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Shortlist announced for British Composer Awards

PRESS RELEASE: 20 October 2014

British Composer Awards
Shortlist unveiled for the 12th Year of the Awards

“As Chairman of BASCA, the membership association that organises the British Composer Awards, I am excited by the diversity of works and composers represented in this year’s shortlist. The British Composer Awards seek to recognise the creative talent of composers and sound artists working today and it’s great to see such a vibrant array of works. On behalf of BASCA, congratulations to everyone shortlisted.” Simon Darlow, BASCA Chairman

The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) announce the 35 works shortlisted for the 2014 British Composer Awards. The winners will be unveiled at a ceremony at Goldsmiths’ Hall, London on Tuesday 2 December 2014 and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Hear and Now at 10pm on Saturday 6 December. The keynote speaker for the evening will be Dame Evelyn Glennie who will also present the Awards to the winners.

The British Composer Awards (BCA) are unique around the world in making contemporary music, jazz and sonic art the focus of their annual celebration. Created by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) in 2003, the Awards seek to promote the art of composition, to recognise the creative talent of composers and sound artists and to bring their music to a wider audience. This year the Awards were selected by 73 panellists, representing the breadth of new music, with over three quarters taking part in the process for the first time.

This year over 300 works were submitted by over 250 composers. The shortlist of 35 works – by 32 different composers – reflects the strength and breadth of modern composition, from those in their twenties all the way up to one centenarian.

Three composers shortlisted twice this year: Kerry Andrew, Harrison Birtwistle and John McCabe
Kerry Andrew has been shortlisted twice for Woodwose: A Community Opera in the Community or Educational Project category and Dart’s Love in the Stage Works category. Andrew’s Woodwose was commissioned by the Wigmore Hall for the Britten centenary and was performed by 140 diverse members of the Westminster community aged from 8 to over 80 alongside tenor Andrew Kennedy and Wigmore Hall Learning’s resident ensemble Ignite. It centres on the mysterious character Woodwose – Wigmore Hall’s very own wild man of the woods and was inspired by Britten’s well-known love of folk song. Andrew collected traditional folk stories and songs from the community groups and skilfully wove these elements into her finished work. This created a fundamental sense of collective ownership for everyone involved.

The Chamber opera Dart’s Love was commissioned by Tête à Tête and the initial inspiration came from Andrew’s love of wild swimming. The story, with libretto by Tamsin Collison, is inspired by the legend of the River Dart and floods in the South West in 2012/13. Andrew used her often daily visits to the Brockwell Lido for inspiration; working out the time signatures of swimming strokes, listening to the bubbles as she blew out underwater, and imagined the gasps of swimmers as they jumped into the cold water.

Along with Kerry Andrew, both John McCabe and Harrison Birtwistle have been shortlisted twice – Birtwistle in Vocal (Songs from the same Earth) and Choral (The Moth Requiem) and John McCabe in Instrumental Solo or Duo (Sonata after William Byrd’s Haec Dies) and Orchestral (Joybox).

Birtwistle’s Songs from the same Earth for tenor and piano was given its premiere at Snape Maltings by Mark Padmore and Andrew West. A cycle of ten poems by David Harsent, a poet whose texts particularly resonate with Birtwistle, this is a familiar Birtwistle landscape: a place of shadows, dreams, mirrors and memories. McCabe’s Sonata after William Byrd’s Haec Dies derives its underlying material from William Byrd’s motet Haec Dies from his 1591 collection of Cantiones Sacrae and employs the beautiful flugelhorn for the first two main sections, switching to the brightness of the D trumpet for the final part. An outline of the motet is “hidden” within the texture of the music, but never stated directly.

Nine composers shortlisted for the first time

There are nine composers represented on the shortlist for the first time including Samuel Bordoli for Live Music Sculpture 3 (Choral), Tom White for Public Address (Sonic Art) and Jon Opstad for IGNIS (Stage Works). Both Samuel Bordoli (aged 27) and Tom White (aged 28) are the youngest shortlisted composers.

Live Music Sculpture 3 was commissioned by the City of London Festival and written for St Paul’s Cathedral for 27 musicians arranged throughout the cathedral space, including the Whispering Gallery. The work explores the unique architectural form and structure of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Public Address, is a multi-speaker sound installation of children’s recordings on Southampton Way estate. The installation marks the culmination of a series of Play Local workshops in February 2013 that Tom White led, which explored sound on neighbouring estates with local children.

IGNIS is a work for contemporary dance that was commissioned by The Print Room in West London. The work was choreographed by Hubert Essakow, for four performers: three dancers and actor Sara Kestelman, who performed both as dancer and actor/narrator, contributing her own poetry to the work. The music as a whole combines acoustic, electro-acoustic and electronic approaches to create a broad palette.

The other composers to be shortlisted for the first time are Martin Iddon with Danaë (Chamber), David Fennessy for Hauptstimme (Chamber), Christopher Trapani with Visions and Revisions (International Award) as well as all three composers in the Contemporary Jazz Composition category: Julian Argüelles with Hocus Pocus, John Butcher with Tarab Cuts and Django Bates with The Study of Touch.

Artistic Directors of the British Composer Awards, Julia Haferkorn and Ed McKeon said:

“This year’s Awards show how lively, curious and attuned composers are across the UK’s new music scenes. We’re particularly pleased at the number of composers represented on the shortlist for the first time. The musical works cover a wide spectrum – there’s truly music there for all open-eared listeners. We wouldn’t expect people to like and admire everything: that’s precisely why we rely on the generosity of so many composers, musicians and promoters from all over the country to come together on panels to make these difficult choices. So whether you’re moved or not by any particular work, we hope you will spend time giving all the works a hearing.”

Three works premiered at the BBC Proms

Three works in the shortlist were given world premiere performances at the BBC Proms: Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Frieze (Orchestral), Thomas Adès’ Totentanz (Vocal) and John McCabe’s Joybox (Orchestral).

Turnage’s Frieze was a joint commission from BBC Radio 3, the Royal Philharmonic Society and the New York Philharmonic in celebration of the bicentenary of the RPS, the title Frieze refers to the Beethoven Frieze by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt and was a 60th birthday present to the composer’s teacher and mentor Oliver Knussen.

Thomas Adès’ Totentanz is dedicated to the memory of Witold Lutosławski and is a setting of the anonymous text that appeared under a fifteenth-century frieze in the Marienkirche, Lübeck, Germany that was destroyed by bombing in World War Two. The premiere was performed by Christianne Stotijin and Simon Keenlyside with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Adès.

Joybox by John McCabe (the second time he has been shortlisted) is a musical souvenir of a trip to Japan and the sounds of the work are influenced by an ‘entertainment centre’ in Osaka full of slot machines playing widely different musical jingles, all going simultaneously but independently.

Jeremy Evans, Editor of BBC Radio 3’s contemporary music programme Hear and Now said:

“As the home of classical music BBC Radio 3 will once again reflect the British Composer Awards in our new music programme, Hear and Now. We’re delighted to do so; new talent along with new music is an important part of BBC Music’s commitment to classical. The shortlist demonstrates the sheer wealth and scale of talented British composition there has been this year alone. I wish all the nominees the best of luck for the night.”

Elliot Carter’s final work shortlisted

Sadly one shortlisted composer’s work was submitted posthumously – Elliot Carter’s Epigrams (International Award) a work commissioned by the Aldeburgh Festival and Tanglewood Festival and dedicated to Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Epigrams was Elliott Carter’s final work and was composed during the spring and summer of 2012 when he was 103. It received its premiere on 22 June 2013 at the Aldeburgh Festival, performed by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, conducted by Pierre-Laurent Aimard.

Stage Works – two chamber operas and one work for contemporary dance

Perhaps surprisingly, the Stage Works shortlisted category contains no full scale operas but instead two chamber operas (Captain Blood’s Revenge by Lynne Plowman and Dart’s Love by Kerry Andrew) and a work for contemporary dance (IGNIS by Jon Opstad). Captain Blood’s Revenge (A Pirate Opera) by Lynne Plowman was commissioned by Glyndebourne in co-production with Brighton Festival and is notable for being written specifically for children aged 7-9, for performance in studio theatres. The aim of staging a full production for children was to demystify the art form and to introduce young audiences to the thrill of live opera. It was an enormous success and in total nearly 2,000 people saw the work across 10 performances.

Master of the Queen’s Music shortlisted

The Wild Reeds for organ by the new Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weir is shortlisted for Instrumental Solo or Duo. It was written for Thomas Trotter in honour of his remarkable thirty years as Birmingham City Organist. It is a partita, made up of an original theme followed by six variations, which are played continuously. The theme was partly inspired by folk music for outdoor wind instruments from eastern Europe, rugged yet delicate at the same time. Another important inspiration was the organ sonorities which result from unusual divisions of the octave, producing strange chords and ghostly harmonisations of melodies.

Onyx Brass to perform winner of the British Composer Awards Student Competition

The winner of the fifth British Composer Awards Student Competition will be announced in November. The winning work will be performed by Onyx Brass during the British Composer Awards ceremony on 2 December 2014.

Guy Fletcher, PRS Chairman, said: “These awards showcase the sheer breadth of contemporary classical and jazz talent in the UK. In this our centenary year, I’m delighted to see a centenarian on the shortlist, alongside talent from every generation.”

The British Composer Awards are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PRS for Music. BBC Radio 3 will broadcast the awards on Hear and Now at 10.00pm on Saturday 6 December, with the chance to hear many of the shortlisted pieces from approx. 9.30-10pm, Monday 24 to Friday 28 November.

British Composer Awards website:

British Composer Awards – Dates

Monday 20 October BBC Radio 3, In Tune, 4.30pm – shortlist announcement
24 – 28 November BBC Radio 3, Live in Concert Series – preview of BCA shortlisted works
Tuesday 2 December British Composer Awards, Goldsmiths Hall, 5.30pm
Saturday 6 December BBC Radio 3, Hear and Now, 10pm

For further information please contact:
Jo Carpenter, Music PR Consultancy E: jo@jocarpenter.com

2014 British Composer Awards Shortlist

Instrumental Solo or Duo
Solitude by Rebecca Saunders
Sonata after William Byrd’s Haec Dies by John McCabe
The Wild Reeds by Judith Weir

Danaё by Martin Iddon
Hauptstimme by David Fennessy
Renewal by Luke Bedford

Flodden by Sally Beamish
Songs from the same Earth by Harrison Birtwistle
Totentanz by Thomas Adès

Live Music Sculpture 3 by Samuel Bordoli
Night Flight by Cecilia McDowall
The Moth Requiem by Harrison Birtwistle

Wind Band or Brass Band
Journey of the Lone Wolf by Simon Dobson
Kjeden by Paul McGhee
Th’owfen Raconteurs by Lucy Pankhurst

Frieze by Mark-Anthony Turnage
Joybox by John McCabe
Near Midnight by Helen Grime

Stage Works
Captain Blood’s Revenge by Lynne Plowman
Dart’s Love by Kerry Andrew
IGNIS by Jon Opstad

Chaconne for Jonathan Harvey by Ed Hughes
Hodie nobis de coelo pax by Paul Ayres
The Portsmouth Service by Jonathan Dove

Sonic Art
Chorus by Ray Lee
On Air by Caroline Devine
Public Address by Tom White

Contemporary Jazz Composition
Hocus Pocus by Julian Argüelles
Tarab Cuts by John Butcher
The Study of Touch by Django Bates

Community or Educational Project
Dark Clouds are Smouldering into Red by James Redwood
Woodwose: A Community Chamber Opera by Kerry Andrew

Making Music Award – to be announced at the ceremony

International Award
Circle Map by Kaija Saariaho
Epigrams by Elliot Carter
Visions and Revisions by Christopher Trapani

About the British Composer Awards

The BCA celebrate the music of today’s composers living and working in the United Kingdom and also UK premieres of work by composers from outside the UK. Qualifying works must have been completed within the five years prior to 31 March 2014 and received a UK premiere performance – either live or broadcast – in the year leading up to 31 March 2014.

With the exception of the International Award, shortlisted composers must have been born in the UK or resident for at least 5 years. Each category is judged by a different jury, with members appointed by BASCA. This year there were 73 judges, 56 of whom were judging the Awards for the first time. The majority of these music professionals are composers working in collaboration with performers, conductors, promoters and festival directors.