emmylou harris 2015

Emmylou Harris

Veronique Rolland

A long day of celebrating the 2015 Laureates for the Polar Music Prize ended a short time ago in Stockholm, with an afternoon ceremony, an evening banquet, an after-party and plenty of love and affection for honorees Emmylou Harris and Dame Evelyn Glennie.

The 24th annual Polar Music Prize began in the afternoon at the Stockholm Concert Hall, with a ceremony that saw the two Laureates receive their awards from the hands of His Majesty King Carl XVI of Sweden. Theatre director and 2014 Polar Music Prize Laureate Peter Sellars was back in Stockholm to read the citation for solo percussionist Glennie, who told the audience, “I never imagined I’d receive an award as important and symbolic as the Polar Music Prize. It’s an institution that brings together people of all kinds, whatever their culture, age or beliefs, in a celebration of music’s power and diversity. I want to thank tonight’s superb organizers, the Swedish people for their hospitality and of course the prize committee for awarding me this prize.”

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Harris’ citation was read by Johanna and Klara Soderberg, the two sisters better known to music fans as the folk duo First Aid Kit. Harris gave an emotional acceptance speech that moved the assemblage to tears as she concluded, “I have only one regret on this magical evening, that my beloved parents, Walter and Eugenia, did not live to share this with me. It didn’t matter to them if I was successful or not, they only cared for my happiness. Their unconditional love carried me through good times and bad and will abide with me whatever the future holds, ’til my journey ends.” 

The afternoon ceremony included performances by Swedish artists of music from Glennie and Harris’ repertoires, and the reading of a letter from President Barack Obama by U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, Mark Brzezinski. The President extended congratulations to both Laureates, adding, “Music brings people together in an increasingly interconnected world. Wielding the power to spread meaningful messages across cultures and continents, it helps bridge differences, lift hearts, spur imaginations, and challenge assumptions.”

Following the ceremony, the Royal Banquet was held at the Grand Hotel, with more musical performances, including First Aid Kit’s “Emmylou,” a song that references Harris and the late Gram Parsons, as well as Johnny Cash and June Carter. Before they left the stage, the Soderberg sisters addressed Harris directly: “We never thought we’d get to sing this song in front of you.”

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Marie Ledin, managing director of the Prize and daughter of the Prize’s founder, ABBA manager Stig “Stikkan” Anderson, read a statement from U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron that said Glennie had “done Britain proud.”

The Polar Music Prize was founded in 1989 by Anderson. A well-known lyricist, he also was the co-writer on many of ABBA’s early hits. The prize was first presented in 1992. Anderson died in 1997; his family has taken up the mantle. 

The long list of previous Laureates includes Paul McCartney, Elton John, B.B. King, Joni Mitchell, Renée Fleming, Stevie Wonder, Ennio Morricone, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Isaac Stern, Björk, Led Zeppelin, Miriam Makeba, Patti Smith, Yo-Yo Ma, Ravi Shankar, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Burt Bacharach and Bruce Springsteen.

Springsteen and his wife, Patti Scialfa, sent a video message to Harris: