British Composer Awards 2015 Winners Revealed

Sir Harrison Birtwistle most awarded composer in BCA history with seventh Award

  • Five first-time winners honoured including 27-year-old Kate Whitley
  • Sir Harrison Birtwistle most awarded composer in BCA history with seventh Award
  • Michael Finnissy and Julian Anderson are double awardees
  • “Fast rising star” Jessica Cottis delivers keynote speech at the BFI

Ten composers have tonight been honoured at the thirteenth annual British Composer Awards across 12 categories, including five first-time winners.

The event, hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenters Sara Mohr-Pietsch and Andrew McGregor, took place at the British Film Institute (BFI) in London, a new venue for the 2015 Awards, moving from London’s Goldsmiths’ Hall.

The audience were addressed by keynote speaker and rising star conductor, Jessica Cottis, who presented the winners with their awards alongside actress Juliet Stevenson. The ceremony included the UK premiere performance of A Bird Is Singing by Judith Bingham, performed by Trinity Laban Chamber Choir and conducted by Stephen Jackson.

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 12th December.

The five first-time winners included 27-year-old composer, pianist and producer, Kate Whitley, this year’s youngest winner. She took home the award for Amateur or Young Performers for her piece Alive, which premiered at Peckham multi-storey car park, celebrating our experience of beauty in the world. Composed for children’s choir and orchestra, Alive is a setting of a Holly McNish poem.

Stuart Hancock won in the Community or Educational Project category for Snapshot Songs, a piece bringing together 60 singers, 15 drummers, the London Schools of Symphony Orchestra, soloists and spoken word artists from across London.

Judges were also impressed by Yann Seznec, who won the Sonic Art award for Currents, a piece connecting discarded computer fans to real-time weather data to explore how technology shapes our environment. The work highlights the economic and social model of constant consumption and disposal – a topical theme in light of the Paris Climate talks last week.

Other first time winners included Trish Clowes and Sinan Savaskan. Clowes won the Contemporary Jazz Composition category for The Fox, The Parakeet & The Chestnut – the culmination of her two years as BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, which premiered at the London Jazz Festival. Meanwhile, Savaskan’s, Many stares (through semi-nocturnal Zeiss-Blink) - Module 30, inspired by the Abstract Expressionists, won him the Large Chamber award.

World-renowned British composer, Sir Harrison Birtwistle was recognised once more by the community of composers and musicians, winning his seventh award. His piece Responses: Sweet disorder and the carefully careless, composed for piano and orchestra, explores spatial blocks of music and won in the Orchestral category.

Michael Finnissy and Julian Anderson were both double winners. Finnissy was awarded in the Liturgical and Solo or Duo categories for John the Baptist and Beat Generation Ballads respectively. Anderson, who celebrates winning his fifth and sixth British Composer Awards this evening, won in the Small Chamber and Stage Works categories for String Quartet No. 2 and Thebans.

Meanwhile, James Dillon, one of the UK’s most celebrated composers, won his third British Composer Award for Stabat Mater dolorosa in the Choral category, and Rory Boyle took home his second award for Muckle Flugga in the Wind Band or Brass Band category – a piece inspired by the engineering of the lighthouse on the rocky Shetland Island of the same name.


I am delighted that this year's British Composer Awards includes such a broad range of winners - from relative newcomers to established names.  We have succeeded in increasing the number of submissions by a third and this provided a much greater pool of talent from which to judge.  It also bodes well for future growth and increasing inclusivity. Once again, thanks to our sponsors, PRS for Music and to our broadcast partners, BBC Radio 3 for their support and enthusiasm and for joining with us to celebrate the achievements of contemporary classical music in the UK.

Stephen McNeff, BASCA Chairman

Once again the Awards celebrate the riches and range of the talent we have in Britain – from gifted newcomers like Kate Whitley and Trish Clowes to world-renowned figures like Sir Harrison Birtwistle. New music is thriving and the winning works demonstrate the sumptuous creativity in existence today.

Julia Haferkorn, BCA Artistic Director

These Awards reflect our contemporary moment, between uncertain traditions and undecided futures. They show that composers and musicians are finding the joy as well as darkness, lament and also celebration. They give us pause for thought, as well as cause for coming together.

Ed McKeon, BCA Artistic Director

Congratulations to BASCA for bringing us another excellent British Composer Awards and for demonstrating that those who inhabit this wonderful corner of the music community are not only alive and well but continuing to deliver a fantastic range of high quality new works. PRS for Music is delighted and proud to sponsor this event which has become a most important fixture in the classical music calendar. Well done to all the winners and our special thanks to BBC Radio 3 for giving them the respect and the profile they undoubtedly deserve.

Guy Fletcher OBE, Chairman at PRS for Music

Contemporary music is thriving in the UK. As a cultural organisation, BBC Radio 3 prides itself on using the licence fee as venture capital for the arts; supporting and developing new artists, commissioning new works and broadcasting important industry events such as tonight’s British Composer Awards. Congratulations to all the winners. It’s vital we all continue to support our composers and their works, they make such an invaluable contribution to the cultural life of Britain and beyond.

Alan Davey, Controller at BBC Radio 3

2015 British Composer Award Winners

Amateur or Young Performers
Alive by Kate Whitley

Stabat Mater dolorosa by James Dillon

Community or Educational Project
Snapshot Songs by Stuart Hancock

Contemporary Jazz Composition
The Fox, The Parakeet & The Chestnut by Trish Clowes

Large Chamber
Many stares (through semi-nocturnal Zeiss-Blink) - Module 30 by Sinan Savaskan

John the Baptist by Michael Finnissy

Responses: Sweet disorder and the carefully careless by Harrison Birtwistle

Small Chamber
String Quartet No.2 by Julian Anderson

Solo or Duo
Beat Generation Ballads by Michael Finnissy

Sonic Art
Currents by Yann Seznec

Stage Works
Thebans by Julian Anderson

Wind Band or Brass Band
Muckle Flugga by Rory Boyle

- END -

Notes to editors

For further information please contact:
Zekra Rahman or Edwina Boyd-Gibbins, Midas PR
E: or
Tel: 0207 361 7860

High-res images, and biographies of the nominees are available upon request

About the British Composer Awards

Owned by BASCA, the British Composer Awards celebrate the music of contemporary British composers and composers living in the United Kingdom. Qualifying works must have been completed within five years prior to 31 March 2015 and received a UK premiere performance – either live or broadcast – in the year leading up to 31 March 2015.  Each category is judged by a different jury, appointed by BASCA, mainly comprising of composers working in collaboration with performers, conductors, promoters and festival directors.


BASCA, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, is the professional association for music writers in the UK. It is the single voice for British music creators. BASCA works to foster a sense of community amongst songwriters, lyricists and composers, and to campaign on their behalf in the domestic, European and international political arenas. As the only association in the country made up entirely of music writers, the organisation has an unparalleled insight into the issues affecting music creators in the UK today. BASCA works closely with their members, keeping them informed in a constantly changing environment via its publications, website, seminars and professional networking events. BASCA also presents the Ivor Novello Awards, British Composer Awards and Gold Badge Awards.

Membership of BASCA is open to working songwriters and composers who are members of a royalty collection society, such as PRS for Music, BMI or ASCAP. BASCA Fellows: John Adams, David Arnold, Malcolm Arnold, John Barry, Don Black, Pierre Boulez, John Dankworth, David Ferguson, George Fenton, Elton John, Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb,  Annie Lennox, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Paul McCartney, Peter Maxwell Davies and Tim Rice.

About BBC Radio 3

Radio 3 broadcasts high-quality, distinctive classical music and cultural programming, alongside regular arts and ideas programmes, jazz and world music. The station features more live classical music programming than any other and is the home of the BBC Proms - broadcasting every Prom live and more than 600 complete concerts a year - alongside daily speech programming, 90 full-length operas, over 25 drama commissions and over 20 new BBC music commissions a year. Radio 3 is the most significant commissioner of new musical works in the country and is committed to supporting new talent, from composers to writers and new young performers, through schemes such as New Generation Artists and New Generation Thinkers.

About PRS for Music

Here for music since 1914, PRS for Music is a world-leading music collective management organisation representing the rights of more than 175,000 talented songwriters, composers and music publishers. Redefining the global standard for music royalties, PRS for Music ensures songwriters and composers are paid whenever their musical compositions and songs are streamed, downloaded, broadcast, performed and played in public. 

For 110 years it has grown and protected the rights of the music creator community, paying out royalties with more accuracy, transparency and speed. In 2023, PRS for Music paid out £943.6m in royalties and collected a record £1.08 billion in revenues.

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