Women absent from winners of 2013 British Composer Awards

Dismay for female composers, but Sir Harrison Birtwistle wins his fifth BCA award


Questions have been raised about the 2013 British Composer Awards, after the winners ceremony was dominated entirely by men.

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At the awards ceremony last week, Sir Harrison Birtwistle won his fifth British Composer Award for his work Gigue Machine, making him the most shortlisted and winning composer in the BCA’s history.

Other winners include Colin Matthews for his String Quartet No. 4, in the chamber category, Brian Elias for his vocal work Electra Mourns and James MacMillan for his choral piece Since it was the day of Preparation….

The shortlist for the Awards did include female composers, including Rebecca Saunders for her chamber work Fletch and Cecilia McDowall for her work O Oriens, which was nominated in the Liturgical category… but there are no women in the winning categories. Reacting to the results in The Independent, writer Jessica Duchen has since reflected that 'Women composers were not merely sidelined – they were completely absent. This is a disgrace to the UK's whole classical music industry.' Her feelings have been echoed elsewhere.

Sarah Rodgers, chairman of the British Composer Awards Committee said: ‘One of the achievements the BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors) is particularly proud of is that the British Composers Awards, year on year, brings to light rising composers and supports them in taking the next step in their careers. The broadcast and other media exposure we are able to offer, together with commissions and collaborations, all contribute to helping a composer and their work became more widely recognised.’

Several of the winners were new to the British Composer Awards, including Toshio Hosokawa, who took the International Award and Nigel Clarke, who won the Wind Band/Brass Band Award.

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The full list of winners can be found here.