2020: Inspiration Award

Supported by Decca Classics

All the world’s a stage, said Shakespeare, and – even in lockdown – musicians all over the UK have proven precisely that, finding new ways to share their artistry online and even on our doorsteps. To salute their remarkable efforts, this year’s RPS Awards include the new Inspiration Award for UK-based artists, ensembles, organisations and entities that have set out to inspire us all during lockdown.

For this new award, we invited the public to nominate for the first time, and received an astounding 2,761 nominations. This says so much about how much the nation values music at times like these, and we want to thank everyone who took the time to tell us their favourites. In light of so many nominations, all of which deserve credit for their efforts, the RPS Board and Council have chosen six winners detailed below, whilst specially commending a number of additional achievements detailed here. Whatever music you have enjoyed during lockdown, we hope you find further inspirations among them. You can watch the full RPS Awards broadcast here - the Inspiration Award features at 58:00.


This may be a salvation for anyone who’s been locked down with little children. Sheffield’s Polly Ives drew together countless musical friends to create a fabulous ’24 Hour Soundtrack’ to engage and inspire children aged 0 to 5 at literally all hours of the day and night during lockdown. One nominator calls it:

‘A fantastic, innovative interactive musical resource for parents and children during the lockdown and beyond. Polly drew on a wide-ranging repertoire aimed entirely at an often-overlooked age range. She gathered dozens of top-drawer international musicians asking them to make contributions that would connect music, learning and having fun, and that would also connect parents with their children's musical activities. They all succeeded brilliantly.’

Diocese of Leeds – Schools Singing Programme

We often hear about musical opportunities dwindling for young people, but across the nation there are dedicated organisations like the Diocese of Leeds doing all they can to counter that. Their stellar efforts to maintain 18 weekly online choir rehearsals and daily singing sessions despite reduced funding during lockdown were hugely praised by their community with multiple nominations. One nominator told us:

‘Through the commitment and expertise of its music leaders, this brilliant programme has thrived during lockdown, reaching 4,500 children weekly, from some of the most deprived areas in Yorkshire. It addresses systemic exclusion in music education at its very source.’

Stay At Home Choir

Lockdown has seen the emergence of many much-loved virtual choirs, including The Self-Isolation Choir, Great British Home Chorus, and All Together Now. Among them, our panel particularly admired how the Stay At Home Choir - created by conductor Tori Longdon and singer Jamie Wright - gives amateurs the chance to sing with and learn from guest artists including James MacMillan, Karl Jenkins, The Sixteen, Voces8, The King’s Singers and The Swingle Singers. One of several hundred nominators called it:

‘My lifeline during lockdown, an amazing opportunity to sing with and learn from internationally renowned artists. I have learnt so much about vocal techniques to inspire my singing in future.’

The Opera Story

A number of small organisations with little means have been admirably inventive in lockdown. Giving valued work to a host of composers and performers, this young opera company’s series of specially made mini-operas have delighted nominees with their ingenuity and wit: among them, look out for RPS Award nominee Nicky Spence as a singing bottle of soy sauce! One nominator writes:

‘I have been following many companies during lockdown and this is the most inspiring and collaborative, creating new work for the most needed self-employed, upcoming musicians; every episode composed/animated/filmed/played/sung from scratch.’


When they started presenting mini-performances online, violinist Elena Urioste and pianist Tom Poster had no idea they’d be doing it for 88 days. Together they charted oceans of diverse repertoire, fresh arrangements and even brand-new works, each stylishly, impeccably and wittily presented. One nominator called it:

‘Sheer musical heart-felt brilliance! Inspiring to all ages. My 2 and 5 years olds have loved watching their posts every day and the insightful, informative commentary with each.’

Virtual Benedetti Sessions

In its first fledgling year, Nicola Benedetti’s Foundation lost no ground adapting to be wholly virtual through lockdown, engaging 7000+ participants learning stringed instruments with a remarkable array of interactive films and Zooms. One nominator wrote:

‘I am retired and a keen amateur musician. The sessions exploded my understanding of music, of tuition. I loved their breadth, they addressed that playing an instrument is difficult and that people get discouraged. But more than this was the joy of music, the delight in playing, pleasure in bringing all this tuition to learners.’

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