‘Scouse Diva’ who helped musicians in lockdown wins prestigious award

Creative Liverpool singer Jennifer Johnston raised money for charity through a series of innovative ideas - including a recipe project for musicians.

<p>Award-winning mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnston. Photo: @BitesizeProms/Twitter</p>

Award-winning mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnston. Photo: @BitesizeProms/Twitter

A singer from Liverpool has scooped a one of the most respected awards in classical music.

Jennifer Johnston, a mezzo soprano, won the singer award at the 2021 Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Awards for her charity work during the pandemic and the ‘outstanding quality and scope of performances’.

The Blundellsands resident raised more than £12,000 for charity Help Musicians through founding Bitesize Proms, a series of online mini-concerts, which appealed to a younger audience.

The singer, who is known as the Scouse Diva, also created Notes From Musicians’ Kitchens, which raised money for charity and featured a collection of recipes from musicians.

The recipes included food from former Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conductor Vasily Petrenko and his wife, Evgenia, who contributed notes on how to make a traditional Russian salad.

She was presented with her RPS Award at a star-studded event at London’s Wigmore Hall earlier this week.

Jennifer Johnston with her Royal Philharmonic Society award. Photo: Mark Allan

The awards celebrated classical musicians, both amateur and professional, who have selflessly found ways to inspire others against the odds throughout the pandemic.

Ms Johnston, who has been Artist in Residence with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and performs regularly in Germany, raised thousands of pounds for musicians struggling during the pandemic through her innovative ideas.

She helped create the Bitesize Proms, which ran eight weeks of mini-Proms online from July 2020. The project featured 125 mini concerts and 300 musicians.

Helping musicians during pandemic

Speaking to LiverpoolWorld, Ms Johnston said: “I’m so proud and humbled to receive this award, it means so much.

“I woke up one day during the height of the pandemic and thought I needed to do something.

“Musicians were lacking any form of momentum during the weird world of lockdown and the idea for the Bitesize Proms started from nothing to being watched nearly half a million times across all platforms.

“About 92% of people who watched were under 40 and that was fantastic to reach out to that audience too.”

She said the projects have raised more than £12,000 for charity Help Musicians and the money has been given to musicians and their families in need.

Ms Johnston says being with her family in Liverpool always provides her with support.

“I travel a great deal for my job, but my family home is in Blundellsands right by the beach,” she said.

“I’m so grateful as being near the sea in Liverpool is a place to clear my head and escape.”

Royal Philharmonic Society Awards

The RPS Awards were hosted by journalist and BBC Radio 3 presenter Katie Derham and RPS Chief Executive James Murphy.

Stars including violinist Nicola Benedetti and Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, mother of the musical Kanneh-Mason family, were also among the winners.

Jennifer Johnston with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Domingo Hindoyan. Photo: Mark McNulty

Award winners praised for resilience

RPS Chairman John Gilhooly said: “For so many of us, music has been a lifeline through the last eighteen months.

“It’s an honour for the Royal Philharmonic Society to salute the brilliance and resilience of musicians nationally through the pandemic, giving the best of themselves for others, at times of immense personal challenge.

“This year’s RPS Awards winners are representative of countless music-makers across the UK whom we should all treasure: they have collectively kept our spirits high and will continue to be play an invaluable, central role in the nation’s recovery.”

BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a special RPS Awards programme at 19:00 on Monday, 8 November, featuring music of the winners. A film of the complete RPS Awards presentation will be freely available on the RPS website from 9 November.