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British Composer Awards – the winners

British Composer Awards 2014

  • “BASCA set up the British Composer Awards to shine a light on new music composition and it’s great that once again the list of winning works demonstrates the diverse and vibrant creativity that exists in the UK. Congratulations to all of tonight’s winning composers” Simon Darlow, BASCA Chairman

Nine first time winners revealed at the British Composer Awards 2014 with Kerry Andrew taking home two Awards

The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) tonight announced the winners of the 2014 British Composer Awards in a ceremony at London’s Goldsmiths’ Hall. The keynote speaker for the evening was Dame Evelyn Glennie who also presented the Awards to the winners.  

9 first time winners

Of the 13 categories, 9 were first time winners: Django Bates, Steve Forman, Ed Hughes, Martin Iddon, Cecilia McDowall, Kaija Saariaho, Rebecca Saunders, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Tom White.

Django Bates’ The Study of Touch won the Contemporary Jazz Composition category. The Study of Touch was written for the Grammy-nominated Norrbotten Big Band from northern Sweden who gave the UK premiere at the BBC Proms with Bates’ own Belovèd Trio. The work was inspired by a ‘‘simple diatonic loop’’ (to quote the composer) which is the basis for a dialogue centred on the formal and expressive possibilities of nuance.

The Making MusicAward was won by Steve Forman with Loch Awe. Loch Awe is a dreamscape, a tone-poem for wind band and percussion. The music requires the players to use their imagination to convey the sounds and beauty of dawn on an autumn morning at Loch Awe. They had to imagine being in a canoe, gliding through the still waters and listening to the sounds of the water and the weather. The music is written so that no two performances are the same, as this reflects the changing weather and water at Loch Awe each day.

Ed Hughes was the winner in the Liturgical category with Chaconne for Jonathan Harvey for solo organ. The work is in memory of Jonathan Harvey who Hughes assisted on his final choral composition in summer 2012, ‘Plainsongs for Peace and Light’. The work refers to a couple of Harvey pieces – quoting plainsong in ‘Plainsongs for Peace and light’ and a chord pattern from ‘The Angels’ (choral work from 1995). 

The winner of the Chamber category was Martin Iddon with Danaë. The piece is written for string trio but with a serious physical restriction on the performers: they perform throughout with a bow in each hand! The result is complex, muscular physical theatre as well as sound – an interesting musical ‘event’.  It received its UK premiere performance at the Roca Gallery, London, performed by the Distractfold Ensemble.

Cecilia McDowall’sNight Flight was the winner in the Choral category. It marks the centenary of the first woman – the American aviatrix, Harriet Quimby – to fly successfully across the English Channel. Quimby received little recognition for this remarkable feat as it was overshadowed by the shocking news of the sinking of the Titanic just the day before and this, understandably, dominated the news for weeks. Written for a cappella choral ensemble and cello solo, these three songs are settings of beautiful poems by the British poet, Sheila Bryer.

The International Award was won by Kaija Saariaho with Circle Map. Using spoken texts by 13th century Persian poet Rumi, this work melds both electronic and acoustic worlds with orchestra and voice. It is a major undertaking, technically and artistically with the orchestra having to master the acoustical complexities of the research-based style known as musique spectrale and then having to blend seamlessly with electronic sounds.

Rebecca Saunders’ Solitude for Solo Cello won the Instrumental Solo or Duo category. Solitude is the product of a 4 year collaboration between the composer and the cellist Séverine Ballon and an intensive search for new sounds and the techniques to support them.  Technically this work is an extraordinary achievement, but its musicality and directness of expression are what strike the listener on first hearing.

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

Tom White’s Public Address was the winner of the Sonic Art category and 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. 

  • Julia Haferkorn and Ed McKeon, British Composer Awards Artistic Directors said: “This year’s Awards show that British Music is alive and thinking, singing and imagining new expressive possibilities. There’s a spring in its step and dreams on the tip of its tongue. The winning pieces reflect the incredible originality and diversity of our new music, making the Awards a terrific showcase of music for all open-eared listeners.”

Kerry Andrew wins two British Composer Awards

Kerry Andrew took away two Awards winning with Woodwose: A Community Chamber 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 imagining the gasps of swimmers as they jumped into the cold water.

Jeremy Evans, Editor of BBC Radio 3’s contemporary music programme, Hear and Now said: “BBC Radio 3 continues to support these awards and through them the winners, thanks to the BBC’s clear commitment to music. Alongside our own significant contributions to the new music canon, the awards mark a time to reflect and be proud of the creative excellence in British composition today. Congratulations to all the winners who have helped to mark another extraordinary year in contemporary music making.”

Sir Harrison Birtwistle wins his sixth Award

Sir Harrison Birtwistle, who won his sixth British Composer Award for Songs from the same Earth in the Vocal category, has become the most shortlisted and winning composer in BCA history. Birtwistle’s previous awards include both the Orchestral and Choral awards in 2005, the Instrumental Solo or Duo award for Crowd in 2007, the Orchestral category in 2012 for Concerto for Violin and Orchestra and the Instrumental Solo or Duo category for Gigue Machine in 2013. Songs from the same Earth for tenor and piano is 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.

Simon Dobson wins for the second time in the Wind Band or Brass Band category

Simon Dobson, who won the Wind Band or Brass Band category in 2012 with ‘A Symphony of Colours’ was the winner of this category with Journey of the Lone Wolf for Brass Band and Percussion. Journey of the Lone Wolf had its premiere at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester as part of the Royal Northern College of Music Festival of Brass and was performed by the Black Dyke Band.  It tells a story in music of the great Hungarian composer and folklorist Béla Bartók. 

  • Guy Fletcher, Chairman of PRS for Music, said: “It is always exciting to witness this level of talent and creativity and I wholeheartedly congratulate the winners this year.  It has been a wonderful evening.  PRS for Music has a long heritage of supporting classical composers, and in our centenary year it is especially uplifting to know that the future of classical music is in the hands of this capable new generation.  PRS for Music is proud to sponsor this important event and honoured to continue its support for classical composers for another century and beyond.”

Student Competition Winner

Sonicalia by Bertram Wee, currently a student at the Royal College of Music, won the 5th British Composer Awards Student Competition. Sonicalia is for tenor trombone and tuba and was performed by Amos Miller and David Gordon Shute from Onyx Brass during the ceremony.

The British Composer Awards are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PRS for Music. BBC Radio 3 will broadcast the awards in Hear and Now at 10.00pm on Saturday 6 December.


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


2014 British Composer Awards – Winners List

Instrumental Solo or Duo
Solitude by Rebecca Saunders

Danaё by Martin Iddon

Songs from the same Earth by Harrison Birtwistle

Night Flight by Cecilia McDowall

Wind Band or Brass Band
Journey of the Lone Wolf by Simon Dobson

Frieze by Mark-Anthony Turnage

Stage Works
Dart’s Love by Kerry Andrew

Chaconne for Jonathan Harvey by Ed Hughes

Sonic Art
Public Address by Tom White

Contemporary Jazz Composition
The Study of Touch by Django Bates

Community or Educational Project
Woodwose: A Community Chamber Opera by Kerry Andrew

Making Music Award
Loch Awe by Steve Forman

International Award
Circle Map by Kaija Saariaho


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 74 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.