Classical music’s national impact and worth celebrated at the RPS Awards

  • Headline speech from John Gilhooly calls for new government commitment to classical music
  • Star artists Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Anna Lapwood and Abel Selaocoe feature prominently
  • Nationwide music-making recognised with wins for Manchester, Leeds, Torbay and Wales
  • Winners include Manchester Camerata and Multi-Story Orchestra for initiatives empowering communities affected by dementia and knife crime

An urgent message about the reach and resonance of classical music – and everything that professional and amateur music-makers devote to society – has been made at this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society Awards. Presented this evening at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, with tickets this year from only £10, the Awards have drawn their largest-ever live audience of over 800 people. The event began with a solo performance by Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the phenomenal cellist drawing a huge following to classical music with over 300 million global streams to date. In a headline speech, RPS Chairman John Gilhooly conveyed the urgent concerns and convictions of the music profession following Arts Council England’s controversial funding review. He said ‘Classical music policy and strategy is confused and all over the place – but our amazing resources and talents could work wonders if properly harnessed. An occasion like this allows us to send a message to government that we must cherish our composers, our musicians, and our proud musical heritage’. He called for a coordinated plan for live classical music and music education from government, saying ‘The arts are central to the international standing and character of the nation and bring in over £110 billion annually to the economy. We showed through the pandemic that we are central to the wellbeing and prosperity of our national life. Music’s worth has never been clearer. We need open, honest, and reasoned dialogue now with government and funders.’ 27-year-old organist and choral director Anna Lapwood received the coveted Gamechanger Award for her remarkable artistry and advocacy, and the extraordinary social media following she has generated for classical music. She was praised by RPS Chief Executive James Murphy ‘for inspiring generations of younger musicians to see how they too might rise up to meet the world.’ Other winners included the South African cellist Abel Selaocoe who received the Instrumentalist Award following the release of his acclaimed debut album and mesmeric performances drawing capacity audiences back to concert venues following the pandemic, and the young British-Japanese composer Ben Nobuto who won one of two awards for composition for his electrifying SERENITY 2.0.  The Impact Award went to The Multi-Story Orchestra’s remarkable production The Endz, created by a group of young people from Peckham who – following the death of fellow teenager Malcolm Mide-Madariola who was killed standing up for a friend in a knife fight – wanted to express their feelings and be heard through music. Much in the headlines, the English National Opera was celebrated through the Conductor Award presented to its much-loved Music Director Martyn Brabbins. Further winners represent classical music enriching lives across the nation: Manchester Camerata received the Storytelling Award for their film Untold – Keith charting the benefits of music for people living with dementia; Leeds Piano Trail received the Series and Events Award for brilliantly using music to entice over 200,000 people back to the city centre following the pandemic; Manchester Collective received the Ensemble Award for their transformative performances attracting new audiences from Birkenhead to the BBC Proms; Welsh favourites, the Tredegar Town Band and BBC National Orchestra of Wales were recognised through another composition winner – the rousing Concerto Grosso for Brass Band and Orchestra written for them by composer Gavin Higgins; Devon’s Torbay Symphony Orchestra received the Inspiration Award for amateur music-making, the winner of which is chosen by the public who this year cast over 4,000 votes. The Awards were hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenters Hannah French and Petroc Trelawny, and featured further performances by winners Manchester Collective and the soprano Anna Dennis who received this year’s Singer Award. Additionally, viola sensation Timothy Ridout won the Young Artist Award and Bluebeard’s Castle by Theatre of Sound and Opera Ventures won the Opera and Music Theatre Award. The RPS Awards unite many partners from the UK’s classical music community. The RPS is especially grateful to this year’s Principal Supporters – BBC Radio 3ABRSMPRS for MusicYamaha, and BBC Music Magazine – and those who support individual awards, as detailed below. Longstanding Awards partner BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a special RPS Awards programme at 7pm on Monday 6 March, and available for a further month on BBC Sounds, giving audiences the opportunity to hear more music from this year’s winners. A film of the RPS Awards presentation will be freely available to watch for one month on the RPS website from Thursday 9 March.