Current Composers

Our current composers were selected in July 2020 by a panel comprising professional composers and representatives from our partner organisations.

The 2020-21 RPS Composers are:

  • Alex Paxton - writing for the Philharmonia’s Music of Today series. As a composer, Alex draws upon his life as an improvising-trombonist, jazz musician and workshop leader. He is the founder of DreamMusics Ensemble which combines synth sounds with virtuosic musicians in contemporary classical, jazz and improvisation.
  • Ayanna Witter-Johnson - writing for the Philharmonia’s Music of Today series. Ayanna is a graduate of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and the Manhattan School of Music. A singer, songwriter, cellist and composer, she is committed to proving that classical and alternative r&b music can successfully coexist.
  • James B. Wilson - writing for Presteigne Festival. James draws musical influences from a range of recent and contemporary artists - from Benjamin Britten to Sonic Youth, and the poetry of Dylan Thomas to the films of David Lynch. A Royal Academy of Music graduate, his output ranges from intimate acoustic works to immersive electronic pieces.
  • Jonathan Woolgar - writing for Cheltenham Music Festival. Jonathan draws from a wide range of musical experience to create work that is communicative without compromise. He has lately written for the LSO's Panufnik Composers Scheme and the soprano Héloïse Werner, performing at The Red House, Aldeburgh last year as part of Britten’s birthday concert.
  • Lucy Hale - writing for the Wigmore Hall, as Rosie Johnson RPS / Wigmore Hall Apprentice Composer. A graduate from the Royal Northern College of Music, Lucy is passionate about widening access to music making. She is currently Young Composer-in-Residence with Orchestras for All and was the inaugural Young Composer-in-Association with BSO Resound in 2018/19.
  • Ruta Vitkauskaite - writing for Music in the Round. Ruta is a musical omnivore: performing (violin, piano, voice and electronics); organising a festival, workshop series and 'New Music Incubator' in the Baltic States; initiating a range of experimental new music projects; and making music in community settings. She has recently completed her PhD at the Royal Academy of Music.
  • Sylvia Lim - writing for the Wigmore Hall, as Rosie Johnson RPS / Wigmore Hall Apprentice Composer. Sylvia recently completed her PhD at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Her music is influenced by natural phenomena and the visual arts, and she enjoys exploring the 'materiality' of sound and focusing on small musical elements in depth.

Since its foundation in 1813, the Royal Philharmonic Society has continually supported composers and brought new music to the stage. In its early years, it was central in establishing a repertory that remains much-loved today. It commissioned Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and supported the young Mendelssohn in his early twenties, commissioning his popular ‘Italian’ Symphony.

Ever since, the RPS has strived to help composers whose voices deserve to be heard. Each year we principally help a cohort of composers setting out to make a career for themselves. Establishing yourself as a professional composer is especially difficult. It doesn’t just take remarkable talent: it takes great confidence, initiative and imagination to create opportunities for yourself.

As detailed above, each of these composers receives a commission from the RPS and a performance with a noted British ensemble, venue or festival. To achieve this, we are indebted to our partner organisations – the Philharmonia, the Wigmore Hall, Music in the Round, Cheltenham Music Festival, Presteigne Festival and Schott Music.

Over the course of their year with us, leading up to their premieres, the composers not only gain a practical understanding of how the profession works and meet valuable contacts. We help them plan their next steps, ensuring they can secure future commissions and performances of their own. We help them build the profile and confidence to promote themselves and their music, and help them define and fulfil individual objectives.

We are grateful to a range of donors for supporting our work here including the ABRSM, Garrick Charitable Trust, PRS Foundation, the RVW Trust, Presteigne Festival, and the Susan Bradshaw Composers' Fund.

If you might like to consider supporting this work, please do contact us on admin@philharmonicsociety.uk.

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