The winners were announced during a ceremony hosted by BBC Radio 3’s Hannah Peel and Tom Service 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.
Seven out of ten of this year’s winners received an award from The Ivors Academy for the first time – Brett Dean, Joanna Marsh, Liz Dilnot Johnson, Tori Freestone, Laurence Crane and Hannah Conway and Talvin Singh.
Tom Gray, Chair of The Ivors Academy said, “A hearty congratulations to all our winners, who have been recognised for their incredible achievements in composition. The range of innovation and level of accomplishments make this an outstanding year. We have proudly celebrated creative excellence in composing for the past twenty years and thank PRS for Music and BBC Radio 3 for supporting us since the start.”
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 19 November at 10pm, which will also be available on BBC Sounds.
The Community and Participation category was presented in association with ABRSM, the Award for Outstanding Works Collection with the Music Publishers Association and the Award for Innovation was presented with the Musicians’ Union.
To mark the 20th anniversary, The Ivors Academy has established Ivors Composer Week to celebrate and connect composers. To launch the week, the Academy published results from a survey of past winning and nominated classical, jazz and sound art composers. It shows the importance of music education at every stage of their careers.
Chamber Ensemble – Brett Dean for Madame ma bonne sœur
The Ivor Novello Award for Chamber Ensemble composition 2022 was won by Brett Dean for Madame ma bonne sœur. Written for mezzo-soprano and string quartet, the piece was commissioned by Germany’s Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Oxford’s Lieder Festival. It received its UK premiere at Oxford Lieder 2021 performed by Lotte Betts-Dean and the Armida Quartet.
The song cycle is based on the letters of Marie Stuart – Mary, Queen of Scots – dating back to the 1560s.
The jury said the piece was a “psychologically astute, dramatic and engrossing work that sustained a high energy level throughout” and commented that it demonstrated “technical excellence and sensitivity.”
Choral – Joanna Marsh for All Shall Be Well
Joanna Marsh’s piece for unaccompanied choir, All Shall Be Well, picked up the Choral Award. Commissioned by RT Hon Patricia Hewitt for ORA Singers, it was first performed at voces8 foundation’s Live from London Summer Festival by ORA Singers directed by Suzi Digby OBE. The Festival programme was streamed on YouTube to audiences across the globe.
All Shall Be Well is a setting of quotations from ‘Revelations of Divine Love’, a book of devotions written by Julian of Norwich (1342-1416).
The jury referred to the work as “a superbly crafted, elegantly original and beautiful wrought work for voices.”
Community and Participation – Liz Dilnot Johnson for When A Child Is A Witness – Requiem For Refugees
The Community and Participation Award, presented in association with ABRSM, was awarded to Liz Dilnot Johnson When A Child Is A Witness – Requiem for Refugees. Written for choir, children’s choir, mezzo-soprano soloist, organ, piano, violin/Hardanger fiddle and refugee groups, the 100-minute requiem mass was commissioned by Ex Cathedra for Coventry’s City of Culture.
Using the themes of war, displacement, sanctuary and hope, the composer created space within the work for refugee groups to perform their own contributions of poetry, music and songs.
The jury called the work “an artistically ambitious and emotionally compelling work that is firmly rooted in the contributions of the participants” and “evocative music with a purpose and meaningful sense of engagement.”
Jazz Ensemble – Tori Freestone for Birds Of Paradise
Tori Freestone’s Birds of Paradise won the Jazz Ensemble Award. The composer and jazz pianist Alcyona Mick premiered the piece as part of the London Jazz Festival in 2021.
Freestone was inspired by birdsong during the pandemic when writing the work, saying that “having the melodies and rhythms combined with the play and interaction the birds created whilst our own forms of musical interaction were being restricted was uplifting.”
The Ivors Academy’s jury noted that the work is “a unique composition, full of life and joy” whilst also stating that “it’s rhythmically alluring, energetic and brilliantly performed.”
Large Ensemble – Cheryl Frances-Hoad for Scenes From The Wild
Cheryl Frances-Hoad wins her third award from The Ivors Academy for Scenes From The Wild, a song cycle for tenor and chamber orchestra. The work was commissioned and performed by the City of London Sinfonia at Southwark Cathedral to mark their 50th anniversary year.
Frances-Hoad based the work on the book Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty.
The jury said, “this is a work of considerable scale, depth and thought […] at times joyous and at others moving and serene, it is surprising and exceptionally well crafted.”
Orchestral – Rebecca Saunders for to an utterance
Another returning winner, Rebecca Saunders, won her fifth award, this time for to an utterance. The work for piano and orchestra was first performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Nicholas Hodges as part of the Southbank Centre’s new music festival SoundState.
The Ivors Academy’s jury felt that Saunders demonstrated “a really special kind of compositional consistency”, noting that the work “has a visceral effect on the listener” and “shows a masterful control of material whilst achieving incredible sounds from the orchestration.”
Small Chamber – Laurence Crane for Natural World
Laurence Crane won the Small Chamber Ivor Novello Award for Natural World, a piece for soprano and piano/sampler keyboard commissioned by Juliet Fraser with Oxford Lieder Festival and Musica Sacra Maastricht.
A 45-minute work with three distinct movements, Crane explains that Natural World “attempts to explore the poetic nature of factual or list-based texts”, where he compiled and wrote words drawn from catalogues of birds and marine life.
The jury called the work “a brave and individual work that is arresting and immersive”, adding that “the composer has carefully chosen every note resulting in a beautifully placed and slowly evolving piece that is contemplative without losing momentum.”
Sound Art – Hannah Conway for The Sound Voice Project: Paul, I Left My Voice Behind and Tanja
Hannah Conway’s three pieces – Paul, I Left My Voice Behind and Tanja – from The Sound Voice Project won the Sound Art award. The installation, which premiered at Festival of New 2021, is an immersive experience made to explore the stories of people who have experienced significant voice change or loss.
The composer explains that “the installation invites audiences to consider wider issues of voice and identity, asking ‘what is a voice’ and ‘what happens when it is gone?’”
According to the jury, the piece is “a striking work of exceptional emotional power” that “embraces human fragility in a moving and deeply personal way.”
Stage Works – Thomas Adès for Dante
Thomas Adès picked up his fourth award, and second in as many year, for the score to the ballet Dante. With choreography by Wayne McGregor and set by Tacita Dean, the UK premiere was at the Royal Opera House, performed by the Royal Ballet, conducted by the composer. The performance note explains that “as well as adapting The Divine Comedy as a stage work, Dante also explores the composer’s own musical language”.
The jury stated that “this is impactful composition in a strong imaginative world” and that the work “demonstrates an ambition in the dramatic investigation of the original text and its transposition into dance that creates wonderful synergy between the music and choreography.”
Academy Fellowship – Judith Weir
The Ivors Academy awarded Judith Weir with Academy Fellowship to recognise her excellence and impact in the art and craft of music creation. Weir’s unparalleled musical output saw her become the first female Master of the Queen’s Music in 2014. The Academy stated that “her music reaches out to the listener with a distinctive and persuasive voice” and highlighted her “ability to tell compelling, impactful stories and distil musical and dramatic ideas to their essences”.
Judith Weir won a British Composer Award in 2003 – the first year of the awards – and has since won a further British Composer Award and an Ivor Novello Award.
Outstanding Works Collection – Sir George Benjamin
Sir George Benjamin received the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Works Collection, presented with the Music Publishers Association. Recognising the artistry and legacy of his compositional output, The Ivors Academy said the “consistent beauty, complexity and colour of his compositions is outstanding.”
From his first BBC Proms premiere at the age of 20, Benjamin went on to receive commissions from all over the world. His opera Written On Skin – which won the Academy’s Stage Works Award in 2013 – would cement Benjamin’s position as one of the most important voices in contemporary music. Performed by over 20 international opera houses, it is a masterpiece in operatic composition, and has become one of the most acclaimed works of the twenty-first century.
Innovation Award – Talvin Singh
Virtuoso tabla player, percussionist, producer and composer Talvin Singh collected the Ivor Novello Award for Innovation, presented in association with the Musicians’ Union. The Ivors Academy considers him to be “a major creative and cultural influence, an innovator in every sense of the word, who continues to leave a unique footprint on our musical landscape.”
An instrumental figure in one of the most exciting movements in the history of British music – the Asian Underground’s distinctive mix of Western and Indian beats influenced musicians, to say nothing of raising the visibility of British-Indian artists. He has refused to be defined by genre, constantly innovating in his creative partnerships, which are extensive. From flautist Rakesh Chaurasia and sitar player Niladri Kumar to the American Free Jazz composer Sun Ra and members of the UK Big Band Jazz Warriors to projects with David Sylvian, Madonna and Richard Ashcroft.