Evelyn Glennie wins the 2015 Polar Music Prize
- Alex Johnston
- 16 March 2015
Scottish master percussionist shares the major award with Emmylou Harris
Dame Evelyn Glennie, born and raised in Aberdeenshire, has been made a Laureate of the 2015 Polar Music Prize. The annual prize was founded in 1989 by Stig Anderson, the late manager of ABBA, and is maintained by the Foundation set up in his memory.
Two Polar Prizes are awarded each year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music to groups or individuals who've made 'significant achievements' in or for music, which are 'referable to all fields within or closely connected with music'. In other words, it's not enough to be good – you've got to be barrier-breakingly awesome.
Dame Evelyn's co-laureate this year is country legend Emmylou Harris, who certainly qualifies, and a selection of previous winners illustrates the Polar panel's impeccable taste: Patti Smith, Ennio Morricone, Björk, Sonny Rollins, Led Zeppelin, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Miriam Makeba, BB King, Bob Dylan, Pierre Boulez, Ray Charles, Joni Mitchell and Dizzy Gillespie have all been recipients.
The recognition that Glennie belongs to this company is just the most recent crown on her remarkable achievements. A virtuoso musician, she's collaborated with artists as diverse as James MacMillan and Underworld; played at the opening of the 2012 London Olympics; and is the first person in history to create and sustain a career as a solo percussionist – how many other percussionists can you think of who have a Greatest Hits album?
She has consistently sought to collaborate with as wide a variety of gifted artists as possible, from living composers such as Margaret Brouwer, Michael Daugherty and John Corigliano, via Björk and Bobby McFerrin, to free-improvising guitarist Fred Frith. Glennie's collaboration with Frith was featured in Thomas Riedelsheimer's award-winning biographical documentary, Touch the Sound. As if all this weren't enough, she's been profoundly deaf since the age of 12.
Check out Glennie rocking the mallets in a duo improvisation with Fred Frith, below, and hear for yourself what a glorious sound she can make.