Coronavirus: Kilburn amateur musician ‘elated’ at winning the King Lear Prize for music aged 82

Mary Ann Ephgrave has won a King Lear prize for her Song to Jim, in memory of her late husband. Picture: Diane Tower-Jones.

Mary Ann Ephgrave has won a King Lear prize for her Song to Jim, in memory of her late husband. Picture: Diane Tower-Jones. - Credit: Archant

An 82-year-old amateur composer from Kilburn has beaten thousands to win a King Lear Prize for music.

Mary Ann Ephgrave’s “sincere and heartfelt” Song For Jim impressed competition judges with its “beautiful lifting melody”.

Ms Ephgrave, who has lived in her garden flat in Oxford Gardens for more than 40 years, penned the song in memory of her beloved husband who died.

She has won £1,000 and her song will be performed by professional musicians and broadcast online.

On finding out she had won, she said: “I went into shock, shocked surprise. I simply did not believe I could win.

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“Then I burst into loud sobs. It’s impossible to describe the feelings of elation and joy at finally being recognised – at 82.”

Ms Ephgrave grew up in South Africa where she learned to play the piano at school, but following a bad experience with a strict teacher, she did not pick up playing the instrument again until she was 50, when she says she started “channelling music”.

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Her reborn skill led to a successful period writing several children’s musicals that were produced at schools in London.

Following the death of her husband, she abandoned the piano for four years and says it was only the King Lear Prizes which inspired her to get back to the piano.

The competition was open to people over 70 who were quarantined during lockdown and do not have professional experience in the arts to submit new short stories, poetry, short plays, solo musical compositions and art.

Shakespeare’s play King Lear was written in 1605 to 1606 during outbreaks of the plague in London.

Ms Ephgrave, who has 10 step-great-grandchildren, added: “Over 70s, as we know, are too often marginalised and overlooked. The King Lear Prizes have created something very special indeed for us seniors – a unique chance to showcase our work and have it seen and heard.

“Creativity is such a powerful healing force and I’m willing to bet that those of us who keep at it are happier, healthier and less of a strain on the NHS than those who spend all day watching telly.”

Judge Julian Lloyd Webber said: “Congratulations to Mary Ann Ephgrave, the winner of the King Lear Prizes music category. Mary Ann’s Song for Jim is a simple yet sincere and heartfelt song with a beautiful, lilting melody which lingers in the mind. I am sure that you will enjoy listening to it as much as I did.”


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