Grayshott Concerts volunteer crowned Coronation Champion

Peter Harrison of promoter member group Grayshott Concerts talks to us about the legacy of their group and how it culminated in being one of Queen Camilla's Coronation Champions.

It’s quite overwhelming to be recognised with an award of this calibre. I’m not usually at a loss for words but I certainly was when I heard that I had been chosen as a Coronation Champion. Since the Coronation Champions were selected by a panel of over 200 judges from over 5,000 entries, with nominations concerning an individual’s efforts in the past five years, it's incredible for my work in that time to be recognised like this.

It all started back in 2004, when I founded Grayshott Concerts alongside my wife Vivien, as a classical music concert series. I have no musical qualifications, but the sheer joy of sharing live classical music with others and creating a legacy for my community inspired me to volunteer full-time on this project.

Along the way, we’ve recruited Sir Karl Jenkins CBE FRAM, one of the world’s most-performed living composers, as Patron, hosted three world premieres of his work, and had the joy of bringing countless world-class performers to the stage in our small village. Peter and Vivien pose in front of the Buckingham Palace

Peter and Vivien at the Coronation Champions garden party at Buckingham Palace

The very first concert was a one-off fundraiser for St Luke’s, our local village church. Feedback was so encouraging that we decided to create an ongoing programme of concerts. As a starting point, Vivien and I compiled a wishlist of our personal favourites, and then went about asking them to forego more familiar venues like the Royal Albert Hall to instead come and perform at our village church. Amazingly, a considerable number of them have said yes! Along came London Mozart Players, Britten Sinfonia, Tasmin Little, Chloe Hanslip, Howard Shelley, Alison Balsom, Nicola Benedetti, The Sixteen, Tenebrae, Isata Kanneh-Mason and dozens of others. 

So far this year, we’ve welcomed the extraordinary Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Coco Tomita. Still to come are soloists Matilda Lloyd (trumpet), Roderick Williams (baritone) and Pegasus Choir, all accompanied by the London Mozart Players, as well as London Festival Opera. 

'Our mission is 'World-class performances – on your doorstep' and that has always been front of mind...'

From two performances that first year, the programme has grown to include six to eight each year, and every event has been sold out. This encouraged us to stage bigger concerts with major works including symphonies, oratorios and operas. We have also invested in staging, a permanent lighting rig and screen systems in the church. 

Our mission is 'World-class performances – on your doorstep' and that has always been front of mind with the development of the concert series. I am hugely proud of all that we have accomplished. It’s quite overwhelming to be recognised as a Coronation Champion and I am beyond delighted that my efforts have managed to bring world-class classical music to so many people who otherwise would not have had that opportunity.

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