Britten Centenary Coin

50p coin to mark the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten

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Coloured pencil study

The Royal Mint commissioned this design for the 50p coin to mark the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten, 22 November 2013.

The first British coin to feature a composer, the Benjamin Britten 50p was struck in commemorative gold proof and silver proof as well as the standard circulated version.

The design features Tennyson’s words “Blow Bugle Blow” and “Set the Wild Echoes Flying”, set to music by Britten in Serenade for tenor, horn and strings. The name of the composer is framed in a double stave, referencing the piano on which Britten was a virtuoso.

Tom Phillips said “What I wanted the coin to speak of was music. Thus the stave soon entered the design and his name married well with the stave. The natural accompaniment with Britten’s passion for poetry as our preeminent composer of opera and song, was some kind of key quotation. The words which eventually suggested themselves, come from the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. What better clarion call for a musical anniversary could there be than “Blow, bugle, blow: set the wild echoes flying”?

Richard Jarman, Director of the Britten-Pears Foundation, said “Benjamin Britten wanted his music to be ‘useful’ and to be played and heard by as many people as possible. He would therefore be thrilled that this new 50p coin will put him into everyone’s hands and pockets. We are enormously proud that Britten is being honoured in this way by the Royal Mint and the nation.”

Kevin Clancy, Director of the Royal Mint Museum, said “Britten is one of the great British cultural figures of the 20th century so it is wholly appropriate that Tom Phillips, himself a composer, should have designed the coin to commemorate Britten’s birth.”

Adapted from Royal Mint Press Release, September 2013.