OBE Investiture

2007-03-01 / Ottawa Citizen / Charles Enman

Visit with Queen will be remembered for a lifetime

© The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, March 01, 2007

Yesterday, at Buckingham Palace, the Queen made Ottawa-born pianist Angela Hewitt an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Ms. Hewitt had known since last July that she had been named an Officer, but scheduling conflicts had forced her to wait until yesterday to receive the medal.

The OBE medal marks one of five levels in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, established in 1917 by King George V. Most members are citizens of Britain or of Commonwealth nations that hold the Queen as head of state. Ms. Hewitt, the daughter of the late Godfrey Hewitt, an immigrant from Yorkshire who was organist at Christ Church Cathedral and St. Barnabas Anglican Church in Ottawa, holds British and Canadian passports.

The Order recognizes distinguished service to the arts and sciences, public service outside the civil service and charitable works.

Ms. Hewitt has been described as “nothing less than the pianist who will define Bach performances on the piano for years to come” by Stereophile magazine. Her repertoire ranges from Couperin to contemporary composers.

Last year, Gramophone — perhaps the most influential magazine in classical music — named her artist of the year.

She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000.

During a phone interview yesterday from her home in London, Ms. Hewitt described her visit with the Queen:

“What an exciting day it’s been. I knew for months this was coming, but it was very emotional and a day that I will remember for the rest of my life.

“When the Queen’s 80th birthday honours were announced last June, I was mentioned among those who would receive an honour. Actually, I had found out a month earlier. Downing Street sent me a letter announcing the honour and asking if I would accept. Of course I accepted, and quite happily. It was nice to know that someone out there — perhaps a colleague, but I’ll never know for sure — cared enough to recommend me.

“I was supposed to receive the medal last November, but I was playing a concert in Glasgow and had to turn down that date. The next day that worked was today. There were almost 90 people receiving awards.

“I was allowed to bring three guests, and I brought two friends from London, and one from Paris, all people who’ve known me a long time.

“We went together, and once we were in the palace, we were separated, my friends going straight to the room where the ceremony would take place. As for me, I had to go for my lessons — how to walk, how to curtsy, how many steps to take forward towards the Queen. I’m sure I was like everybody else, a bit worried that I would do something wrong.

“They stressed that the Queen would speak first.

“My time with the Queen turned out to be really short and sweet. After I’d curtsied and stepped forward, she pinned the medal on me, and then she said, ‘So, you play the piano.’ (They remind her beforehand of what you’re involved in.)

“‘Yes, Your Majesty,’ I replied. But she didn’t say anything else, so I said how fortunate I felt to be able to do something I love and to play around the world while, hopefully, giving pleasure to many people.

“And she said how wonderful that was.

“And then she shook my hand, which was the signal that my time with her was finished.

“I’ve always said that I speak to people as individuals, and would do that even if they were the Queen of England. Well, here I suppose I did. But I was very moved. My heart was definitely going faster than usual.

“Those were 30 seconds that I will remember for the rest of my life. She was as lovely as always, and she stood there for over an hour without any pause at all.

“As soon as I walked away from her, they took my medal off and put it in a box so I could carry it away.

“Nobody knew me when I arrived in London more than 20 years ago, and I worked hard to be accepted. And now, with this medal, I have that proof of acceptance.

“It’s been a wonderful day, and this evening, I’ll be going out with friends for dinner, to celebrate.”

The Ottawa Citizen also re-printed this article from May, 1965:

Ottawa Citizen
May 8, 1965

Little girl with a large talent

When six-year-old Angela Hewitt won the recorder solo class for under-14s at the Ottawa Music Festival Friday morning, quite possibly the only person she surprised was herself.

The recorder, after all , is not her strongest instrument. And it must compete for practice hours with the harpsichord, violin, organ and piano.

Musically, Ottawa’s little prodigy who lives at 221 Wilshire Ave., was born with the golden spoon in her mouth. Her father Godfrey is organist and choirmaster at Christ Church Cathedral, while her mother Marion taught piano at Glebe Collegiate prior to her marriage.

So it is hardly surprising that Angela and her brother John, 9, have a certain musical talent. Angela took to her first musical instrument, a toy trumpet, at the age of two. By her third birthday, she could play recognizable tunes.

It was then that she began to learn the piano, her most successful instrument to date. She was soon playing Christmas carols, and was reading music at the age of four.

For three consecutive years she has gained first-class honors in her Conservatory examinations for the piano. Last year at Rimouski she won the Quebec provincial championship for pianists under 7, for which she was presented with a $100 scholarship.

Last Christmas she played for the Governor-General and Mrs. Vanier at a staff-party at Rideau Hall, and later received a personal note of congratulations from them.

But it was this week’s music festival which brought Angela her greatest success to date. Entered for 12 classes on piano and recorder, she took home 8 firsts and 3 seconds. No less important were the words of the adjudicator in the piano division, Daphne Sandercock of Montreal, who described Angela’s performance as “truly brilliant, both in style … and technical mastery.”

Nor can Angela rest on her laurels, for brother John, a late starter on the piano at the age of five, himself won three firsts and a second. Together brother and sister took the honors in the under-12 piano duet.

A pupil at the McGregor-Easson school on Dynes Road, her tastes in music remain broad. Her favorite composers include Bach, Haydn, Mozart and the moderns, but she will happily play a highland air on the violin for her Scottish grandfather.

But she can’t stand the Beatles.