Volunteer Peter Harrison is among 500 people across the UK chosen as one of Queen Consort Camilla’s Coronation Champions for his dedication to Grayshott Concerts, the charity he co-founded with wife Vivien in 2004.
Peter, 85, of Grayshott, recruited Sir Karl Jenkins – the UK’s most-performed living composer – to be patron, persuaded world-class stars to perform at St Luke’s Church, Grayshott and sold out more than 90 concerts.
He said: “It’s quite overwhelming to be recognised with an award of this calibre. I’m not usually at a loss for words but I certainly was when I heard I had been chosen as a Coronation Champion. It’s incredible to think all of my efforts have been recognised in this way
“Though what matters most is my efforts have managed to bring world-class classical music to so many people who otherwise wouldn’t have that experience. Of course I wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of this without Vivien and working together has been fundamental to the success of the charity.”
Coronation Champions were chosen for their efforts in the past five years. In that time Grayshott Concerts sold out 30 events to audiences of several hundred people.
During Covid Peter kept staging live shows. In the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns Grayshott Concerts hosted double the concerts planned by offering them across multiple dates to allow social distancing.
In 2021 he staged a show for “local Covid heroes”, offering free tickets to 200 key workers.
He said: “I thought it was so important to continue to use music as a beacon of hope and positivity for everyone during the difficult days of the pandemic. It wasn’t easy at all, but by keeping a positive outlook and with the support of many amazing volunteers including the board, we were able to pull it off – and that’s certainly one of the concerts of which I am most proud.”
The charity has 200 Friends who pay an annual fee and have priority for tickets. In the past five years it has generated £500,000 – £350,000 of which was paid to performers in fees, with the rest funding future shows, production costs and grants to local music causes.
Grayshott Primary School had instruments, workshops and London Mozart Players concerts. Other recipients include individual young musicians and care homes given mini-concerts by musicians who perform at full concerts.
Since 2007 Peter has worked full-time as a volunteer. Early in 2023 he stepped down from the trustees but stayed closely involved as a Founding Friend.
Artistic director Andy Crocker said: “Peter has been the driving force behind the concert series since inception and we cannot thank him enough for his creativity, energy and hard work. It’s such a well-deserved accolade and perfect timing as Peter has only recently stepped down from the board of trustees.”
As well as a commemorative pin and a certificate signed by the King and Queen, Peter will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May along with Vivien and the other Coronation Champions.