RPS Music Awards honour UK’s first disabled-led youth orchestra

The winners of the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards were announced at a ceremony at The Brewery in the City of London on Tuesday 9 May 2017, with Bristol-based South-West Open Youth Orchestra winning the award for Learning and Participation.

This year’s awards, presented in association with BBC Radio 3, recognise outstanding musical achievement across the UK in 2016 with award-winners chosen by independent juries of leading music practitioners from hundreds of nominations nationwide.

The UK’s first disabled-led youth orchestra, Bristol-based South-West Open Youth Orchestra, won the RPS Music Award for Learning and Participation. The judges saluted the inclusive nature of the process – which develops bespoke instruments that can be played with any part of the body according to the needs of individual musicians – and the orchestra’s ‘practical, inspirational and vital role in bringing together the worlds of disabled and mainstream music-making’.

Other notable winners included Opera North, Manchester Camerata and pianist, Joseph Middleton, who collected the RPS Music Award for Young Artists for his ‘dedication to the field of chamber music and song’.

The awards were presented at a ceremony hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenters, Andrew McGregor and Sarah Walker. Pianist, Stephen Hough (the first ever RPS Julius Isserlis Scholar and winner of the RPS Music Award for Instrumentalist in 1992), spoke passionately about the importance of giving everyone the chance to experience classical music and to ensure that opportunity is not denied through social or financial exclusion. He also cautioned against underselling classical music in all its complexity, especially to young people, saying, ‘We invite them to climb Primrose Hill when they are ready for Ben Nevis’.

The full list of winners is as follows:

  • Audiences and Engagement – East Neuk Festival in collaboration with 14-18 NOW: Memorial Ground (composer: David Lang)
  • Chamber Music and Song – Fretwork
  • Chamber-Scale Composition – Rebecca Saunders: Skin
  • Concert Series and Festivals – Lammermuir Festival
  • Conductor – Richard Farnes
  • Creative Communication – Beethoven for a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet by Edward Dusinberre (Faber)
  • Ensemble – Manchester Camerata
  • Instrumentalist – James Ehnes
  • Large-Scale Composition – Philip Venables: 4.48 Psychosis
  • Learning and Participation – South-West Open Youth Orchestra Opera and Music Theatre Opera North: The Ring Cycle
  • Singer – Karita Mattila
  • Young Artists – Joseph Middleton
  • Honorary Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society – Barrie Gavin

BBC Radio 3 broadcast a special RPS Music Award programme, including interviews with some of the night’s winners, on Sunday 14 May 2017 at 7.30pm (available on BBC iPlayer).

Header photo: Barry Farrimond, CEO of Open Up Music, and South-West Open Youth Orchestra member, George Roberts © Simon Jay Price

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