BAFTA winner praises music teaching in schools

Jonthan Allen pictured recently with his BAFTA for sound engineering on hit movies Les Mis (S)
Jonthan Allen pictured recently with his BAFTA for sound engineering on hit movies Les Mis (S)

BAFTA winner Jonathan Allen still sounds a little like a fan who got lucky, albeit a very talented one.

In fact, this former Harrogate man is one of the world’s best sound engineers, working with some of the greats of classical music and movies in Abbey Road studios. for EMI.

He was still surprised, however, to win a BAFTA recently for blockbuster film musical Les Miserables starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway .

The ex-St Aidan’s High School student said: “We’re always working to tight deadlines, just trying to do a good job so things like awards are something you never think about.

“Sound engineering isn’t recognised in awards much, outside of the Grammys. So to get a BAFTA was a big event.”

Directed by Tom Hooper, Les Mis was an unusual production, Jonathan said.

“Usually the music for any movie is tagged on at the end once it’s all been shot but Tom’s idea was to record live vocals, which had a lot of ramifications and potential problems.

“To get the right quality for him we had to get involved very early on the set.”

Although Jonathan, who went to Woodlands Primary School in Harrogate as a child, has worked with the biggest names in Hollywood and beyond, from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to Steve Spielberg’s composer of choice, John Williams , he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

He says the quality of education in his hometown was vital in enabling to forge such a successfula nd varied career, equally equipped to turn his hand to film scores with the late John Barry or remixing Freddie Mercury’s Barcelona album, as he did last year.

“The music scene in Harrogate was incredibly encouraging when I was a youngster. I used to play with the Harrogate and Skipton Symphony Orchestra at Harrogate Music Centre every Saturday.

“St Aidan’s was full of world class teachers who were passionate about music and very demaning in terms of standards. They were also very well connected in the business. They could have worked in London or eleswhere but they chose to stay in Harrogate because they wanted to.”

If there was one piece of advice Jonathan would give any student today hoping to follow in his footsteps it would be to learn to play an instrument first.

As a youngster he played violin, still his favourite instrument and violin concertos remain one of his great passions.

But his love of classical music didn’t prevent him taking some unusual twists and turns in the development of his musical palate.

“I was brought up on classical music but in my late teens I got into hard rock. Lynryd Skynryd, at first, before moving onto AD/DC and then the whole range. I love music, all kinds of music.”