Derek Harrison awarded 2021 Lady Hilary Groves Prize

Making Music is delighted to announce that Derek Harrison, Musical Director of Hertford Choral Society, has been awarded the Lady Hilary Groves Prize.

The prestigious prize is presented annually to an individual from a Making Music member group who has had a significant impact on their group’s success or made an outstanding contribution to community music.

Derek has held the position of musical director for Hertford Choral Society for 44 seasons, providing the choir (currently 140 singers) with both the stability of clear, creative leadership and the confidence inspired by a community figure able to understand and respond to the growing and changing interests of Hertfordshire audiences. Derek has volunteered his experience, enthusiasm and innumerable other skills with considerable impact. He is a teacher, enthuser and ambassador for music as a means to deliver community cohesion.

'Derek wins the award for a lifetime of imaginative and energetic leadership of community music, from total novices and schools on up to choirs over 100-strong, from his local village festival to 25 choirs from across Hertfordshire singing together in the Royal Albert Hall. His programming has been purposely diverse, embracing brass and steel bands, percussion, jazz, accordion, chamber choirs and barber-shop as well as the traditional choir+orchestra. With his imaginative, joyful and celebratory approach he has truly enriched the musical lives of his community.' - Clare Birks, Making Music vice chair

Derek is inclusive in his approach, leading community events for those completely new to singing and also incorporating different musical cultures in the long-running themed series of HCS annual summer concerts. He has successfully collaborated with professional and amateur musicians alike, developing substantial arrangements of traditional and modern choral works of different genres to widen their appeal. Concerts at St Mary’s Church, Welwyn raised £6,500 over a three-year period, while each concert at the Royal Albert Hall raised over £30,000 for charity: examples of Derek's immense contribution to wider causes.

After moving to Knebworth in 2010, Derek formed the Knebworth Community Chorus, which has grown into a highly respected village choir with a very inclusive and multicultural ethos. Not only does the choir bring singers together from across the community, but through Derek's efforts, many other locals have been involved: instrumentalists and children from the village primary school, and joint exchanges between the Knebworth Twinning Association and Châtelaillon-Plage, their twinned community in France!

'His contributions have prompted integration and cohesion, but more than just that. They have built skills and memories, they have opened eyes and ears, and they have brought real joy and happiness to a huge number of people – both through the delights of participation in and appreciation of music.' - Trish Galloway, chair, Hertford Choral Society

Watch an interview with Derek and Making Music chair Dorothy Wilson at our free online ceremony on 8 September.

Find out more about the Lady Hilary Groves Prize, including previous winners.