Ivors Composer Awards announces 2021 nominations, with themes of lockdown, mythology and nature leading the shortlist

The Ivors Academy have selected new works premiered over the last year, so it's inevitable that many composers have made references to lockdown in their work

Alex Paxton_Landscape 1 (c) Peter Tanish

The Ivors Academy has announced the nominations for this year’s Ivors Composer Awards, celebrating the best new works in classical music, jazz and sound art.

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All the nominated works were premiered between April 2020 and March 2021. Inevitably, the theme of lockdown is prominent in many of the works in this year’s line-up, including Nikki Iles’s The Caged Bird, Tansy Davies’s Nightingales: Ultra-Deep Field, Caroline Kraabel’s London 26 and 28 March 2020: Imitation: Inversion, Thomas Adès’s Gyökér (Root) and Howard Goodall’s Never to Forget.

As the world was returning to ancient stories to find meaning in chaos, many of this year’s nominated composers turning to mythology for inspiration.

Nature is often a popular topic for composers to use as the basis of their work, and this year proved no different. With more of us spending time in the countryside than ever before, the natural world was represented in works such as Lynne Plowman’s A Field Guide to Pebbles, Nikki Sheth’s Nocturnal Insights and Ed Hughes’s The Cuckmere Soundwalk. 

30 works have been nominated across six categories in this year’s Ivors Composer Awards. Nearly half of the composers in the running are first-time nominees, including the Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir and British composer and trombonist Alex Paxton (above), who has three works nominated.

Nominations were judged blindly, with the names of each composer removed from all materials given to the judges.

The winners of this year’s Ivor Novello Awards will be revealed at a ceremony at the British Museum, presented by BBC Radio 3’s Sarah Mohr-Pietsch and Tom Service. The show will be subsequently broadcast on Radio 3 as part of a special edition of the New Music Show on 11 December.

The full list of nominees:

JAZZ COMPOSITION

BYE by ALEX PAXTON
for small jazz ensemble and improviser

CORNCRACK DREAMS by ALEX PAXTON
for trombone, keyboard and drums

DREAMS by BRIGITTE BERAHA and DAVE MANINGTON
for jazz sextet

THE CAGED BIRD by NIKKI ILES
for jazz band

THE RISE OF THE LIZARD PEOPLE by IVO NEAME
for jazz orchestra

LARGE SCALE COMPOSITION

CATAMORPHOSIS by ANNA THORVALDSDOTTIR
for orchestra

DEMOCRACY DANCES by CONOR MITCHELL
for symphony orchestra

KAAMOS by LARA POE
for orchestra

PHARMAKEIA by JAMES DILLON
for 16 players

THIS DEPARTING LANDSCAPE by MARTIN SUCKLING
for orchestra

SMALL CHAMBER COMPOSITION

A FIELD GUIDE TO PEBBLES by LYNNE PLOWMAN
for percussion duo

NIGHTINGALES: ULTRA-DEEP FIELD by TANSY DAVIES
for string quartet

SOMETIMES VOICES by ALEX PAXTON
for keyboard and drums

STILL LIFE by STEPHEN GOSS
for cello and guitar

WICKED PROBLEMS by LAURA BOWLER
for voice, bass flute and fixed tape part

SOLO COMPOSITION

‘ECHO THE ANGELUS’ by JAMES DILLON
for piano

FADING SPELLSPHERE by BEN GAUNT
for piano

LAMPADES by MARTIN IDDON
for tuba and fixed media

LINEAR CONSTRUCTION (NO. 5) by ALEX GROVES
for cello

NO ONE by ROBIN HAIGH
for harp

SOUND ART

FIRE PREVENTION OR HOW TO SING A LABYRINTH OR THE REBEING AND THE BURNING OF THE LABYRINTH by NWANDO EBIZIE
for piano, voice and electronics with field recordings

LONDON 26 AND 28 MARCH 2020: IMITATION: INVERSION by CAROLINE KRAABEL
for baritone, alto and sopranino saxophones and double bass

NOCTURNAL INSIGHTS by NIKKI SHETH
for field recordings of crepuscular and nocturnal wildlife in the UK

THE CUCKMERE SOUNDWALK by ED HUGHES
for chamber orchestra

WAVES OF RESISTANCE (RADIO ART WITHOUT BORDERS) TONNTA FRIOTAÍOCHTA (EALAÍNE RAIDIÓ GAN TEORAINNEACHA) by MAGZ HALL
radiophonic poem, WASP synth and location recordings from the Irish Sea and Canterbury Garden

VOCAL OR CHORAL COMPOSITION

BARUCH – TEN PROPOSITIONS OF BARUCH SPINOZA FOR TENOR AND PIANO by MICHAEL ZEV GORDON
for tenor and piano

GYÖKÉR (ROOT) by THOMAS ADÈS
for mezzo-soprano and four percussionists

NEVER TO FORGET by HOWARD GOODALL
for SATB choir and small orchestra

THINKING I HEAR THEE CALL by CHERYL FRANCES-HOAD
for soprano, speaker and electronics

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VIDI AQUAM by JAMES MACMILLAN
for 40 a cappella voices, split into 8 SSATB choirs