Classical pianist Imogen Cooper ‘vastly honoured’ to be made a dame

The musician said it is a boost after a tough year for the arts.

Imogen Cooper
Imogen Cooper

Classical musician Imogen Cooper said she is “vastly honoured and more than a little surprised” to be made a dame, less than a year after she was awarded The Queen’s Medal for Music.

The pianist has been recognised for services to music in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

She told the PA news agency: “I was completely stunned. I’m sure everybody says this, but it’s quite genuine. I really was not expecting it in any way. And it was a wonderful surprise.”

Imogen Cooper has been made a dame (Sim Canetty-Clarke)

She added: “It’s a wonderful thing. I’m vastly honoured and more than a little surprised and stunned. But it’s lovely.

“I’ll have to get used to it. I did write it down immediately to see what it looked like and then nearly fainted.”

Cooper said it is a “huge lift,” after a difficult year for musicians and the arts, adding: “It makes you realise what your true identity is, because it’s very hard.

“It was very hard during the pandemic, sitting at home and practising and working for nothing.

“You made your own plans. But there comes a time when you’ve baked your X load of bread and gone out and chopped the stuff in the garden for the nth time when you don’t have the will to practise because you don’t have to be actually out there in five days’ time.

“So it was quite an interesting lesson in self-discipline and in a way it was a wonderful rest but it’s been a long year and I think, like everybody, I found this last lockdown particularly trying and things are quite difficult now because it’s very chaotic because of travelling and the tests and the quarantines, and sometimes you have to sacrifice one concert because you’re still quarantining or whatever.

“I’m very much hoping that things will become a little bit easier because they can’t really continue functioning like this. There’s maybe been a little bit of a lack of thinking somewhere along the line, at least as far as the arts community is concerned.

“So I think in due time, it will sort itself out for the better. But at the moment, it’s quite a rollercoaster.”

Cooper founded the Imogen Cooper Music Trust, a charity aimed at supporting young musicians at the start of their careers.

Last year she took part in the first live classical music concerts to be broadcast following the first lockdown when she performed to an empty auditorium which was livestreamed by BBC Radio 3.

She said she has since performed about six concerts in front of a socially distanced audience wearing masks and said: “It’s reminded me very vividly how important the synergy is between performer and audience and coming back to the performer again.

“I’ve never felt it so strongly as now that the experience of actually sharing music in the same space, with like minded people who love it, know it, but possibly can’t play it, so I do the playing for them.

“We’re all, I think, hearing sort of the same thing. Maybe at slightly different levels, but it touches the heart in the same way for all of us.

“And to come back to that and see people with tears in their eyes when you’ve actually finished playing it. You’ve got tears in your own eyes.

“It really reinforces the importance of music.

“I think that for those who really thrive from it, it’s absolutely vital that we share it again so the halls that are courageous enough to open their doors up, they get my thumbs up.

“I know it’s risky for them and difficult and, but it’s wonderful when they do it.”

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