2021 RPS Awards Winners Announced

01 Nov 2021

Just announced, this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society Awards salute musical heroes – both amateur and professional – who have inspired the nation through the pandemic. You can watch the presentation, held at London's Wigmore Hall, in full below: we warmly recommend taking the time to catch its sensational performances and some truly stirring, heartfelt speeches.

  • The new Inspiration Award, voted for by the public, was presented to the non-professional Bristol Choral Society, while fellow amateurs in the Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia outshone professional counterparts in the Series and Events Award
  • English National Opera received the Impact Award for its life-changing ‘ENO Breathe’ that has helped hundreds of long-Covid sufferers
  • Star names including violinist Nicola Benedetti and Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, mother of the musical Kanneh-Mason family, are also among the winners

Winners of the 2021 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards have been revealed on Monday 1 November, in a star-studded event at London’s Wigmore Hall, celebrating the power and presence of classical music throughout the pandemic.

The Awards were hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenter Katie Derham and RPS Chief Executive James Murphy, with trophies presented by RPS Chairman John Gilhooly.

Receiving over 4500 public votes, the Inspiration Award – newly introduced to celebrate amateur ensembles who have kept communities connected through the pandemic – went to Bristol Choral Society and its conductor Hilary Campbell.

Others awards, chosen by expert panels, went to individuals, groups and initiatives that have uplifted the nation through this difficult year. Star violinist Nicola Benedetti received the Instrumentalist Award
for her tireless work as an artist, educator and advocate and the brilliant Virtual Benedetti Sessions that have inspired thousands of young musicians.

The Impact Award – for initiatives that prove music’s vital, empowering role in society - went to English National Opera’s ENO Breathe programme, drawing on the expertise of opera singers and colleagues at Imperial College Healthcare to help hundreds of long-Covid sufferers across the UK positively address their breathing and anxiety.

Winners collectively illustrate classical music enriching lives across the nation: the Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia received the Series and Events Award for The World How Wide which united isolated amateur voices across Northumberland in a powerfully-moving digital presentation; Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales Ryan Bancroft received the Conductor Award for his dedicated groundwork in Wales; Scotland’s Dunedin Consort received the Ensemble Award for casting exciting new light on historic music; and Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason from Nottingham received the Storytelling Award for her inspirational book ‘House of Music’ about raising a remarkable musical family. Multiple trophies will be heading to the North West, as Liverpudlian mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnston received the Singer Award, Macclesfield composer Laura Bowler received the Chamber-Scale Composition Award for her defiant warning about climate change Wicked Problems, whilst composer Dani Howard received the Large-Scale Composition Award for her Trombone Concerto written especially for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and star soloist Peter Moore.

The Gamechanger Award for those who break new ground in classical music was presented to Bold Tendencies, the Peckham multi-storey car park reclaimed as an exciting arts destination, where classical performances have attracted and exhilarated new audiences. Further accolades went to the newly-formed young opera company Vopera, winning the Opera and Music Theatre Award for its ingenious digital production of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, and to the unique chamber ensemble The Hermes Experiment, recipients of the Young Artist Award whose live performance of Piazzolla’s Concert d’aujourd’hui closed the Awards show in style. There were also live performances by Instrumentalist Award nominee Abel Selaocoe, and bassoonist Ashby Mayes, currently supported by the RPS.

RPS Chairman John Gilhooly says, ‘For so many of us, music has been a lifeline through the last eighteen months. It’s an honour for the Royal Philharmonic Society to salute the brilliance and resilience of musicians nationally through the pandemic, giving the best of themselves for others, at times of immense personal challenge. This year’s RPS Awards winners are representative of countless music-makers across the UK whom we should all treasure: they have collectively kept our spirits high and will continue to be play an invaluable, central role in the nation’s recovery.’

Longstanding Awards partner BBC Radio 3 broadcast a special RPS Awards programme at 7.30pm on Monday 8 November featuring music of the winners, available until Wednesday 8 December - you can listen to it here. We're also pleased to share a range of photos – courtesy of photographer Mark Allan – from the night which you can find on our Highlights page.

The following awards have been presented. We are very grateful indeed to the supporters of each award. Click the title of each award to find out more.

Chamber-Scale Composition – Laura Bowler - Wicked Problems
supported by Boosey & Hawkes in memory of Tony Fell

Conductor – Ryan Bancroft
supported by BBC Music Magazine

Ensemble – Dunedin Consort
supported by Tarisio

Gamechanger – Bold Tendencies
supported by Schott Music

Impact – ENO Breathe
supported by ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music)

Inspiration – Hilary Campbell and Bristol Choral Society
supported by Decca Classics

Instrumentalist – Nicola Benedetti - violin
supported by Help Musicians UK in its centenary year

Large-Scale Composition – Dani Howard - Trombone Concerto
supported by The Boltini Trust

Opera and Music Theatre – L’enfant et les sortilèges - Vopera
supported by Cazenove Capital

Series and Events – The World How Wide - Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia
supported by PRS for Music

Singer – Jennifer Johnston - mezzo soprano
Supported by Jenny Hodgson

Storytelling – Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason - House of Music
supported by Lark Music

Young Artist– The Hermes Experiment
supported by Sir Simon and Victoria, Lady Robey OBE