The Classic BRIT Awards 2018 put on the show of the year at London’s Royal Albert Hall last night. Hosts and Classic FM presenters Myleene Klass and Alexander Armstrong presided over stunning exclusive performances and worthy winners, showing off the breathtaking diversity of this music and talent on one iconic stage.
Celebrating music from the worlds of classical, film, television, theatre and games, The Classic BRIT Awards returned for a year in which sensational new young classical performers have emerged, alongside the world’s biggest soundtracks and huge stars from musical theatre.
And with a new audience discovering classic music via platforms old and new, it was a multi-generational, multi-genre, multi-talented night.
This was summed up by a Lifetime Achievement Award for Dame Vera Lynn at 101 years old and 2 awards for Male Artist of the Year and Critics’ Choice Award for 19 year old Sheku Kanneh-Mason. 2 Awards for irrepressible duo Michael Ball & Alfie Boe proved that superstars past, present and future were relishing the occasion
Dame Vera Lynn, national treasure and original "Forces Sweetheart" was honoured by the UK music industry in her 101st year.
“It’s humbling to receive accolades and I’m delighted that people still enjoy my music all these years later,” said Dame Vera, “I never really considered what I’d be doing at this stage of my life. However, it was definitely a wonderful surprise to be honoured by the Classic BRIT Awards this year.”
The brand new Soundtrack of the Year award went to 2018’s chart phenomenon, The Greatest Showman OST. The soundtrack to the hit film has spent an astonishing 11 consecutive weeks at Number 1 on the UK Official Charts – the joint longest run at Number 1 in 30 years, tied with Adele’s ‘21’.
In a Classic BRITs exclusive, mezzo-soprano superstar Katherine Jenkins OBE returned to the stage for her first television performance since the happy news of the birth of her second child. She sang the beautiful ‘Never Enough’ from the UK’s biggest selling album of 2018 so far.
And a celebration of one of the world’s greatest entertainers, Andrew Lloyd Webber, marked his 70thyear, including a very special performance by Meghan Picerno, currently starring as Christine in the smash-hit tour of “Love Never Dies”.
He received the Special Recognition Award for Musical Theatre & Education, with the Classic BRIT Awards paying tribute to his tireless work both in supporting music education and speaking out against the funding cuts that threaten its future.
But that immediate future burns bright, with the Awards highlighting vital new artists who are bringing new audiences and sounds to this music.
After a remarkable year, Sheku Kanneh-Mason won both Male Artist of the Year and the Critics’ Choice in association with Apple Music. The 18 year old from Nottingham is a ground-breaker, becoming the first black winner of the BBC Young Musician Award in 2016. Last year, he released his debut album ‘Inspiration’ which broke into the Top 20 in the Official UK Album Chart and was also No.1 in the Classical Chart, effortlessly covering Bob Marley and Leonard Cohen alongside Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No.1 on the record. He starred at the Royal Wedding in May and is fast becoming the face of the modern classical world.
Another state school educated artist taking classical music into the future, Tokio Myers won PPL Classic BRITs Breakthrough Artist of the Year. The North London artist has risen via the Royal College of Music before winning Britain’s Got Talent 2017 with his musical mash-ups incorporating classical music elements. Currently working on his second album, this Breakthrough is clearly just the beginning as he proved by performing his genre busting cover of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Bloodstream’ coupled with Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ with the complete Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
“I’m honoured to have won this Breakthrough award,” said Tokio, “It means a lot to me to be recognised in this field and to receive a few nominations. It’s incredible to be grouped with talent such as Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Jonas Kaufmann and Max Richter for Male Artist Of The Year. I hope that in some way I can inspire young people through what I do to pick up an instrument and to explore a side of music they might not normally listen to for themselves.”
In a truly stand out year in and outstanding career, Renée Fleming won Female Artist of the Year. The American lyric soprano was already one of the world's most revered voices before she took on Broadway for the first time in a smash hit revival run of ‘Carousel’.
In opera, Renée brought her acclaimed portrayal of the Marschallin in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier to the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera and shone at the Oscars, featuring on the soundtracks of Best Picture and Best Soundtrack nominee films - 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’, and 'The Shape of Water'.
Andrea Bocelli was awarded the Classic BRITs Icon award and rarely can an artist be more deserving. Perhaps the most well known classical artist of the past 20 years, Bocelli has lit up global classical and pop charts, capturing the imagination of millions. The biggest selling classical artist of all time, he has performed for four U.S. presidents, two popes and the Royal Family, as well as at ceremonies for the Olympic Games and the World Cup. Known for opera and global crossover hits including ‘Time To Say Goodbye’, he recently scored a worldwide Number 1 with Ed Sheeran on the song ‘Perfect Symphony’.
Bocelli performed twice tonight, including a world exclusive performance of ‘Quaicoasa Piu Dell’ora’ (‘If Only’) from his forthcoming album.
Andrea Bocelli said, "18 years. A lot has happened since the very first time the Classic BRITs paid tribute to my music. It’s been a relationship of mutual respect and now it has reached 18 years of age, it’s a relationship that I live with great joy because it’s the measurement of the benevolence your country has shown me. To celebrate my gratitude for the Icon Award and for these 18 years of music which made us connect over time, I would love to present to you as a world premiere, my next single If Only, from my forthcoming album. This is a song which is particularly close to me, because it’s a hymn to love, meaning the energy without which life would have no meaning; but also because it bears the signature of the same relationship which gave life to ‘A Time To Say Goodbye’."
He also teamed up with great friend with British opera legend Sir Bryn Terfel, reviving their rousing duet of Bizet’s ‘Pearl Fishers’.
Sir Bryn followed with ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, reprising his acclaimed role as Tevye in the classic musical.
Group of the Year went to the inimitable Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, two great modern voices who came ‘Together’ for 2016’s best-selling album in the UK, achieving the Christmas Number 1 record. They also won the popular vote for Classic FM Album of the Year, voted for by the radio station’s listeners, for their second record ‘Together Again’ which went straight to Number 1. Two sold out arena tours cemented their position among Britain’s best-loved entertainers, pushing their record sales over 1 million within a year. For the awards, they performed a medley from West Side Story, a nod to Leonard Bernstein’s centenary celebrations and a bravura showcase for their consummate, seemingly effortless skills.
And the Sound of Classical Poll, in its first year, named saxophone player Jess Gillam as its inaugural winner. Calling on classical artists aged 13-30 and tipped for a great future, Jess and 4 other shortlisted finalists, Carly Paoli, Ember Trio, George Harliono and Sean Shibe were all featured on a special Sound of Classical Poll week on Classic FM.
From Cumbria, 20-year-old Jess Gillam made music history as the first saxophonist to win the Woodwind Final of the BBC Young Musician 2016. She has recently been announced as the youngest ever female performer for the Last Night Of The Proms and the first ever classical saxophonist to be signed to Decca Records. She is already becoming recognised as an international ambassador for her instrument – exploding the audience’s understanding of what a saxophone can do.
More performances on the night came from British composer and pianist Alexis Ffrench, who teamed up with remarkable South African soprano Pretty Yende. Alexis began with his composition ‘Bluebird’, joined by his ballet dancer daughter Savannah before Pretty weaved traditional South African song Shosholoza with Bluebird and Rossini’s Una Voce Poco Fa in a perfect musical marriage.
24 year old Italian classical piano sensation Beatrice Rana took to the stage to recreate her breakthrough album of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Praised for her incredible handling of such a complex and famous piece, she proved why she is considered the future of classical piano to a stunned and appreciative audience.
Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards, said: “We congratulate all The Classic BRITs winners on their deserved awards, which reflect classic music in all its diversity. It’s wonderful to see great icons such as Dame Vera Lynn and Andrea Bocelli being rightly honoured but also very encouraging to witness a new wave bristling with talent such as Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Tokio Myers and Sound of Classical Poll winner Jess Gillam breaking through. With such exciting new artists, classic music is evolving and embracing the opportunities that the streaming era offers to connect with new fans.”