The annual British Composer Awards were announced last night at a ceremony at the British Museum in London, with the winners including Judith Weir, Trevor Wishart, Sally Beamish and Harrison Birtwistle. It was the eighth such award for Birtwistle, making him the most celebrated composer in the awards' 14-year history.
New composers took centre stage this year, with 70 per cent of the winners receiving their first British Composer Awards. Improving the accessibility of music was an issue addressed by two first-time winners: Liam Taylor-West and Oliver Searle, who won in the Community or Educational Project and Amateur or Young Performer categories respectively.
Taylor-West utilises a combination of electronic and acoustic instruments in a work composed for disabled and non-disabled musicians, while Searle’s work Microscopic Dances uses digital technologies to provide opportunities for disabled and non-disabled young people to perform together.
In other works using unusual instrumentation, first-time winner Dominic Murcott’s The Harmonic Canon is composed for a computer-designed half-ton double bell. The composition blurs the boundaries between music and a public work of art.
Judith Weir won her second British Composer Award this year for her choral work In the Land of Uz, a dramatisation of the Book of Job from the Old Testament.
Harrison Birtwistle won his award in the Orchestral category for Deep Time, which explores the progression of time as seen through the changes in geographical landscapes.
Sally Beamish and Trevor Wishart were presented with Gift of BASCA Awards in recognition of their contribution to new music.
A jazz category was introduced this year, with winners awarded for both large and small ensemble. Cassie Kinoshi’s Afronaut – a piece inspired by author Samuel R Delany’s science fiction – won in the Large Ensemble category, while Simon Lasky took home the Small Ensemble prize for Close to Ecstasy, which combines improvisation with detailed notation.
BBC Radio 3 will broadcast the British Composer Awards on Sunday 9 December at 9.20pm.
See below for the full list of winners:
Amateur or Young Performers:
Microscoping Dances by Oliver Searle
Libro di fiammelle e ombre by James Weeks
In the Land of Uz by Judith Weir
Community or Educational Project
The Umbrella by Liam Taylor-West
Jazz Composition for Large Ensemble
Afronaut by Cassie Kinoshi
Jazz Composition for Small Ensemble
Close to Ecstasy by Simon Lasky
Deep Time by Harrison Birtwistle
Unbreathed by Rebecca Saunders
Solo or Duo
Halfway to Heaven by Emily Peasgood
Shorelines by Oliver Coates
Wind Band or Brass Band
The Turing Test by Simon Dobson
British Composer Award for Innovation
British Composer Award for Inspiration
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.