Radio Scotland - Days Like This

Evelyn Glennie
Photo © James Wilson

Dame Today Gone Tomorrow

Evelyn Glennie

My day began in another time zone, with a dash away from New York where I had just given a speech to a conference of 1500 women. My timescale was very tight. As I crossed the Atlantic I experienced terror, panic and concern. Would the plane land on time? Would the dress I had chosen for this special day arrive? And would I get there in time?

As we landed at Heathrow it suddenly occurred to me that the dress might not fit properly, and I did not have a plan B. As I passed through customs I found my driver and there he was with the dress. I rushed to change into it. It had been created specially for the occasion in a wonderful red which fitted - to my relief - beautifully.

It's amazing how nervousness makes the senses razor sharp. I began to absorb everything that was happening around me. The driver was weaving his way through the dense London traffic to Buckingham Palace. My nervousness grew. Pearls of perspiration rolled down my back. As we approached the gates I looked out for my Mum and the team from the office. But I couldn't see them anywhere! Total panic - then I spotted them.

The grandeur of the occasion suddenly hit me. I took a look around, marvelling at the palace décor, and thought of the incredible history of these rooms. My Mum gave me a hug - I thought she was going to cry! And my team - how different they looked, all smart and spruce and visibly relieved I had arrived on time. I wanted so much for them to be with me - I simply could not achieve as much without them. Getting this award had been mostly about teamwork.

Then I was jolted back to reality. It's my time. I walk carefully to my place and kneel before the Queen, hyper-aware. Is that a thread I can feel catching on my dress? My shoes are new - I hope they don't squeak. I try to concentrate, to take in the atmosphere and the faces around me. I don't want to miss a second of this magical day.

As I stand in front of the Queen my heart is beating so loudly I am sure it can be heard by her majesty. I can barely hear myself think! Luckily, I can lip read and am currently learning to sign. But none of these extra skills seem to help as I stand before one of the world's most powerful women. I am really anxious as I accept my award.

I have met the Queen before, but on this occasion I feel a sense of awe as I walk towards her. She looks so grand and yet so approachable. For me she is hugely inspiring in her graciousness and her continued interest in my work. We exchange a few words. She gives me a wonderful sense of caring, which I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Such a feeling! As I take my place amongst the other people who have come for their award I sense I am somehow floating amidst a sea of faces. Some I recognise, others I do not. I feel exhilarated and yet humbled. My award is for services to Music. It has been hard work for me to overcome my deafness and convince others I can do it, but now here I am in this esteemed setting. For me there can be no greater experience of reward than this.

As a child I only knew that I wanted to be me, not famous or a celebrity, just me. I loved playing music then, as much as now, and the excitement and curiosity of performing solo or with others is still the same. What I realize more profoundly now is that music and the Arts truly can make a difference in people's lives.

I have never mourned the loss of my hearing but instead embraced the opportunity to learn how to listen in a different way. The vibrations of my instruments have been with me for many years and I am still on a journey of discovery.

Suddenly, we are being ushered out of the magnificent room and I am being reminded that I need to make a move. I rush off back to the airport. No time to stop and dwell on the occasion just yet, I have to get to my next performance in Italy!

To receive any award is wonderful but to attend an Investiture is a unique honour. As I stand there watching others receive their awards, especially those members of the military recognised for their bravery on behalf of their country, I feel very humble. After all, I am lucky by comparison; my life has been enriched by so many others including my family, the public, composers, and members and musicians of so many orchestras, all of whom have shared their time and efforts with me.

As I climb the steps to the plane, I stop and pinch myself. Did this really happen? I look round and my heart is filled with pride. This is my country and I am proud to accept this award. Even though the day was so hectic and far too short, it was also the most memorable of my whole life.

As a little girl growing up on a farm near Aberdeen I could not have dreamed that this day would come. Never in my life could I have guessed that one day I would become Dame Evelyn Glennie.

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