Winners announced for 2021 RPS Awards, with amateur and professional ensembles among this year’s lineup

Opera music

This year’s Royal Philharmonic Society Awards winners have been announced tonight, with first prizes going to new BBC National Orchestra of Wales principal conductor Ryan Bancroft (above), violinist Nicola Benedetti and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston, as well as a series of innovative music projects.

For the first time in the history of the RPS Awards, the public was invited to choose one of the winners. Hilary Campbell and the Bristol Choral Society were voted winners of the new Inspiration Award, given to an unprofessional ensemble or someone often overlooked by other awards.

Hilary Campbell (right) and Bristol Choral Society President (left) receive the RPS Inspiration Award (Photo by Mark Allen)

The English National Opera’s innovative ENO Breathe program for people with Covid-19 living with breathing difficulties won this year’s Impact Award. “With current funding to help up to 1,000 patients, ENO Breathe has been a real success,” wrote Rebecca Franks in the November issue of BBC Music Magazine, when we sent her to try it. “Imperial College and ENO are conducting a randomized trial, with results expected this fall, which will provide additional data; but already medical and artistic organizations around the world are ready to set up similar programs. In Cardiff, the Welsh National Opera is about to launch its own version, while in California, LA Opera has launched a pilot project. ‘

RPS Impact 2021 - English National Opera (ENO Breathe) winner at the RPS 2021 Awards at Wigmore Hall on Monday November 1, 2021 Photos by Mark Allan

ENO Director of Strategy and Learning and Engagement Jenny Mollica receives 2021 Impact RPS Award for ENO Breathe (Photo by Mark Allan)

The new principal conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Ryan Bancroft, is also among the winners, after a very successful first year in his new role. By awarding Bancroft the Conductor Award, RPS paid tribute to its “electrifying concerts that reinvigorate the orchestral repertoire”. Although he held the post during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, with orchestras unable to perform in front of a live audience, Bancroft thrived. “Supervising various sets of musicians in the orchestra allowed me to get to know them individually,” he said. BBC Music Magazine for the next Christmas issue. “Orchestras are considered monoliths, but they are not. They are groups of people with different ideas and interests.

The Young Artist Prize is awarded this year to The Hermes Experiment, with its surprising instrumental composition of soprano, clarinet, double bass and harp. Together, the ensemble has commissioned over 50 new works and recently released Song, his second album on Delphian Records. Héloise Werner, soprano and co-founder of the group, spoke with Fiona Maddocks in the November issue of BBC Music Magazine. “I like the variety of styles and eras,” she says. “But I also like that as musicians in this group we are all equal. The voice may sound like the important part, but I’m part of the whole texture. And because there is no directory for this combination, we create as we go. ‘

After Sheku Kanneh-Mason won this same award at last year’s RPS Awards, her mother Kadiatu is celebrated in this year’s storytelling award for her book. House of Music: Raising the Kanneh-Masons.

RPS 2021 Storytelling Award Winner - Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason (House of Music) at the RPS 2021 Awards at Wigmore Hall on Monday November 1, 2021 Photos by Mark Allan

Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, mother of the Kanneh-Mason family, receives the RPS Storytelling Award 2021 for his book House of Music: raising the Kanneh-Masons (Photo by Mark Allan)

Following the success of her Benedetti Foundation virtual sessions during the pandemic, violinist Nicola Benedetti received this year’s Instrumental Award, with the Singer Award going to mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston.

RPS 2021 Instrumentalist Award Winner - Nicola Benedetti at the 2021 RPS Awards in Wigmore Hall on Monday November 1, 2021 Photos by Mark Allan

Violinist Nicola Benedetti receives the RPS Instrumentalist Award 2021 (Photo by Mark Allan)

The prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society gold medal was awarded earlier this year to outgoing principal conductor of the London Philharmonic, Vladimir Jurowski. RPS President John Gilhooly presented the medal to the Russian conductor on stage at the BBC Proms this summer during his last concert at the helm of the London Orchestra. He has since handed over the reins to Edward Gardner, the first British conductor in office since the 1960s. Jurowski has taken on a new post as General Music Director of the Bayerische Staatsoper.

This year’s RPS Awards winners were announced at a ceremony tonight at Wigmore Hall in London, presented by Katie Derham of Radio 3 and James Murphy, Managing Director of the Royal Philharmonic Society. The ceremony was filmed and will air on the RPS website from Tuesday 9 November, with coverage also airing on BBC Radio 3 on Monday 8 November.

The complete list of winners:

Chamber scale composition
supported by Boosey & Hawkes in memory of Tony Fell
Laura Bowler – Wicked Problems

supported by BBC Music Magazine
Ryan bancroft

supported by Tarisio
Dunedin Consort

Game changer
supported by Schott Music
Bold trends

supported by ABRSM
ENO breathe

supported by Decca Classics
Hilary Campbell and Bristol Choral Society

supported by Help Musicians on the occasion of its centenary
Nicola Benedetti (violin)

Large scale composition
supported by the Boltini Trust
Dani Howard – Trombone Concerto

Opera and music theater
The child and the spells – Vopera

Series and Events
supported by PRS for music
The World How Wide – Royal Northern Sinfonia Choir

supported by Jenny Hodgson
Jennifer Johnston (mezzo soprano)

Tell stories
supported by Lark Music
Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason: House of Music: Raising the Kanneh-Masons

Young artist
supported by Sir Simon and Victoria, Lady Robey OBE
The Hermès experience

Top image: Ryan Bancroft wins the RPS Conductor Award 2021