Sir Thomas Allen has become the latest recipient of The Queen’s Medal for Music. The award recognises not only Sir Thomas’s career as one of the leading baritones of his generation, but also the extensive charity work he has carried out through the Samling Foundation.
Born in County Durham in 1944, Sir Thomas has enjoyed a hugely successful career on the opera stage since 1969, when he made his debut in Verdi’s La traviata at Welsh National Opera. Over the years, he has appeared regularly at both Covent Garden and Glyndebourne and also at many of the top opera houses abroad, not least the Met in New York. In 2002, he turned his hand to directing, and has enjoyed successes with Rossini’s Barber of Seville and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro at Scottish Opera.
However, it is for his charitable work that Sir Thomas has been particularly singled out for the Queen’s Medal. ‘Through the Samling Foundation, he has carried out utterly selfless work for charity and, above all, for young people,’ says Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music. ‘And it is for this achievement of a lifetime that The Queen's Medal for Music Committee felt so strongly persuaded to award him the Medal.’
Founded in 1996, the Samling Foundation has proved invaluable in assisting young musicians to forge a career by means of providing masterclasses and staging productions that showcase their talent. Additionally, thanks to its extensive outreach work, it has introduced thousands of children to music, particularly in the North-East of England.
The Queen’s Medal for Music itself was introduced in 2005 to recognise those who have contributed significantly to the UK’s music scene. Previous recipients have included conductors Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir Colin Davis, bass-baritone Bryn Terfel and, last year, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.