Wednesday, December 04, 2013

British Composer Awards 2013 go to... 14 men and NO women

"Major Strasse has been shot. Round up the usual suspects..."

Now, this is in no way to derogate the life-force that is Harrison Birtwistle (it's taken me a long time to become a fan, but I am one now). Nor is it to derogate George Benjamin, James MacMillan, Colin Matthews or any of the exciting "9 new winners", their hard work or their fine compositions. But HOW IS IT POSSIBLE IN 2013 THAT 14 MEN GET PRIZES AND THERE IS NOT ONE WOMAN IN THE LINE-UP?

(This post has been updated since yesterday. There are 13 categories, all of them won by men. In fact one of the winning works is a joint effort, which means that 14 men, not 13, are in the lineup.)

This proves more than ever that it is time for an all-women prize for classical music. Women are achieving great things in this field - but they are not being adequately recognised for it. This time we need more than a list. We need action and we need it now.

Besides, if part of the point of these awards is to help "a composer and their work become more widely recognised" - frankly, Sir Harry is up there and he doesn't need one. The award to him is not so much Casablanca as Groundhog Day.

Here is part of the self-congratulatory press release that accompanies this pathetic outcome.



British Composer Awards 2013

9 NEW WINNERS REVEALED AT THE BRITISH COMPOSER AWARDS 2013 AS BIRTWISTLE GATHERS HIS FIFTH AWARD AND BECOMES THE MOST SHORTLISTED AND WINNING COMPOSER IN BCA HISTORY

The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) tonight announced the winners in 13 categories of the 2013 British Composer Awards in a ceremony at London’s Goldsmiths' Hall. Of the 13 categories, nine were awarded to new winners.

Six of the winners are completely new to the British Composer Awards, having never even been on the shortlist before this year: Nigel Clarke, Matthew Martin, Ed Baxter/Chris Weaver, Peter McGarr and Toshio Hosokawa.

Nigel Clarke's Cornet Concerto, Mysteries of the Horizon was the winner of the Wind Band or Brass Band category and is a spellbinding work based upon four paintings by the Belgian artist René Margritte. Matthew Martin's innovative I Saw the Lord, written for Daniel Cook and St Davids Cathedral Choir won the Liturgical category while Ed Baxter and Chris Weaver's No Such Object, a major sound art work performed using bespoke hand made electrical equipment that premiered in August 2012 at Arthur's Seat, won the Sonic Art category.

Peter McGarr's Dry Stone Walls of Yorkshire, written for CoMA London Ensemble won the Making Music Award and Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa received the International Award for his orchestral work Woven Dreams.

British Composer Awards Committee Chairman, Sarah Rodgers, said: "One of the achievements BASCA is particularly proud of is that the British Composers Awards, year on year, brings to light rising composers and supports them in taking the next step in their careers. The broadcast and other media exposure we are able to offer, together with commissions and collaborations, all contribute to helping a composer and their work become more widely recognised."

Sir Harrison Birtwistle, who won his fifth British Composer Award for Gigue Machine in the Instrumental Solo or Duo category, became the most shortlisted and winning composer in BCA history. Birtwistle’s previous awards include both the Orchestral and Choral awards in 2005, the Instrumental Solo or Duo award for Crowd in 2007 and the Orchestral category in 2012 for Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. Gigue Machine, for solo piano, was written for Nicolas Hodges and is a remarkably complex, virtuosic work described by Birtwistle as “mimicking a fantasia in two parts”, one resonant, the other staccato.

Joseph Phibbs, George Benjamin, John Surman and James Redwood, are all first-time winners although each has received previous nominations. Phibbs' Rivers to the Sea, commissioned for the 18th birthday celebrations of The Anvil, Basingstoke, won the Orchestral category while George Benjamin’s Written on Skin, which played to sold-out audiences and admiring notices at the Royal Opera House in March this year, won the Stage Works category. John Surman's Lifelines, a groundbreaking work marrying contemporary jazz with the traditional male voice choir was the winner of the Contemporary Jazz Composition category while James Redwood's massive work for 250 young musicians from six diverse ensembles Pass The Torch, An Olympic Symphony, received the Community or Educational Project Award.

Guy Fletcher, Chairman of PRS for Music, said:“Tonight’s new generation of British composers has been truly impressive and I am excited to see such breadth of talent and creativity on the winners’ shortlist. The British Composer Awards provide a vital showcase for music that is part of our cultural fabric and enjoyed the world over. PRS for Music is proud to sponsor such an important event.”

Colin Matthews, James MacMillan and Brian Elias all received Awards for the second time. Matthews, who won the Vocal category in 2012 for No Man's Land this year took the Chamber Award with his String Quartet No. 4, written for the Elias String Quartet. James MacMillan's Since it was the day of Preparation…, for bass, chorus and ensemble which tells the story of the Resurrection was the winner in the Choral category while Brian Elias received the Vocal Award for Electra Mourns, a work for mezzo soprano, solo cor anglais and String Orchestra that premiered at the Proms in 2012.

The Awards ceremony opened with a performance of Rodrigo Barbosa Camacho's work, American Candy - What the hell is Yellow no. 6?!? for viola - winner of the 4th Student Competition at the British Composer Awards - performed by Sarah-Jane Bradley.

Roger Wright, Controller, BBC Radio 3 & Director, BBC Proms said, “Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s 2013 BCA awards. As the home of classical music, and one of the most significant commissioners of new music, BBC Radio 3 is delighted once again to cover this important event for our millions of listeners.”

The British Composer Awards are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PRS for Music. In association with BBC Radio 3 providing exclusive broadcast coverage of the Awards on Saturday 7 December.