• Just announced, this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society Awards salute musical heroes – both amateur and professional – who have inspired the nation through the pandemic
  • The new Inspiration Award, voted for by the public, was presented to the non-professional Bristol Choral Society, while fellow amateurs in the Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia outshone professional counterparts in the Series and Events Award
  • English National Opera received the Impact Award for its life-changing ‘ENO Breathe’ that has helped hundreds of long-Covid sufferers
  • Star names including violinist Nicola Benedetti and Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, mother of the musical Kanneh-Mason family, are also among the winners

Winners of the 2021 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards have been revealed this evening in a star-studded event at London’s Wigmore Hall, celebrating the power and presence of classical music throughout the pandemic, and the musicians – amateur and professional – who have selflessly found ways against the odds to inspire others.

The Awards were hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenter Katie Derham and RPS Chief Executive James Murphy, with trophies presented by RPS Chairman John Gilhooly.

Receiving over 4500 public votes, the Inspiration Award – newly introduced to celebrate amateur ensembles who have kept communities connected through the pandemic – went to Bristol Choral Society and its conductor Hilary Campbell.

Others awards, chosen by expert panels, went to individuals, groups and initiatives that have uplifted the nation through this difficult year. Star violinist Nicola Benedetti received the Instrumentalist Award for her tireless work as an artist, educator and advocate and the brilliant Virtual Benedetti Sessions that have inspired thousands of young musicians.

The Impact Award – for initiatives that prove music’s vital, empowering role in society – went to English National Opera’s ENO Breathe programme, drawing on the expertise of opera singers and colleagues at Imperial College Healthcare to help hundreds of long-Covid sufferers across the UK positively address their breathing and anxiety.

Winners collectively illustrate classical music enriching lives across the nation: the Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia received the Series and Events Award for The World How Wide which united isolated amateur voices across Northumberland in a powerfully-moving digital presentation; Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales Ryan Bancroft received the Conductor Award for his dedicated groundwork in Wales; Scotland’s Dunedin Consort received the Ensemble Award for casting exciting new light on historic music; and Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason from Nottingham received the Storytelling Award for her inspirational book ‘House of Music’ about raising a remarkable musical family. Multiple trophies will be heading to the North West, as Liverpudlian mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnston received the Singer Award, Macclesfield composer Laura Bowler received the Chamber-Scale Composition Award for her defiant warning about climate change Wicked Problems, whilst composer Dani Howard received the Large-Scale Composition Award forher Trombone Concerto written especially for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and star soloist Peter Moore.

The Gamechanger Award for those who break new ground in classical music was presented to Bold Tendencies,the Peckham multi-storey car park reclaimed as an exciting arts destination, where classical performances have attracted and exhilarated new audiences. Further accolades went to the newly-formed young opera company Vopera,winning the Opera and Music Theatre Award for its ingenious digital production of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, and to the unique chamber ensemble The Hermes Experiment, recipientsof the Young Artist Award whose live performance ofPiazzolla’s Concert d’aujourd’hui closed the Awards show in style.

RPS Chairman John Gilhooly says ‘For so many of us, music has been a lifeline through the last eighteen months. It’s an honour for the Royal Philharmonic Society to salute the brilliance and resilience of musicians nationally through the pandemic, giving the best of themselves for others, at times of immense personal challenge. This year’s RPS Awards winners are representative of countless music-makers across the UK whom we should all treasure: they have collectively kept our spirits high and will continue to be play an invaluable, central role in the nation’s recovery.’

Longstanding Awards partner BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a special RPS Awards programme at 7.30pm on Monday 8 November featuring music of the winners. A film of the complete RPS Awards presentation will be freely available on the RPS website from 9 November.