BASCA announces 2009 British Composer Awards winners

John Adams wins the International Category with Doctor Atomic

The winners of the 2009 British Composer Awards were last night announced in a ceremony hosted by BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composer and Authors) at the Law Society, London . Now in its seventh year, the Awards are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PRS for Music. In association with BBC Radio 3, the awards will be broadcast in Performance on 3 on Wednesday 2nd December at 7pm.. The key-note comments at the ceremony were given by Sir Nicholas Kenyon, CBE who also presented the winners with their Awards.

This year’s event gave special focus to the new Award for Contemporary Jazz Composition which was won by composer and saxophonist, Jason Yarde for his BBC Prom commission, Rhythm and Other Fascinations. The advent of Jazz as a new awards category was also celebrated by Scottish Jazz Quartet, Brass Jaw, whose performances included two new works specially commissioned by BBC Radio 3 from jazz legend John Surman, especially for the occasion. John Surman, who appeared recently at the London Jazz Festival, was at the Awards to acknowledge the two world premieres.

Welcoming the new Jazz Award, Roger Wright, Controller, BBC Radio 3, said, “The Awards continue to reflect the immense creativity that flourishes in this field today and we are delighted to support them for the seventh year. That they have expanded their reach to embrace a further area of work where composers earn scant acknowledgement – this time in the Jazz domain – is a sign of the growing importance of the Awards in recognising the breadth of what composers are doing today.”

Yet again we’ve seen that this country has a wealth of contemporary classical music talent and it is right that this is celebrated. It is also great to see a Jazz award added to the mix. Congratulations to all 2009’s winners.” - Ellis Rich, Chairman of PRS for Music

Across the Awards categories, more than 300 submissions were received for works premiered between 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2009. The winners list features some of the UK ’s most established and recognised contemporary composers alongside emerging new talent. John Tavener’s sequence of carols, Ex Maria Virgine won in the Liturgical Category; Since Brass, Nor Stone by Alexander Goehr captured the Chamber Music Award; and the International Award was won by American icon, John Adams for his equally iconic opera, Doctor Atomic.

Newcomers, Mira Calix and Elizabeth Winters took the awards in the Community and Educational and Making Music categories for their works, My Secret Heart and The Serious Side of Madness.

Works by previous Award winners, Simon Holt and Gabriel Jackson picked up the 2009 Awards for Orchestral music and for Chamber music while Adam Gorb took his third Award in seven years in the category for Wind Band or Brass Band with, Farewell, composed for the National Youth Wind Orchestras of Wales.

Sarah Rodgers, Chairman of BASCA and Chair of the British Composer Awards, comments: “I am always thrilled to see so many of our composing community brought together on this Awards evening. While we celebrate exceptional musical works, we are sending out a message about the importance of sustaining creativity and re-vitalising the cultural milieu."

The full list of winners and the judges’ comments are as follows:

    Vocal: John Casken - The Dream of the Rood The judges said: “This is an epic work setting a striking text. We were immediately gripped by its gravitas and beautiful harmonic language - a powerful and emotional piece.”

    Instrumental Solo or Duo: Thomas Simaku - Soliloquy V, Flauto Acerbo
    The judging panel unanimously agreed that the winning work redefines the instrument in a visionary and entirely original way. They praised it for its virtuosity, depth of expression, and powerful imagination.

    Liturgical: John TavenerEx Maria Virgine
    The judges were impressed with the scope of the winning work and felt it would have many applications in many settings for both amateur and professional chapel choirs. They described it as, “dramatic, atmospheric, at times joyous and at times meditative.”

    Community or Educational Project: Mira Calix - My Secret Heart
    The judges describe the winning work as, “transformational, capturing raw humanity and giving voice to the disenfranchised in a sound-world which is original, absorbing and unsettling.”

    Chamber: Alexander Goehr - Since Brass, Nor Stone…
    The judges praised the winning work – “fresh lyricism, lightness of touch and joy in melodic and rhythmic invention.” The panel’s decision was unanimous for a work which they hailed as that of a master.

    Sonic Art: Mark Peter WrightA Quiet Reverie
    The panel thought the winning work was a “skilled and subtle essay in the manipulation of environmental sounds. It is immersive and reflective and a powerful evocation of place and space.”

    International: John AdamsDoctor Atomic
    This is what the judges had to say about the winning work: “This music has an epic sweep. It demonstrates a formidable technique in all departments and exudes an incredible poignancy. Simply, sensational.”

    Orchestral: Simon Holta table of noises
    The judges came to a unanimous decision and have provided a pithy verdict about the winning composition: “This work shows an extraordinary sense of beguiling and haunting instrumental sonorities, defining a piece of breathtaking originality, imagination, invention and wit.”

    Stage Works: Graham FitkinReel
    The jury felt this was a very strong set of entries and while shortlisting these three significant works, they indicated there could easily have been more. The winning work they say is by a composer with a “clear and original musical voice. It is inventive, elegant and witty, and demonstrates a perfect partnership between music and dance.”

    Making Music: Elizabeth Winters - The Serious Side of Madness
    The jury says that, from the outset, they were “intrigued and delighted by the sound world of the winning work.” In a large and diverse field, it stood out for the composer’s fine ear and excellent technique. Easily playable by amateurs, in the judges’ view, it was nonetheless clearly a serious and effective concert work.

    Wind Band or Brass Band: Adam GorbFarewell
    The judges say the winning work is, “highly original work, beautifully scored, brave and epic.” The climax of the piece they describe as “aurally devastating”. In conclusion: “The winning work is in a class of its own, crafted by a true master of the genre.”

    Choral: Gabriel JacksonThe Spacious Firmament
    In reaching their decision, the panel of judges conceded that the winning work was pushed very hard by its impressive competitors. Ultimately it was, “text and meaning, mirrored in music of great vigour and beauty” which brought the winning work to the fore, and they go on to applaud the music for it’s, “colour, panache, sincerity and disarming directness.”

    Contemporary Jazz Composition: Jason Yarde - Rhythm and Other Fascinations
    In the judges’ opinion, the winning work is, “innovative, accomplished and entertaining. It achieves that difficult double act of looking back in homage to a bye-gone era and at the same time, achieving a very contemporary vision. A worthy winner from a strongly emerging voice of UK jazz.”

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