English National Opera’s trailblazing Covid-19 projects lead the 2021 RPS Awards shortlists

The Royal Philharmonic Society has announced this year's shortlists, with artists and initiatives who thrived during the Covid-19 pandemic making up the bulk of the nominations

ENO Drive & Live La bohème (c) Lloyd Winters

The shortlists for this year’s RPS Awards have now been announced, with many of the artists and initiatives nominated having played a key role in music-making throughout the pandemic.

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The English National Opera’s ENO Breathe scheme is among this year’s line-up, having helped Covid-19 sufferers who were living with breathing difficulties. In the November issue of BBC Music Magazine – on sale this week – we send Rebecca Franks off to the ENO to try out this new scheme, having lived with ‘Long Covid’ for much of the last year. The ENO is also nominated for its drive-in performance of Puccini’s La bohème, one of the first productions of its kind during the pandemic.

In a hat tip to the digital music-making of the last year, a streamed performance of Vopera’s virtual production of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges and the Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia’s The World How Wide are up against more traditional live productions.

BBC Music Magazine supports the Conductor Award and this year’s winner will be featured in our Christmas issue, on sale on 25 November. The shortlist this year includes the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s principal conductor Ryan Bancroft, who took on the new role in 2020 at the height of the pandemic and this year made his BBC Proms debut at the Royal Albert Hall. Also nominated is Paul MacAlindin, who was celebrated for his digital concert series Pandemonium, filmed with local musicians from the Govan area of Glasgow. Choral conductor Jeffrey Skidmore also receives a nomination for his work with Ex Cathedra, the ensemble he founded in 1969.

This year’s RPS Awards will take place at London’s Wigmore Hall on Monday 1 November, presented by Radio 3’s Katie Derham and the Royal Philharmonic Society’s chief executive James Murphy. Ticket prices have been reduced this year to open the event up to music-makers from across the country. The ceremony will be filmed and streamed on the RPS website at a later date, and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 the following Monday.

The public is now invited to cast its votes for the winner of the RPS Inspiration Award, newly introduced to celebrate non-professional ensembles who have thrived and kept communities together throughout the pandemic.

Voting for the Inspiration Award will close at 11am on Thursday 30 September.

The shortlists for this year’s RPS Awards:

Chamber-Scale Composition:

Du Yun: Every Grass a Spring
Huw Watkins: Violin Sonata
Laura Bowler: Wicked Problems

Conductor:

Jeffrey Skidmore
Paul MacAlindin
Ryan Bancroft

Ensemble:

Apartment House
Dunedin Consort
Nevis Ensemble

Impact:

ENO Breathe
Including Me – Live Music Now
Orchestras for All

Inspiration:

Aberdeen and Phoenix Saxophone Orchestras
Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra, Berkshire
Hilary Campbell and Bristol Choral Society
Orkney Winter Choir and Orkney Camerata
South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus
Themba Mvula and Lichfield Gospel Choir

Instrumentalist:

Abel Selaocoe (cello)
Nicholas Daniel (oboe)
Nicola Benedetti (violin)

Large-Scale Composition:

Dani Howard: Trombone Concerto
Mark Simpson: Violin Concerto
Mark-Anthony Turnage: Last Song for Olly

Opera and Music Theatre:

Drive & Live: La bohème (English National Opera)
Opera Holland Park
L’enfant et les sortilèges (Vopera)

Series and Events:

Connecting Voices – Opera North and Leeds Playhouse
The World How Wide – Chorus of Royal Northern
Sinfonia Zeitgeist – Riot Ensemble

Singer:

Elizabeth Llewellyn (soprano)
Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano)
Nicky Spence (tenor)

Storytelling:

Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason: House of Music
Kate Kennedy: Dweller in Shadows: A Life of Ivor Gurney
Peter Brathwaite: In Their Voices (BBC Radio 3)

Young Artist:

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Ben Goldscheider (horn)
Jess Dandy (contralto)
The Hermes Experiment