British Composer Awards 2017 Winners Announced


A work exploring the experience of clinical depression, and a piece for jazz quintet and sinfonietta dedicated to refugees and their descendants, are among the winners of the British Composer Awards, announced at a ceremony at the British Museum in London tonight.

Thirteen composers were honoured at the award ceremony hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenters Andrew McGregor and Sara Mohr-Pietsch. The winning works represent the best contemporary composition that premièred in the UK in the year leading up to 31 March 2017. In addition, two composers were awarded the Gift of BASCA award in recognition of their contribution to new music. The ceremony highlighted the vibrancy and energy of composers in the UK today.

The British Composer Awards are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PRS for Music; in association with BBC Radio 3 providing exclusive broadcast coverage. A programme dedicated to the British Composer Awards will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 10th December from 7.30pm.

Crispin Hunt, Chairman at BASCA, said: “The composers honoured this evening are testament to the UK’s thriving and vibrant new music community. Their creations challenge the status quo; push boundaries, celebrate our rich and diverse history, inspire and innovate at every turn. They demonstrate the positive impact of music on all our lives and it is an honour for BASCA to celebrate their achievements this evening.”


Kerry Andrew won her fourth British Composer Award for Who We Are in the Amateur or Young Performers category, a piece composed for children’s choir, exploring the refugee crisis and themes of identity and otherness.

Rebecca Saunders collected her third British Composer Award for Skin in the Chamber Ensemble category. Written for soprano and thirteen instruments, the judges described it as ‘an exceptionally original creation…. That was at once uncomfortable, tender, frightening and poignant.’

First-time winner, Andrew Hamilton won in the Choral category for Proclamation of the Republic, a musical exploration of the history of the Easter Rising in Ireland. Setting the text of the historic Proclamation and in particular how it was read out by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office in Dublin on 24 April 1916.

Brian Irvine won his second British Composer Award for Anything but Bland in the Community or Educational Project category, a composition celebrating the life and work of Lilian Bland, the first woman to design, build and fly an aeroplane. The piece was written for an all-female chorus bringing together girls and women from across community schools, community groups, business groups and individuals.

First-time winner, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian won in the Contemporary Jazz Composition category for Muted Lines, a piece dedicated to all refugees and their descendants. In Muted Lines the melody repeats, symbolising the way in which history repeats itself.

Emily Howard won her second British Composer Award for Torus (Concerto for Orchestra) in the Orchestral category. The composition explores the idea of the mathematical shape of the torus, and the musical balance between absence and presence. The judges said it ‘is particularly notable for its precision of structure and colour; captivating from start to finish’.

This year’s youngest winner Robin Haigh (aged 24) won his first British Composer Award in the Small Chamber category. The judges described In Feyre Foreste, for five recorders as ‘completely refreshing, with remarkable ensemble writing creating a magical narrative’.

First-time winner Deborah Pritchard won the Solo or Duo category for Inside Colour, a composition responding synaesthetically to the natural beauty of the aurora as seen from space.

Luminous Birds by Kathy Hinde animates a flock of origami-style birds suspended overhead in an outdoor location. As night falls, synchronised sound and light create the sensation of birds flying overhead. The installation won the Sonic Art award – Kathy’s first British Composer Award – and was described by the judges as ‘an outstanding example of what Sonic Art has to offer today.’

Philip Venables won his first British Composer Award for 4.48 Psychosis in the Stage Works category, a piece exploring the experience clinical depression in an operatic adaptation of radical British playwright, Sarah Kane’s final work – the first ever permitted adaptation of any of her output. The piece is a fusion of opera with spoken and visual text.

First-time winner Kenneth Hesketh won in the Wind Band or Brass Band category for In Ictu Oculi, a composition for wind orchestra exploring the transience of time and disintegration of cultures, individuals and civilisations.


British Composer Awards were also presented to two composers in recognition of their innovation in new music and influence and inspirational career.

Composer, researcher and turntablist Shiva Feshareki was presented with the British Composer Award for Innovation by artist Haroon Mirza. Feshareki is an experimental composer who explores the physicality of sound in relation to light, perspective, movement and sculpture. Recent works include ‘O’ for the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra – a sculptural acoustic composition where the music moves around the orchestra as if it was a spinning vinyl record, with the sound traveling in circular movements, clockwise and anti-clockwise. And ‘GABA-analogue’ where four orchestras play simultaneously with electronic sampling that scatters the orchestra within and around the audience.

Nigel Osborne MBE was presented with the British Composer Award for Inspiration (in association with the Music Publishers Association) by Opera Circus Artistic Director, Tina Ellen Lee. Osborne is a prolific and influential composer whose works encapsulate ensemble music, orchestral pieces and works for theatre and opera. He was Reid Professor of Music at Edinburgh University for 22 years and has pioneered methods of using music and the creative arts to support children who are victims of conflict. An approach that was developed during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and since then has been implemented widely in Eastern Europe, Africa, India and most recently Syria. He has been an advisor for War Child and is currently a fieldworker for SAWA for Development and Aid in its programme for refugees in Lebanon and Syria.

70 per cent are first-time winners. Women accounted for more than half the winners, with seven of the thirteen awards being won by female composers.

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