the brass band movement.

Bram, meanwhile, is this year’s recipient of the Mortimer Medal, which recognises service in fostering new generations of brass band musicians, having been endowed in 1995 in memory of Harry Mortimer by his widow, Margaret Mortimer. In particular, Bram will be recognised for his work as artistic director of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain (NYBBGB), a position he has held since 2006.

In receiving the award, Bram will become the first musician to have been honoured with both medals, having received the Iles Medal in 2003 in recognition of his service to brass bands in general as conductor (notably of Foden’s) and a composer.

The pair are the latest to be recognised by the Worshipful Company of Musicians, one of the City of London’s historic livery companies.

Ian first came to prominence as one of Britain’s most distinguished cornet players.  Appointed principal cornet of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain at the age of 16, he became principal cornet of Leyland Band the following year. He went on to hold the chair at Desford, Black Dyke, Tredegar (combined with conducting the youth band) and YBS bands. He was appointed musical director of Tredegar Town Band in 2008. While consistently achieving contest success, under his direction the band has been at the forefront of imaginative and creative initiatives to develop new audiences and new music.

Ian has conducted the band at significant events including:

  • playing a major part of the musical score for the BAFTA award-winning film Pride - the first time a full brass band has been included in a score of original film music;
    a concert in the Queen Elizabeth Hall in the South Bank Centre’s ‘Changing Britain’ retrospective festival;
  • performing the brass band score by Gavin Higgins for Rambert Ballet’s Dark Arteries at Sadler’s Wells Theatre - the first time a ballet has been scored for brass band. The band was located on stage as an integral part of the choreography. The subsequent recording of a suite from the ballet was voted CD of the year by all the brass band magazines and websites.
  • performing with Tim Minchin at a fund-raising gala at the Old Vic theatre, and returning two years later to perform at the gala event to mark the theatre’s 200th anniversary;
  • recording the band’s World War I commemorative CD War Memorials which was unanimously voted CD of the year;
  • giving the premiere in Speaker’s House in the Houses of Parliament of Tom Davoren’s Legacy, written to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service.   

Maintaining its regular appearances at the RNCM Brass Band Festival in January 2020, Ian conducted the band in virtuoso performances of Solemn Processional (Richard Strauss arr Hindmarsh), A Dialogue of Transmogrified Souls (Daniel Hall – UK premiere), Ernest Tomlinson’s demanding Cornet Concerto, with Philip Cobb as soloist, and Rococo Variations (Edward Gregson). The concert was recorded for future transmission on BBC Radio 3.

Ian is also head of brass band studies and conductor of the brass band at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where Tredegar is the brass band in residence.

Alongside his distinguished international career as an orchestral conductor, Bram Tovey has maintained an exceptional level of commitment to the NYBBGB. He has inspired hundreds of young musicians and has played a seminal role in mentoring a number of members of the band who have gone on to excel in the profession, among them Philip Cobb, principal trumpet of the London Symphony Orchestra, and James Fountain, recently appointed joint principal trumpet of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Currently the chief conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, Bram is conductor emeritus of the Vancouver Symphony, a post to which he was appointed in 2000. He is also principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl and was the founding host and conductor of the New York Philharmonic’s Summertime Classics series at Avery Fisher Hall. In 2008, he received a Grammy award for his recording of the Barber, Korngold, and Walton Violin Concertos with James Ehnes and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.  He regularly works as guest conductor with major symphony orchestras in Europe, the Far East and Australia.

Bram is also a committed and effective advocate of the need for young people to have free and equal access to good quality music education, and instrumental tuition in particular.  In a symbolic act he chose to conduct his debut concert with the BBC Concert Orchestra at Ilford Town Hall in support of Redbridge Music Service, acknowledging the life-changing opportunities from which he himself benefitted while at school.