British Composer Awards 2017 Nominees Announced

Topical shortlist shines a light on composers engaging with current affairs, politics, and gender perceptions through music

British Composer Awards logo

Britain’s foremost contemporary composers have been revealed today, with thirty composers nominated for the British Composer Awards, spanning 33 works across 11 categories.

From a community project exploring the refugee crisis and featuring Donald Trump quotes, to a work examining societal perceptions of women through the metaphor of birds, to a composition calling on humankind to re-programme its attitude towards the natural world by giving nature a musical voice, the 2017 nominations underline the many ways in which contemporary composers are using music to engage in current affairs.

The 2017 nominations highlight the UK’s thriving contemporary music scene, with a record number of entries received this year (up by 18.5 per cent in 2016). The number of young composers nominated increased by 16 per cent, with 46 per cent of nominees under the age of 40, and the number of women nominated has continued to increase year on year, with women making up 42 per cent of the shortlist. Half the composers are first-time nominees.


Britain is home to a flourishing and bold community of enlightened and reformist contemporary composers, whose work continues to accelerate music’s role in society. The works nominated here speak to politics, ecology, art and history and somehow manage to distil the disorder about us into form. It’s inspiring to note a significant uplift in submissions this year, especially to see so many first-time nominees and young composers shortlisted – further testimony to the pioneering musical spirit of today.

Crispin Hunt, Chairman at BASCA

Composers exploring the refugee crisis in their work include: first-time nominated composer Emily Peasgood, whose Community Project ‘Crossing Over’ features quotes from Donald Trump and the voices of refugees, asylum seekers and British citizens to question the true meaning of ‘home’; Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian’s Contemporary Jazz Composition piece ‘Muted Lines’, which explores her family’s own experiences of the Armenian diaspora; and Kerry Andrew, whose Young/Amateur composition ‘Who We Are’ brings together five children’s choirs and addresses themes of identity and ‘otherness’.

Female composers and perceptions of women in society feature strongly in this year’s nominees, with nominated works including a composition by Emily Peasgood examining the language used to describe women in society today, and a Community Project by Brian Irvine celebrating Lilian Bland – the first woman in the world to design, build and fly an aeroplane. For the first time, there is an all-female Orchestral category (‘Torus’ by Emily Howard, ‘Two Eardley Pictures’ by Helen Grime and ‘Forest’ by Tansy Davies) and the only three composers with multiple works nominated are all women: Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, Sally Beamish and Emily Peasgood.

Works exploring humankind’s relationship with nature include: ‘Forest’ by Tansy Davies, a piece that gives nature a musical voice in order to call on humans to become more compassionate towards the natural world; Kathy Hinde’s ‘Luminous Birds’, inspired by real birdsong; and ‘Inside Colour’ by Deborah Pritchard, a response to the beautiful colours of the aurora as seen from the International Space station.

For the full list of nominees by category see below.

Also honoured in the shortlist is the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, one of the foremost composers of our time. His opera for children ‘The Hogboon’ is nominated in the Amateur or Young Performers category and was composed to help children develop self-confidence, teamwork and musical skills. His influence can be found elsewhere in the shortlist with Sally Beamish’s Solo or Duo composition dedicated to her friend and mentor and composed on Sir Peter’s unused manuscript paper.

Other themes emerging from the nominees include works inspired by science, mathematics and mental health, and compositions influenced by writers and artists such as JMW Turner, Shakespeare, Austin Osman Spare, Joan Eardley and Sarah Kane. The nominations also shine a light on new talent in Jazz, with all three of this year’s nominated composers being first-time nominees.

Celebrating the art of composition and showcasing the creative talent of contemporary composers and sound artists, the British Composer Awards are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PRS for Music; in association with BBC Radio 3 providing exclusive broadcast coverage.

The winners in each category will be announced at an awards ceremony presented by BBC Radio 3 presenters Andrew McGregor and Sara Mohr-Pietsch at the British Museum in London on Wednesday 6 December 2017. In addition to the 11 award categories, two composers will be honoured with a Gift of BASCA Award in recognition of their contributions to contemporary music throughout their careers, with one award for Inspiration (presented in association with the Music Publishers Association) and one for Innovation.

2017 British Composer Awards Nominations:

Amateur or Young Performers

  • The Feast That Went Off With A Bang by Ed Hughes
  • The Hogboon by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
  • Who We Are by Kerry Andrew

Chamber Ensemble

  • Khadambi’s House by Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian
  • Skin by Rebecca Saunders
  • The wreck of former boundaries by Aaron Cassidy


  • Affix Stamp Here by Leo Chadburn
  • Proclamation of the Republic by Andrew Hamilton
  • The Temptations of Christ by Barnaby Martin

Community or Educational Project

  • Anything but Bland by Brian Irvine
  • BIRDS and other Stories by Emily Peasgood
  • Crossing Over by Emily Peasgood

Contemporary Jazz Composition

  • Loop Concerto for jazz trio & large ensemble by Benjamin Oliver
  • Muted Lines by Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian
  • You Are My World by Robert Mitchell


  • Forest by Tansy Davies
  • Torus (Concerto for Orchestra) by Emily Howard
  • Two Eardley Pictures by Helen Grime

Small Chamber

  • In Feyre Foreste by Robin Haigh
  • Omloop Het Ives by Laurence Crane
  • Tuvan Songbook by Christian Mason

Solo or Duo

  • Inside Colour by Deborah Pritchard
  • Merula Perpetua by Sally Beamish
  • Piano Sonata No. 2 by Stuart MacRae

Sonic Art

  • cloud-cuckoo-island by Hanna Tuulikki
  • Luminous Birds by Kathy Hinde
  • Untitled Valley of Fear by Sam Salem

Stage Works

  • 4.48 Psychosis by Philip Venables
  • Empty Hand, Peaceful Mind by Ben Gaunt
  • The Tempest by Sally Beamish

Wind Band or Brass Band

  • Anemoi by Joseph Davies
  • Four Études by Edward Gregson
  • In Ictu Oculi by Kenneth Hesketh

For the second time, this year’s entries were judged anonymously for all categories apart from Community or Educational Project, Sonic Art and Stage Works – where the presence of the composer is often integral to the performance itself – and works could be submitted by the composers themselves.

Works eligible for the 2017 British Composer Awards must have received a UK premiere between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017.

Works must also have been composed by a UK-born composer, or ordinary resident in the UK.

For more information on this year’s British Composer Awards visit or follow @ComposerAwards.


BASCA is the voice for music writers; the independent professional association representing music writers in all genres, from songwriting, through to media, contemporary classical and jazz and can trace our history back over 70 years. Whilst we are well known for putting on the British Composer Awards, the Gold Badge Awards and The Ivors every year, there is far more to us than these events.

BASCA campaigns in the UK, Europe and throughout the world in order to protect the professional interests of our members. We count on the best songwriting and composing talent in order to do this important work and are entirely self-funding, relying on the continuing support of our members, who include Paul McCartney, Dizzee Rascal, Michael Nyman, Gary Barlow, David Arnold, Elton John, Imogen Heap, Howard Goodall, John Powell, Kate Bush, Chris Martin, and many more.

About PRS for Music

PRS for Music is a world-leading music collective management organisation representing the rights of more than 165,000 talented songwriters, composers and music publishers around the globe. Headquartered in the UK, it works diligently on behalf of its members to grow and protect the value of their rights. With a focus on innovation and integrity, PRS for Music is redefining the global standard for music royalties to ensure creators are paid whenever their musical compositions and songs are streamed, downloaded, broadcast, performed and played in public. In 2022, PRS for Music collected £964m and paid out £836.2m in royalties.

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