The Queen's Awards: Hectic international programme brings first orchestra award

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THE Americans will love it: a little old British orchestra with a Queen's Award for Export writes Lynne Curry. Not that the Academy of St Martin in the Fields is very old, having been set up in 1959 as a conductors' get-together of 13 musicians, and not that it actually resides anywhere near St Martin in the Fields, having an address in Wapping and playing mostly at the Barbican or on the South Bank. It does, however, get around.

During the 1992 season it visited 16 countries and at home, spent about six weeks in studios in the UK notching up more numbers on the 1,000 recordings it has done so far. The award for export achievement - the first given to an orchestra - has been won on a combination of physical visits made to foreign lands and the volume of money that it entices from abroad. It is the only major UK orchestra to receive no direct government funding and is recognised throughout the world.

With a rigorous foreign schedule every year, orchestra members are chosen not only on musical ability but on personal compatibility. Jetting, driving, playing and sleeping all over the world requires a certain attitude, says Monya Winzer Gilbert, the orchestra's general manager. 'Because our players are young, they've often not been to these places we go to over and over again so there's a tremendous excitement at going to Japan or Australia. We pick people who are not only absolutely the best at their profession, we also value them for their team spirit.'

(Photograph omitted)