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The Ivors Composer Awards 2021 winners announced

The Ivors Academy has revealed the winners of 10 Ivor Novello Awards, celebrating music by composers writing for classical, jazz and sound art.

The winners were announced during a ceremony hosted by BBC Radio 3’s Tom Service and Sara MohrPietsch at the British Museum.

Recognised as a pinnacle of achievement since they were first presented in 1956, Ivor Novello Awards celebrate creative excellence in composing and songwriting.

Six out of ten of this year’s winners received an award from The Ivors Academy for the first time, joining a roll call of Ivor winners that includes Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Judith Weir CBE, Errollyn Wallen CBE, Stan Tracey CBE, Yazz Ahmed, Django Bates and Sir John Rutter.

Julian Joseph OBE, Chair of The Ivors Academy’s Awards Committee and Fellow of the Academy, said: “Every Ivor Novello awarded tonight goes from composers and performers to their peers, it’s what makes each one so distinct and special. I’m honoured to be part of recognising the artistry, imagination and determination that goes into creating such wonderful music and soundscapes. Our winners’ achievements fill me with huge admiration and respect and I wish them all my fullest congratulations.”

The Ivors Composer Awards are supported by PRS for Music. BBC Radio 3 will broadcast the ceremony in a special edition of the New Music Show on 11 December at 10pm, which will also be available on BBC Sounds.

The winners

Jazz Composition – Nikki Iles ‘The Caged Bird’

The Jazz Composition award went to Nikki Iles for her work ‘The Caged Bird’. Written for jazz band it was first performed by the Royal Academy Big Band at the Royal Academy of Music’s Dukes Hall. Iles wrote the piece during the early stages of the UK lockdown in 2020 when her work and new collaborations were cancelled.

She explains that “the whole process of writing this piece was the start of re-connecting me to my music and it gently evolved, reflecting my journey through this time”.

The Ivors Academy jury for this category referred to the piece as “beautifully crafted, balanced and realised”.

Large Scale Composition – Anna Thorvaldsdottir ‘CATAMORPHOSIS’

UK-based Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir picked up her first Ivor Novello Award at the ceremony this evening. ‘CATAMORPHOSIS’ was recognised as the best Large Scale Composition of the year.

The work explores the “fragile relationship between humankind and the planet”. The jury felt the piece was a “wonderfully distinct and exquisitely curated sound world”.

Premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Kirill Petrenko, the work is available to watch on the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall.

Small Chamber Composition – Alex Paxton ‘Sometimes Voices’

The youngest award-winner this year is Alex Paxton (born in 1990) who was nominated for three works and was awarded the Small Chamber Composition award for his work ‘Sometimes Voices’. Written for keyboard and drums, the work was commissioned and premiered by Hyper Duo, a Swiss experimental group made up of pianist Gilles Grimaitre and percussionist Julien Mégroz.

The jury referred to the piece as “a highly innovative work of exceptional creative imagination and musical energy”. ‘Sometimes Voices’ is available to watch here.

Solo Composition – Martin Iddon ‘Lampades’

The Solo Composition award went to Martin Iddon for his work ‘Lampades’. Written for tuba and fixed media, the work was commissioned and performed by Jack Adler-Mckean and can be watched here.

The jury called the work a “strikingly beautiful and original sound world creating an immersive, mysterious sense of space”.

Sound Art – Caroline Kraabel ‘London 26 and 28 March 2020: Imitation: Inversion’

This year’s Sound Art award went to to UK-based American composer Caroline Kraabel for her work ‘London 26 and 28 March 2020: Imitation: Inversion’. The work was written for double bass with baritone, alto and sopranino saxophones as part of a 40-minute film.

The film included shots of London’s deserted city centre during the first COVID lockdown in the UK, taken on Kraabel’s phone whilst cycling during her permitted exercise time. To create the work, Kraabel recreated and recorded some of the original sounds in the video clips on her alto saxophone for the ‘imitated’ section and then created opposite sounds for the ‘inverted’ section.

The jury said the work “captured something of the zeitgeist of the time” and was “an inventive and humorous translation from real world sounds to instrumental sounds, revealing connections between the organic and the mechanical”.

Vocal or Choral Composition – Thomas Adès ‘Gyökér (Root)’

Thomas Adès’s work ‘Gyökér (Root)’ was awarded the Ivor Novello Award for Vocal or Choral Composition. The work was commissioned by Oliver Zeffman as part of his ‘Eight Songs from Isolation’ project, and Zeffman picked up the award on Adès behalf this evening as he was unable to attend.

The text for the work was taken from the Camp Notebook of Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti which were his final poems written whilst imprisoned in a forced labour camp during the end of the second world war. The 4-minute piece was recorded by mezzo-soprano Katalin Károlyi and percussionist Ricardo Gallardo.

The jury referred to the piece as a “gut-wrenchingly beautiful, deeply poetic and strikingly original work, the kind you rarely encounter”. The piece is available to listen to here.

Impact Award – Zoe Rahman

MOBO Award winning jazz composer and pianist Zoe Rahman was recognised with the Impact Award. After studying piano at the Royal Academy of Music Rahman moved to Boston to study jazz performance at Berklee College of Music.

Throughout her career, she has infused influences from her English, Irish and Bengali heritage to write music with swing, lyricism, energy, and intimacy. Her sound is drenched with originality and a jazz legitimacy that recognises her pedigree as a world class artist, composer, and performer.

The Ivors Academy described Rahman as “one of Britain’s most powerful compositional voices and important contemporary artists who puts a spotlight on Jazz from the UK as an international musical force.”

Innovation Award – Cleveland Watkiss MBE

This year’s Innovation Award celebrated a pioneer in the universe of sound; vocalist and composer Cleveland Watkiss. Boasting an eclectic list of collaborators from Björk, Talvin Singh, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Community Gospel Choir and The Who, Watkiss was described by The Ivors Academy as “unique globally and in the annuals of British Jazz and contemporary music, uncategorisable”.

An innovative musician who is sensitive to the conditions that allow creative improvisation to thrive, Watkiss inspired and was a co-founder of the Jazz Warriors big band.

Outstanding Works Collection – Alexander Goehr

The Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Works Collection went to Alexander Goehr, recognising his achievements across a career spanning seven decades.

The Ivors Academy said “From his time at the Royal Manchester College of Music where he co-formed the hugely influential New Music Manchester Group. To his time at Cambridge University; Goehr has been a consistent force for innovation and discourse in contemporary classical music.”

The Academy continued saying “his decades of consistently high-quality compositions define a master of the art in classical music in all settings large and chamber, operatic and symphonic”.

Visionary Award – Sarah Angliss

The Visionary Award celebrated the multifaceted creative technologist and composer Sarah Angliss. Classically trained, specialising in baroque and renaissance music, Angliss also studied electroacoustic engineering and robotics, and both sides of her education inform her art.

Whether it is a mechanically operated singing bird, developing a micro-opera that can tour unusual venues, or creating her own robotic polyphonic carillon, The Ivors Academy said Angliss “stays true to her artistic concepts, to create unique compositions that connect to the listener with emotional depth and great beauty, never failing to leave a lasting impression.” Her inventive approach has seen her in huge demand for live performances and soundtrack appearance alike.



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