Sphere of influence – HP 50 Years in a Day

One of the world’s most prominent artist management companies is celebrating 50 years with a star-studded day of concerts at London’s Southbank Centre on 6 October. Maria Roberts meets cofounder and executive chairman of HarrisonParrott, Jasper Parrott.

Jasper Parrott
Jasper Parrott

When the first note strikes on 6 October at the 50 Years in a Day concert at London’s Southbank Centre, cofounder and executive chairman of London(HP), Jasper Parrott, should rightly feel proud. For what he has accomplished in 50 years has had a staggering influence on the classical music industry. In 1969, aged just 25, Jasper created his now world-leading artist management company with the late Terry Harrison (who left to set up his own agency in 1988, and died in 2017).

The pair had met during a stint working for London-based Ibbs and Tillett Ltd; armed with youthful ambitions of their own, plus a select few clients, they left to make their own indelible mark on the world.

As I sit before 75-year-old Jasper in his glass office at The Ark in Hammersmith, London, it’s hard to imagine him as an ambitious 25-year-old out to make an impression. His sharp intellect, self-control and succinct wit make him a subtly forceful (if not a little intimidating) personality.

Zwakele Tshabalala © Samantha Jackson
Zwakele Tshabalala will perform at 50 Years in a Day © Samantha Jackson

What propelled him to launch HP? “I wanted to demonstrate what my then partner and cofounder Terry Harrison and I were absolutely convinced about – which was that there needed to be a fundamental change between management and artists. My position on that has not changed but the business has changed, the artists are now at the heart of all the creativity at HarrisonParrott.”

That ethos has been his winning formula. And 50 Years in a Day is the perfect illustration of what HP is today. It’s also a once in a lifetime opportunity for classical music fans as a clutch of chief icons will perform on the same programme as the stars of tomorrow – at one of the most famous concert halls in the world.

The day starts at the Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall (QEH) at noon on 6 October with Brahms, Chopin & Debussy, featuring Jess Gillam, Jörg Widmann, István Vardái, Vikingur Ólafsson, Alice Sara Ott and Andreas Scholl.

At 3.30pm Music from Bach to Birtwistle presents Lucienne Renaudin Vary, Ksenija Sidorova, Alban Gerhardt, Leticia Moreno, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Pekka Kuusisto, Barbara Hannigan, Tamara Stefanovich and Pierre-Laurent Aimard, as well as a world premiere of For Lydia, a specially composed work by Peter Eötvös.

Vikingur Olafsson © Ari Magg
Vikingur Olafsson © Ari Magg

Aside from the main shows there will be pop-up performances and talks that reflect HP’s role in nurturing and building careers for its artists. The first concert of the day is followed by Gillian Moore, Southbank Centre’s director of music, in conversation with a selection of HarrisonParrott artists in the QEH foyer, accompanied by a performance from tenor Zwakele Tshabalala. The étoile of the night is One Orchestra, Four Great Conductors with Paavo Järvi, Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Elim Chan and Vladimir Ashkenazy, who conduct music by Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Elgar played by the Philharmonia Orchestra.

The range of talent in this concert is typical of what captivates Jasper. “I find it fascinating to engage with people

Jess Gillam © Kaupo Kikkas
Jess Gillam © Kaupo Kikkas

that come from a very different environment and are now two, three or even four generations apart,” he tells me. “One of the most wonderful and sustaining parts of the work that I do is that I need to be able to communicate on an equal level with people who come from a totally different country, social background or culture – and who may be 40 years or more younger than me.

“When I started in my 20s, that principle was the other way around,” he recalls with a knowing smile. “I was then working with artists who were generations older than me. The day at the Southbank encapsulates much of who we represent: artists who have been with us from the beginning to our very latest signings; from established great repertoire to new commissions and a wide variety of musical styles.”

harrisonparrott.com | southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/festivals-series/classical-season/50-years-day

The full interview appears in the October 2019 issue of International Arts Manager.