2020 RPS Young Artists Award winner, Sheku Kanneh-Mason with RPS Chair, John Gilhooly

2020 RPS Awards winners announced

17 Nov 2020

Winners of the 2020 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards have been revealed in a digital presentation which you can watch right here on our website, featuring performances filmed at London’s Wigmore Hall.

We are proud to present this rousing picture of all the good that classical music does, at this time when so much music is forced to be silent. Among this year’s highlights:

  • Composer John Williams wins coveted Gold Medal for introducing millions to orchestral music
  • Steven Spielberg presents a special congratulatory message to his long-time collaborator
  • Chairman John Gilhooly gives major speech on classical music and the pandemic
  • New Inspiration Award presented to six of the hundreds of initiatives that have uplifted the nation during lockdown
  • Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason wins Young Artists Award
  • Conductor Jane Glover wins Gamechanger Award
  • Awards broadcast presented online for the first time at royalphilharmonicsociety.org.uk
  • BBC Radio 3 presents a musical celebration of the winners at 7.30pm on Monday 23 November

Winners represent a nation of inspirational musicians: cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason raised in Nottingham receives the Young Artists Award for captivating listeners worldwide; Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw receives the Singer Award for her leading roles at Scottish Opera, English National Opera and Opera Holland Park; and the Scottish Ensemble receives the Ensemble Award for their innovation and international reach in their 50th birthday year.

Internationally-treasured composer John Williams is announced as the recipient of this year’s RPS Gold Medal, one of the highest honours in music, recognising outstanding musicianship since 1870. He has dedicated his life to ensuring orchestral music continues to speak to and captivate millions of people worldwide. Accepting the medal via video, Williams said: ‘To receive this award is beyond any expectation I could possibly have. For any composer to be able to devote his or her life entirely to the composition of music is very fortunate indeed. I’d like to thank our musicians of our great orchestras in London and in the United States with whom I’ve worked so happily for so many years.’

Director Steven Spielberg sent his congratulations in a video recorded especially for the RPS, saying: ‘John, you have brought the classical idiom to young people all over the world through your scores, and through your classical training and your classical sensibilities. You are in the DNA of the musical culture of today.’

The new Inspiration Award – introduced to celebrate the extraordinary music-making that has uplifted the nation in lockdown – goes to six winners: Concerteenies, Diocese of Leeds Schools Singing Programme, The Opera Story, Stay At Home Choir, #UriPosteJukeBox and the Virtual Benedetti Sessions. For this award, the RPS opened nominations to the public for the first time, inviting households nationally to share what has moved them musically since March: an unprecedented 2,700 nominations were received.

A prominent advocate for music this year, RPS Chairman John Gilhooly opened proceedings with a major speech: ‘Tonight we come together, in a year when our musical world has been largely immobilised, and, for a while, totally silenced. This could easily be an eighteen-month or longer crisis for live performance. We need our leaders to maintain an ongoing honest and open dialogue with our industry. We need a faster solution for getting aid to the self-employed. We need to be clear about the scale of what will be lost. We need to draw on every resource we can to heal and rebuild our society, and cannot allow music to be neglected or overlooked in this. As we continue on the uncertain road ahead, we draw on our inner strength, our resilience, and our solidarity as a community of musicians and music lovers; as a Philharmonic Community.’

The Impact Award – awarded for initiatives that have a lasting positive effect on people who may not otherwise experience classical music – goes to City of London Sinfonia for Sound Young Minds which powerfully defines how classical musicians can play a transformative role in the lives of young people with mental health issues, boosting their confidence, social skills and trust.

The Gamechanger Award recognising those who break new ground in classical music is awarded to conductor Jane Glover for earnestly carving a path for women conductors, long before it became a movement. Aptly complementing that, this year’s Conductor Award goes to Dalia Stasevska for the energy and integrity she has brought to her new association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

2020 RPS Gamechanger Award winner, Jane Glover and RPS Chair, John Gilhooly

Other winners include: viola player Lawrence Power (Instrumentalist Award), an outstanding advocate for his instrument, constantly commissioning new works for the viola; composers Naomi Pinnock (Chamber-Scale Composition) for I am, I am and Frank Denyer (Large-Scale Composition) for The Fish That Became The Sun which waited 24 years to receive its UK premiere at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival last year; Kings Place’s year-long Venus Unwrapped celebrating female artists (Concert Series and Events); Garsington Opera’s production of The Turn of the Screw (Opera and Music Theatre); and Stephen Hough’s book Rough Ideas (Storytelling).

Winners were announced in the 2020 RPS Awards digital broadcast at 7.00pm on Wednesday 18 November which you can watch in full at the top of this page. Presented by BBC Radio 3’s Georgia Mann, it features performances by Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Natalya Romaniw and Lawrence Power, specially filmed at the Wigmore Hall.

Longstanding RPS Awards partner BBC Radio 3 presented a musical celebration of the RPS Awards winners at on 23 November which you can listen to online here until 22 December 2020.

The following awards have been presented. Click the title of each award to find out more.

RPS Gold Medal - John Williams

Chamber-Scale Composition - Naomi Pinnock - I am, I am
supported by Boosey & Hawkes in memory of Tony Fell

Concert Series & Events - Venus Unwrapped - Kings Place
supported by PRS for Music

Conductor - Dalia Stasevska
supported by BBC Music Magazine

Ensemble - Scottish Ensemble
supported by Schott Music

Gamechanger - Jane Glover
supported by Cazenove Capital

Impact - Sound Young Minds - City of London Sinfonia
supported by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music

Diocese of Leeds Schools Singing Programme
Stay At Home Choir
The Opera Story’s Episodes
Virtual Benedetti Sessions
supported by Decca Classics

Instrumentalist - Lawrence Power
supported by the Incorporated Society of Musicians

Large-Scale Composition - Frank Denyer - The Fish that Became the Sun (Songs of the Dispossessed)
supported by The Boltini Trust

Opera & Music Theatre - The Turn of the Screw - Garsington Opera
supported by Sir Simon and Victoria, Lady Robey OBE

Singer - Natalya Romaniw
supported by Jenny Hodgson

Storytelling - Stephen Hough - Rough Ideas
supported by an anonymous donor

Young Artist - Sheku Kanneh-Mason
supported by Tarisio