Meet Britain’s Best Composers

A sound compilation designed to bring the train journey between St Pancras and Margate to life, and an opera set in the North Tower during 9/11, are among this year’s winning compositions at the British Composer Awards.

Thirteen contemporary composers have tonight been honoured with a coveted British Composer Award in a ceremony at the British Film Institute (BFI) in London. The annual Awards highlight the best compositions that premiered in the UK in the 12 months leading up to 31 March 2016, across Jazz, Choral, Sonic Art, Orchestral and beyond. This year, for the first time, the British Composer Awards also celebrated two composers for their musical careers and their contributions to contemporary music as a whole, with the all-new Gift of BASCA Award.


Claudia Molitor won her first British Composer Award in the Sonic Art category for Sonorama – a sound compilation bringing together music, interviews, readings and archival material to bring the journey from London St. Pancras to Margate to life. The work combines social history with the present day as the listener travels across the landscape, and can be downloaded as an app.

Tansy Davies, also a first-time winner, was awarded in the Stage Works category for Between Worlds. Performed by English National Opera and set in the North Tower during 9/11, the work explores the profound feelings of fear, courage, loss and, above all, love experienced by the characters as they come to terms with the unimaginable situation in which they find themselves.

Shri Sriram, took home the Wind Band or Brass Band award for Just a Vibration – a work that introduces a fresh perspective to UK brass music, combining Indian melodies with brass band. The work premiered at Freedom Festival in Hull, and marks Sriram’s first British Composer Award.

This year’s youngest winner at 26, Oliver Leith won the Small Chamber award for A Day At The Spa – a fluid, subtle and subtly deceptive piece. The work premiered at St Martins in the Field, and marks Leith’s first British Composer Award.

Joe Cutler won his second British Composer Award, in the Contemporary Jazz Composition category, for Karembeu’s Guide to the Complete Defensive Midfielder, a work inspired by football, which premiered at the Cheltenham International Music Festival.

Jonathan Dove won in the Amateur or Young Performers category, marking his third British Composer Award, for The Monster in the Maze: a work composed to bring professional and amateur performers of all ages together and celebrate the relationship between communities and the arts.

Leo Chadburn, known for his experimentation, took home the Chamber Ensemble award for Freezywater, which uses spoken voice, haunting sounds, and silence to explore ideas of ‘psychogeography’. The work premiered at Wigmore Hall in London and marks his first British Composer Award.

First-time winner John Webb took home the award for Community or Educational Project with Into the Light, which questions how we celebrate the world and was first performed by 1,800 children from Buckinghamshire at the Royal Albert Hall.

Welsh composer, Mark Bowden, won his first award, in the Solo or Duo category, for a piece drawing on Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium. His resulting work, Five Memos, is a five-movement composition for violin and piano which premiered at Newbury Spring Festival.

Roderick Williams won his first British Composer Award, in the Choral category, for Ave Verum Corpus Re-Imagined – a contemporary reworking of William Byrd’s iconic hymn.

Orchestral winner, Rebecca Saunders took home her second British Composer Award for Alba­ – an original and individual composition inspired by the writings of Samuel Beckett. Alba premiered at City Hall, Glasgow.



Recognised for their contributions to contemporary music, and celebrating their musical careers as a whole, the first Gift of BASCA Awards went to: Jennifer Walshe and Simon Bainbridge.

Jennifer Walshe was presented with the British Composer Award for Innovation by Graham McKenzie, Artistic Director & Chief Executive of Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, in recognition of her lifelong dedication to questioning and challenging the status quo through music and performance. Her works include a feminist opera with Barbie dolls, musical theatre using gaming graphics and game theory, gallery-based sculptural, video and performance art, and jaw-dropping vocal improvisations.

Dublin-born Walshe has been energetically involved in the European and American contemporary art and music scenes throughout her career, studying in Glasgow, Dublin and Chicago before taking on prestigious fellowships and residencies in Stuttgart and Berlin. She is recognised as one of the most innovative composers performing and making musical arts today.

Simon Bainbridge was honoured with the British Composer Award for Inspiration, presented to him by his former student, Luke Bedford – who was also shortlisted for a British Composer Award this year. Currently Senior Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music, Bainbridge has devoted his working life to teaching and encouraging young composers all over the world, including at the Royal Northern College of Music, Edinburgh University, Royal College of Music, and Guildhall School of Music and Drama, as well as in Asia, Australia, mainland Europe and in the USA.

Bainbridge’s work has been extensively performed all over the world, and has won numerous awards. Bainbridge’s most significant project of recent years is Music Space Reflection, a work for 28 players inspired by and designed to be performed inside buildings designed by architect Daniel Libeskind.



The event, hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenters Sarah Walker and Andrew McGregor, took place at the British Film Institute (BFI) in London with a speech given by British composer and broadcaster Gerard McBurney, who presented each of the main category winners with their Awards.

The ceremony included a performance of Honeyed Words, performed by Anna Meredith (electronics) and Maddie Cutter (cello), from Meredith’s current, award-winning album, Varmints, to visuals designed by Laurene Pijulet.

The British Composer Awards are presented by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and sponsored by PRS for Music. BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a programme dedicated to the ceremony on Hear and Now at 10pm on Saturday 10th December.

Crispin Hunt, BASCA Chairman, said: “New music is thriving in Britain today. The inspirational works and inspirational diversity of the composers and sound artists celebrated here at the British Composer Awards, shine a light upon the very best aspects of 21st century British culture. By challenging and enriching our lives through their creativity, tonight’s award winners distil the sound of a more positive and inclusive future.”

Alan Davey, Controller at BBC Radio 3, said: “Here at Radio 3 we share BASCA’s goal of discovering and nurturing fresh composing voices from as wide a sphere as possible. It is fantastic, therefore, that the 2016 British Composer Awards winners reflect such a range of new creative talent. This year’s unprecedented numbers of first-time winners encompass a broad array of different musical genres and ideas, demonstrating that the UK’s contemporary classical music scene is more alive than ever. As always, we are proud to be broadcasting the ceremony, and hope to play a significant part in disseminating the works of these composers on-air in the future, connecting our audiences with remarkable music and culture.”

Julia Haferkorn, BCA Artistic Director, commented: “The high percentage of first time winners this year clearly indicates the abundance of exciting, innovative and vibrant composing activity taking place in Britain and the British Composer Awards proudly play an important role in recognising the depth and breadth of this talent pool.”

Ed McKeon, BCA Artistic Director, also commented: “The breadth of imagination, musicianship, and the qualities of listening and collaboration achieved by the composers in these works demonstrates that music in the UK is truly alive and singing.”

Guy Fletcher OBE, Chairman at PRS for Music, added: “The British Composer Awards has been a most important part of the Music Industry calendar since its inception in 2003 and PRS for Music is once again delighted and proud to sponsor this year’s event at the BFI. 

As always, the nominees have all excelled themselves, bringing us another fabulous collection of contemporary classical works and reassuring us that UK classical music creators are alive and well and at the top of their game. Congratulations to all the winners and my very special thanks to all at BBC Radio 3 who support this event and indeed the whole classical community so enthusiastically.”




Amateur or Young Performers

The Monster In The Maze by Jonathan Dove

Chamber Ensemble

Freezywater by Leo Chadburn


Ave Verum Corpus Re-Imagined by Roderick Williams

Community or Educational Project

Into The Light by John Webb

Contemporary Jazz Composition

Karembeu’s Guide To The Complete Defensive Midfielder by Joe Cutler


Alba by Rebecca Saunders

Small Chamber

A Day At The Spa by Oliver Leith

Solo or Duo

Five Memos by Mark Bowden

Sonic Art

Sonorama by Claudia Molitor

Stage Works

Between Worlds by Tansy Davies

Wind Band or Brass Band

Just A Vibration by Shri Sriram


2016 Gift of BASCA Award Recipients

British Composer Award for Innovation

Jennifer Walshe

British Composer Award for Inspiration

Simon Bainbridge

Comments are closed.