Crispian Steele–Perkins, 2023

Crispian Steele-Perkins began playing the trumpet at the age of 10 and, after training at the Guildhall School of Music in London, he became a member of the English National Opera, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra.

As a soloist Crispian’s purity of tone and artistic subtlety have received widespread critical acclaim for more than four decades. On 10th October 2015 the BBC's CD Review concluded that, of all the available recordings of Haydn's famous Trumpet Concerto worldwide, his is 'the one to have'.

Crispian collects and restores antique trumpets upon which he has performed and recorded with The Academy of Ancient Music, The Kings Consort and The English Baroque Soloists. Appropriately, he plays the theme tune to one of the BBC’s longest-running and most popular TV programmes, the Antiques Roadshow.

Described by Virtuoso magazine as ‘the world's leading exponent of the Baroque Trumpet’, particularly when heard in duet with some of the world's greatest singers such as Kiri te Kanawa, Emma Kirkby, John Tomlinson and Bryn Terfel, he has also recorded with popular artists including Led Zeppelin, Kate Bush, Lulu, Cliff Richard, Bob Geldof and Harry Secombe. In addition, he has performed on numerous TV scores for shows including, amongst many others, Dr Who, Oliver Twist, The World at War, Inspector Morse and Tales of the Unexpected.

In the world of cinema he has participated in more than 80 classic scores such as Jaws, Gandhi, Star Wars Episode IV, Batman, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers and no less than six films from the James Bond series.

Whilst his numerous solo recordings extend from Handel to Glenn Miller, he has featured regularly as a concert soloist in London at the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, the Sydney Opera House and Tokyo’s Suntory Hall. His largest 'live' audience was 133,000 at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Citation as presented to Crispian by his friend and colleague Peter Seymour 9th July 2023

It’s a great honour to present Crispian with York Early Music Festival’s Lifetime Achievement award, an accolade designed to honour ‘major figures who have made a significant difference to the world of early music’.

Had we asked players and orchestras who have performed with him there would be no doubt at all that he is the obvious candidate as the most popular co-performer. His musicianship, technique, beauty of tone and phrasing are obvious persuasive attractions; he is one of the few trumpeters who realise the role of the baroque trumpet as an equal partner with a solo singer or as an instrumentalist who has to balance a pair of baroque flutes – eg in the opening ritornello of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. That’s certainly an innovation I would think has made a significant difference to our understanding of early music performance and style.

As a member of an ensemble, he makes a significant difference to those musicians – both instrumentalists and singers – when he arrives, always early, for a rehearsal. The mood and humour of everyone is immediately lifted by his demeanour and, inevitably, everyone’s spirits are raised; the rehearsal is elevated to a higher level both spiritually and musically.

We’re aware of his playing of the baroque trumpet – here in York he’s often performed B- Mass, Christmas Oratorio, Magnificat, Jauchzet Gott, Messiah and more. What we are less familiar with are his performances on modern trumpet – most memorably playing the theme tune to the Antiques Roadshow – and a myriad of films from Ghandi to James Bond.  His solo lecture/recitals have been popular both with children and adults. I remember Crispian and I rehearsing for a BBC lecture/recital in the foyer of Bridgewater Hall. There was a noticeable influx of people into the room – it was the Black Dyke Mills Band who were arriving for rehearsal in the main concert hall and simply had to say hello and to listen to some of our rehearsal – they simply had to listen to his playing.

So, many of the multitude of stories about Crispian give an image of him, not only as a player but as an outstanding musician who, more than any other brass player, knows his role in the score, usually as an ensemble player. His exquisite phrasing and tone colours have inspired players and singers across the ensemble – even where he plays an obbligato role but where the accompanying instruments have strings and a gently voiced baroque flute with which the trumpet has to balance. He understands the composer’s expectations and realises them more persuasively than any other brass player whether it be to blend or soar above and finish off as an independent voice. There has been none like him and he has been one of the most influential early music performers over the last 50 years.