Kerry Andrew led the field at this year’s British Composer Awards, scooping awards in two categories. The 36-year-old composer, singer, teacher, writer and folk musician won both the Stage Works award for her chamber opera Dart’s Love and the Community or Educational Project award for Woodwose: A Community Chamber Opera. ‘It is very lovely to win,’ says Andrew, ‘I feel really chuffed and just so happy.’
Andrew, who previously won an award in 2010, joined a line-up of nine first-time winners at this year’s British Composer Awards. After being nominated on seven occasions, Cecilia McDowall finally took top spot in the Choral category for her piece Night Flight, inspired by the American aviator Harriet Quimby. ‘To be shortlisted seven times was really special,’ says McDowall. ‘So to actually win it feels pretty good.’
Mark-Anthony Turnage won the Orchestral category for his Beethoven-inspired work Frieze, while Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s work Circle Map – which has already been performed ten times – was recognised in the International category. Both composers were first-time winners, with Django Bates, Steve Forman, Ed Hughes, Martin Iddon, Rebecca Saunders and Tom White making up the total of nine new names.
Sir Harrison Birtwistle, a five-time award winner and twelve-time nominee, triumphed again with a win in the Vocal category for his work Songs from the Same Earth. John McCabe, who alongside Birtwistle and Andrew was nominated twice, lost out in both his categories – to Rebecca Saunders’s fiendishly difficult cello work Solitude in the Instrumental solo or duo category, and to Turnage in Orchestral.
After men dominated the winners list at last year’s Awards, this year’s ceremony offered a slightly more balanced line-up with women winning five of the 13 awards on offer.
The Awards ceremony took place in Goldsmiths’ Hall in London and was hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenters Sara Mohr-Pietsch and Andrew McGregor. Dame Evelyn Glennie was guest speaker; the percussionist described how it was ‘breathtaking and heartwarming’ to read the list of nominees, adding that the ‘value of music to society is incalculable… without it we would whither or perish’.