A strong message about the power and presence of classical music throughout the pandemic is today presented through the shortlists for this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society Awards.

Annually given for achievements in classical music across the UK, this year’s Awards are vibrant evidence of a profession that, faced with huge challenge, has never stopped raising people’s spirits when the nation needed it most.

From star soloists including Nicola BenedettiElizabeth LlewellynAbel Selaocoe and Nicky Spence to unsung heroes and amateur musicians, the shortlists tell a story of tremendous creativity, connectivity and resilience in this most challenging of years.

  • Shortlisted initiatives highlight the important social, cohesive benefits of music in difficult times, notably English National Opera’s ENO Breathe drawing on the practice of opera singers to help COVID sufferers, and Orchestras for All breaking down barriers to give life-changing, inclusive experiences to young people in disadvantaged circumstances
  • Nominees collectively illustrate classical music enriching lives across the UK including in the North East (Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia, Opera North and Leeds Playhouse), the North West (singers Jennifer Johnston and Jess Dandy, new music written for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic), Scotland (Dunedin Consort, Nevis Ensemble, Orkney Winter Choir and Camerata, conductor Paul MacAlindin) and Wales (conductor Ryan Bancroft, South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus)
  • From countless streamed performances to Vopera’s virtual production of L’enfant et les sortilèges and the Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia’s The World How Wide, nominees are commended for establishing new ways – set to last – of sharing classical music with wider audiences digitally
  • The 22 individual performers and composers shortlisted range in age from 24 (horn player Ben Goldscheider) to 70 (conductor Jeffrey Skidmore) and 27% are people of colour, including Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, mother of the famous musical family nominated in the Storytelling category for her book ‘House of Music’

Shortlists across 11 categories, each decided by independent panels, are revealed today. Already announced is the shortlist for an award set to be decided for the very first time by public vote. The Inspiration Award is newly introduced to celebrate non-professional ensembles who have likewise kept communities connected through the pandemic. The public is invited to cast a vote for whom they feel should receive this award from a shortlist of six entities. Over 4000 votes have been received so far. Votes close on the RPS website at 11am this Thursday, 30 September.

The 2021 RPS Awards take place at Wigmore Hall, London, at 7.30pm on Monday 1 November. The event will be hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenter Katie Derham and RPS Chief Executive James Murphy, and trophies presented by RPS Chairman John Gilhooly. Tickets are £16 – 30, a vastly reduced price this year enabling more music-lovers and music-makers to get together and join in the festivities. As well as revealing the winners of all this year’s awards, the presentation will feature live musical performances from special guest artists, including some of this year’s nominees.

The RPS Awards will be filmed and streamed on the RPS website at a later date, and longstanding Awards partner BBC Radio 3 will present a special broadcast featuring music of the winners and nominee also hosted by Katie Derham at 7.30pm on Monday 8 November.

RPS Chief Executive James Murphy says: ‘We are so pleased to reveal this year’s RPS Awards shortlists, collectively representing the astonishing hard work, generosity and goodwill of musicians throughout the pandemic. In current times, look no further for a good news story about people nationwide giving the best of themselves to support others. Here is proof for anyone who yet needs it of the invaluable, rousing role that musicians can play in the nation’s recovery.’