Accrington composer who is ‘a national treasure’ given a Honorary Doctorate

Sir Harrison Birtwistle

Sir Harrison Birtwistle

First published in News Blackburn Citizen: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

AN Accrington composer described as a ‘national treasure’ has been made a Honorary Doctor of Philosophy by Edge Hill University.

Accrington-born Sir Harrison Birtwistle is considered to be one of the leading voices of British music and is known around the world.

He is best known for the opera ‘Punch and Judy’, a work commissioned by Benjamin Britten’s Aldeburg Festival.

Sir Harrison, 80, is also known for the works ‘Verses for Ensembles’ and ‘The Triumph of Time’. Born in 1934, he played the clarinet in amateur music events. However, after having a piece accepted for the Cheltenham Fesival in 1959 he sold his clarinets and devoted to composing.

He travelled to Princeton as a Harkness Fellow where he completed ‘Punch and Judy’ in 1967.

In 1995, his work ‘Panic’, an 18-minute piece for alto saxophone, jazz drum kit and small orchestra was premiered during the Last Night of the Proms. His most recent opera, ‘The Minotaur’ was first performed in 2008, Sir Harrison, 80, who now lives in London, has been a performer and teacher.

He became the musical director of the newly-established National Theatre in 1975. He was made a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 1986 by France and was knighted in 1988.

Sir Harrison was also the Henry Purcell Professor of Composition at King College London. In 2001, he became a Companion of Honour. Richard Witts, reader in music and sound at Edge Hill, said: “Harry is a giant of modern music.”

Coun Miles Parkinson, leader of Hyndburn Council, said that Accrington “is very proud of one of its favourite sons.”

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