Page last updated at 18:46 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 19:46 UK

Sir Simon given Liverpool freedom

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Sir Simon Rattle given the freedom of the city by Liverpool

Conductor Sir Simon Rattle has been awarded the Freedom of Liverpool at a ceremony in his home city.

The 53-year-old, who has conducted the Berlin Philharmonic since 1999, assembled his first professional orchestra at the age of just 15.

He was presented with the honour by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Steve Rotheram, in front of civic leaders.

He has become only the fifth musician to be given the honour - the other four being members of The Beatles.

Other recipients of the Freedom of Liverpool include Ken Dodd, Bob Paisley, Nelson Mandela, Roy Castle and Simon Weston.

The conductor was born near Sefton Park in the city but moved to Menlove Avenue, where John Lennon had also lived.

This is the orchestra I grew up with - I learned what an orchestra sounded like. I'm a sentimental old thing
Sir Simon Rattle

He said his job in Berlin was a constant reminder of the city he grew up in.

"Berliners are about as close to Scousers as you are going to get in Germany.

"They have the same rude, funny, quick humour - though they are not quite as funny as the Scouse - let's face it - but they have a lot of the same thing."

Sir Simon said he had wonderful memories of Liverpool and working with the philharmonic.

"This is the orchestra I grew up with - I learned what an orchestra sounded like. I'm a sentimental old thing."

He said he was honoured by the award, calling it "the nicest thing that could possibly happen".

'Incredible contribution'

During the ceremony, students from the city council's Music Support Service performed for him and he met young musicians from Notre Dame Catholic College in Everton and St Edward's College in West Derby.

While in Liverpool, Sir Simon will also be performing at the Philharmonic Hall - where he started out as an assistant conductor in 1977 - as part of the city's Capital of Culture celebrations.

The Lord Mayor, Councillor Steve Rotheram, said: "As Liverpool's first citizen it will give me great pleasure to confer the city's highest honour on Sir Simon.

"This very special occasion allows Liverpool to express its gratitude to an outstanding musician, to recognise his great talent and thank him for the incredible contribution he has made to music."

He added: "With no exaggeration he can rightly be called one of Liverpool's greatest living sons."

Council leader Warren Bradley said: "Sir Simon Rattle has risen from humble beginnings in Liverpool to become one of the most respected people in his field.

"He is a fantastic ambassador for the City of Liverpool and that is why we are absolutely delighted to grant him the Freedom of the City."




SEE ALSO
McCartney to play culture concert
27 Sep 07 |  Merseyside
Rattle wins prize for inspiration
13 Dec 04 |  Entertainment
Sir Simon takes over in Berlin
07 Sep 02 |  Entertainment
Rattle confirmed as Berlin conductor
22 Aug 01 |  Entertainment

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