OPERA star Sir Thomas Allen is to be awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music 2013, Buckingham Palace has announced.
The internationally acclaimed baritone and director has been recognised for his major influence on the musical life of the nation.
Born in Seaham, the singer is said to have been the inspiration for the character of Billy Elliot - the North East boy who pursues his dream of becoming a dancer.
Sir Thomas’s talent was first discovered when he was at grammar school in the 1960s - with encouragement from his physics teacher.
He went on to earn a place at the Royal College of Music.
He made his debut with the Royal Opera House as Donald in Billy Budd in 1971 and went on to become an established star of great opera houses around the world.
In 1989, he was made a CBE and 10 years later he was knighted.
Sir Thomas has spoken of his pride at having been selected as the ninth winner of the Queen’s Medal for Music.
He said: “I was surprised and thrilled to hear I would receive The Queen’s Medal for Music having had so much recognition over many years.
“This very special award means so much to me and I’m very proud to have been selected.”
Other well-known recipients of the award, which is approved by the Queen, have included Bryn Terfel, Dame Emma Kirkby and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
Master of The Queen’s Music Sir Peter Maxwell Davies described Sir Thomas as “a top opera singer who has become not only a top opera director but also a major force in outreach and musical education”.
He said: “Through the Samling Foundation, he has carried out utterly selfless work for charity and, above all, for young people, 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.”
Sir Thomas will be presented with the award by the Queen at an audience later this year.