Lady Groves Award 2018/Home at Last community opera, Bristol

[Dr] Mark Lawrence has been awarded the 2018 Lady Hilary Groves Prize by Making Music, the organisation which represents 190,000 members of choirs and voluntary music groups across the UK. The Lady Hilary Groves Prize is an annual award which celebrates individuals who have made an outstanding commitment to promoting music in local communities.

Mark was presented his award at the historic church of St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol after the first performance of his community opera, Home at Last, a sequel to his highly successful 2014 wartime piece, Home by Christmas.Home at Last, set at the end of the Great War, featured 300 performers including a massed adult choir, two primary school choirs, choristers, and five professional soloists with brass, organ and percussion. In presenting the award on behalf of Making Music, Glynne Stackhouse described Home at Last as 'a work of high quality both in its conception and creation, and in its performance, a huge achievement for everyone involved.'

Mark said: 'The award came as a complete surprise, just as we were launching into rehearsals this autumn. I'm thrilled to receive it, and hugely grateful to Making Music for acknowledging the vital importance of music in the community. With Home at Last I aimed to involve and challenge performers of all ages, from many backgrounds and with all levels of musical experience: professional and amateur, adults and children. The piece seemed to made a big impact on both audience and performers as it took us through the war, seen both through the eyes of young soldiers on the Front, and those left at home, anxiously waiting for news. The response was tremendous, with a total of almost a thousand people in the audience, and standing ovations on both nights.'

Mark’s work has also included founding and directing Music Box Children's Opera Group in Bristol, writing and conducting operas at St George’s Bristol and the Colston Hall and writing for theatre and BBC Radio Drama.

About Mark Lawrence (composer/music director)

Mark studied music with German at Bristol University, and later, composition and musicology at City University, London, where he completed a PhD in 2013 on the music of Estonian composer Veljo Tormis. His work includes a wide variety of commissions for choirs and ensembles, for theatre and for BBC Radio Drama. He has also devised and written many large-scale community pieces involving performers of all ages and levels of experience. These include, with Claire Williamson, Coming Home (the story of the ss Great Britain) and Cosmos, a space opera. Home by Christmas, commissioned by Bristol Plays Music for the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 2014, was performed at the Colston Hall by a cast of nearly 500 and was nominated for the British Composer Awards. 2018 has also seen The Hall on the Hill, commissioned by St George’s Bristol to celebrate the opening of their new extension. Mark is Founder (with Suzi Digby) and music director of Music Box Children's Opera Group in Bristol. He has recently been awarded the 2018 Making Music Groves Award for outstanding contribution to music in the community.

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