Winners announced for 2021 RPS Awards, with amateur and professional ensembles among this year's line-up

The ENO’s breathing programme for Covid-19 sufferers, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s new principal conductor and violinist Nicola Benedetti all took home awards at this year's ceremony

Published: November 1, 2021 at 11:14 pm

The winners of this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society Awards were announced this evening, with top prizes going to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s new principal conductor Ryan Bancroft (above), violinist Nicola Benedetti and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston, as well as a raft of innovative musical projects.


For the first time in RPS Awards history, the public was asked to choose one of the winners. Hilary Campbell and the Bristol Choral Society were voted the winners of the newly introduced Inspiration Award, given to a non-professional ensemble or individual often overlooked by other awards.

Hilary Campbell (R) & the chair of the Bristol Choral Society (L) receive the RPS Inspiration Award_CR Mark Allan
Hilary Campbell (right) and the chair of the Bristol Choral Society (left) receive the RPS Inspiration Award (Photo by Mark Allen)

The English National Opera’s trailblazing ENO Breathe scheme for Covid-19 sufferers living with breathing difficulties won this year’s Impact Award. ‘With current funding to help up to 1,000 patients, ENO Breathe has been a true success,’ Rebecca Franks wrote in the November issue of BBC Music Magazine, when we sent her along to try it out. ‘Imperial College and ENO are running a randomised trial, results due this autumn, that will give further data; but already medical and arts organisations around the world are set to run similar programmes. In Cardiff, Welsh National Opera is about to launch its own version, while over in California LA Opera has been running a pilot scheme.’

2021 RPS Impact Award winner – English National Opera (ENO Breathe) at the RPS 2021 Awards in the Wigmore Hall on Monday 1 Nov. 2021 Photos by Mark Allan
ENO Director of Strategy and Learning & Participation Jenny Mollica receives the 2021 RPS Impact Award for ENO Breathe (Photo by Mark Allan)

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s new principal conductor Ryan Bancroft is also among the winners, following a highly successful first year in his new post. In awarding Bancroft the Conductor Award, the RPS paid tribute to his ‘electrifying concerts invigorating the orchestra’s repertoire’. Despite taking on the position at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, with orchestras unable to perform to live audiences, Bancroft has thrived. ‘Leading various ensembles of the orchestra’s musicians has allowed me to get to know them on an individual basis,’ he told BBC Music Magazine for the upcoming Christmas issue. ‘Orchestras are thought of as monoliths, but they’re not. They’re groups of people made up of different ideas and interests.’

The Young Artist Prize this year goes to The Hermes Experiment, with its surprising instrumental line-up of soprano, clarinet, double bass and harp. Together, the ensemble has commissioned more than 50 new works, and recently released Song, its second album on Delphian Records. Héloise Werner, the group’s soprano and co-founder, spoke to Fiona Maddocks in the November issue of BBC Music Magazine. ‘I love the variety of styles and eras,’ she says. ‘But I also love that as musicians in this group we are all equal. The voice might seem the important part but I am part of the whole texture. And because there’s no repertoire for this combination, we create as we go.’

After Sheku Kanneh-Mason took home this same prize at last year’s RPS Awards, his mother Kadiatu is celebrated in this year’s Storytelling Prize for her book House of Music: Raising the Kanneh-Masons.

2021 RPS Storytelling Award winner – Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason (House of Music) at the RPS 2021 Awards in the Wigmore Hall on Monday 1 Nov. 2021 Photos by Mark Allan
Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, mother of the Kanneh-Mason family, receives the 2021 RPS Storytelling Award for her book House of Music: Raising the Kanneh-Masons (Photo by Mark Allan)

Following the success of her Benedetti Foundation Virtual Sessions during the pandemic, violinist Nicola Benedetti was awarded this year’s Instrumental Prize, with the Singer Award going to mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston.

2021 RPS Instrumentalist Award winner – Nicola Benedetti at the RPS 2021 Awards in the Wigmore Hall on Monday 1 Nov. 2021 Photos by Mark Allan
Violinist Nicola Benedetti receives the 2021 RPS Instrumentalist Award (Photo by Mark Allan)

The Royal Philharmonic Society’s prestigious Gold Medal was awarded earlier this year to the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s outgoing principal conductor Vladimir Jurowski. RPS chairman John Gilhooly gave the Russian conductor the medal on stage at the BBC Proms this summer during his final concert at the helm of the London orchestra. Since then, he has handed over the reins to Edward Gardner, the first British conductor in the post since the 1960s. Jurowski has taken up a new position as general music director of the Bayerische Staatsoper.

The winners of this year’s RPS Awards were announced at a ceremony this evening at London’s Wigmore Hall, presented by Radio 3’s Katie Derham and the Royal Philharmonic Society’s chief executive James Murphy. The ceremony was filmed and will be streamed on the RPS website from Tuesday 9 November, with coverage also broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Monday 8 November.

The complete list of winners:

Chamber-Scale Composition
supported by Boosey & Hawkes in memory of Tony Fell
Laura Bowler – Wicked Problems

supported by BBC Music Magazine
Ryan Bancroft

supported by Tarisio
Dunedin Consort

supported by Schott Music
Bold Tendencies

supported by ABRSM
ENO Breathe

supported by Decca Classics
Hilary Campbell and Bristol Choral Society

supported by Help Musicians in its centenary year
Nicola Benedetti (violin)

Large-Scale Composition
supported by The Boltini Trust
Dani Howard – Trombone Concerto

Opera and Music Theatre
L’enfant et les sortilèges – Vopera

Series and Events
supported by PRS for Music
The World How Wide – Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia

supported by Jenny Hodgson
Jennifer Johnston (mezzo soprano)

supported by Lark Music
Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason: House of Music: Raising the Kanneh-Masons

Young Artist
supported by Sir Simon and Victoria, Lady Robey OBE
The Hermes Experiment


Top image: Ryan Bancroft wins the 2021 RPS Conductor Award


Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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