Ivor Novello award winners announced at The Ivors Composer Awards 2020

Six category winners are 30 or under, demonstrating the exceptional talent of the new generation of UK classical, jazz and sound art composers

The Ivors Composer Awards logo

The Ivors Academy today revealed the winners of 14 Ivor Novello Awards as part of The Ivors Composer Awards 2020, celebrating exceptional new works by composers writing for classical, jazz and sound art. The winners of these prestigious Ivor Novello Awards were revealed earlier tonight as part of a two-hour ceremony broadcast exclusively on BBC Radio 3, hosted by Kate Molleson and Tom Service.

Ivor Novello Awards were presented to eleven composers for categories covering classical, jazz and sound art compositions, in addition to three ‘Gift of The Academy’ Awards. All eleven category winners were commissioned by different venues or organisations, ranging from the Vortex Jazz Club to the BBC Proms. Six of the category winners are 30 and under, highlighting the vibrancy and talent of the UK’s composing scene. The Ivors Composer Awards were formerly known as the British Composer Awards, having rebranded in 2019, and are supported by PRS for Music.

Jonny Greenwood picked up his seventh award from the Academy for his ‘Large Orchestral’ work ‘Horror Vacui’ which was commissioned by the BBC Proms and premiered by Daniel Pioro, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Proms Youth Ensemble. Greenwood explains that “horror vacui is the fear of empty space, usually in paintings. For this music, I’ve focused on all the different ways there are to electronically create reverb and echoes and translated them into the complexities of a string orchestra.” The judges felt that the work was “engaging, endlessly fascinating and completely original in both concept and realisation.

Written to mark the occasion of National Windrush Day, Renell Shaw’s ‘The Vision They Had’ picked up the award for ‘Jazz Composition for Small Ensemble’. Commissioned by the Vortex Jazz Club, Shaw’s work included words and audio recordings from his grandparents who are members of the Windrush Generation. Renell said “when I was writing 'The Vision They Had' the goal was simple - tell my grandparents’ story authentically and honestly. I didn't want to just talk about Caribbean people who'd come to England. I wanted to talk about the deeper stories. I wanted to talk about love and loss, triumph, adventure and success.” The judges commented that “this is a work for our time…personally and politically resonant with emotional dialogue, it is beautifully composed with historical audio sampling and interplay of music and spoken word.”

The ‘Sound Art’ category award went to Kathy Hinde for ‘Twittering Machines’, an audio-visual performance featuring bespoke vinyl, objects, live electronics, field recordings and video projections. Inspired by John Keat’s ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, the work is “a poetic reflection on the delicate state of bird populations, as suitable habitat becomes rare and climate change confuses the seasons.” The judges felt that the work was “acoustically engaging, compelling and innovative.” This is Kathy’s second award, having won the British Composer Award for Sonic Art in 2017.

Royal College of Music graduate Oliver Vibrans picked up the Community and Participation award for ‘More Up’, a work he composed for The Able Orchestra which is an inclusive ensemble of young people, who performed the piece alongside instrumentalists from the BBC Philharmonic and Hallé and five professional sound and digital artists. In his programme notes, Oliver said “My hope is that this work can represent one of many new musical dialogues that expand our understanding of what music making can and should be.” The judges for this award called the piece “an outstanding example of musical integration that is very skilfully written for the forces and range of abilities involved.”

This year’s ‘Choral’ category was awarded to Richard Blackford for ‘Pietà’, a work commissioned by Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and St Albans Choral Society, premiered at Lighthouse, Poole last year. The work, which the judges cited to be “ambitious, dramatic, colourful and powerful whilst also being performable,” is a new setting of the Stabat Mater. In his programme notes, Blackford reflects on the difficulty of setting the Stabat Mater whilst nothing that “it is the delicate balance of emotional extremes, of crisis and the hope of salvation, that I tried to reconcile during the composition.” A recording of the work is available on Nimbus Records.

The ’Chamber Orchestral’ Ivor Novello Award went to Robin Haigh for his work ‘Grin’, commissioned and premiered by Britten Sinfonia and Thomas Gould. The judges called the work “quirky, playful, bold and original…with a highly distinctive musical language and sound.” This is Haigh’s second award having won the British Composer Award for ‘Small Chamber’ in 2017. Haigh is one of the many composers under 30 who won this year.

The ‘Jazz Composition for Large Ensemble’ category went to Charlie Bates for ‘Crepuscule’ which had its UK premiere last year with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. With this composition Charlie aimed to capture “the feeling of facing oncoming darkness, whilst clinging to the light that remains.” The judges thought the piece was “arresting and captivating from the start, its dramatic developments are strong, clear and well applied throughout.”

Commissioned by 12 Ensemble, Oliver Leith’s ‘Honey Siren’ was awarded the ‘Large Chamber’ award. The three movement work conceived whilst Leith was “thinking about sirens; the wailing kind, not the bird women singing on rocks…they make these beautiful, huge oblong sweeping glissandi between high and low, like a machine crying.” The judges cited that this piece is “extraordinarily moving” and “evocative, emotionally involving and profound.” A recording of the work is available on Sancho Panza Records. This is Oliver Leith’s second award, having won the British Composer Award for ‘Small Chamber’ in 2016.

This year’s ‘Small Chamber’ award went to Daniel Fardon for ‘Six Movements’, a string quartet commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society and Wigmore Hall which was premiered by the Bloomsbury Quartet. Each of the six movements explores a collection of contrasting characters, moods and expressions, which the judges felt resulted in “a finely crafted work with a wonderful arc across the whole piece and beautiful sounds and harmonies.

Gareth Moorcraft’s ‘Diaries of the Early Worm’ was awarded the ‘Solo or Duo’ category award. The five-minute work was written for Tabea Debus’s ‘Ode to an Earworm’ concert series in 2019. This is Gareth’s second award, having won the British Composer Award Student Competition in 2012. Taking the theme of an earworm, Moorcraft explained in his programme notes that “snippets of troubadour melodies emerge from a series of short, repetitive, often obsessive musical ideas which mirror our tendency to repeat catchy melodies in our head.” The judges stated that the piece was “witty, full of character and imaginative in its referencing of familiar and historical materials.” A recording of the work is available on Delphian.

The last of the category awards – ‘Stage Works’ – was awarded to Philip Venables for his opera ‘Denis & Katya’. Commissioned by Opera Philadelphia, Music Theatre Wales and Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier, the opera’s six characters are all played by two singers, re-telling the story from different viewpoints. The judges commented that the work is “incredibly skilful in its musical craft with exquisitely heard electronics” and that, in their opinion, “it is moving opera forward.” This is Venables’s second award having won the British Composer Award for Stage Works in 2017.

Peer recognition is at the centre of this unique annual celebration. Each of the eleven nominated categories had a separate judging panel of composers and music practitioners who anonymously reviewed all works entered for consideration. The identity (name, gender, age, demographic) of the work’s composer was removed from all materials given to the jury. All of the nominated works received a UK premiere between 1st April 2019 and 31st March 2020 and were composed by a UK born or ordinarily resident composer.

In addition to the eleven category awards, three composers were awarded Gift of the Academy awards from The Ivors Academy. Cecilia McDowall, who celebrates her 70th birthday in 2021, was awarded an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Works Collection, recognising her exceptional body of classical works. Of this Award, McDowall commented “it is very humbling to have been singled out to follow in the footsteps of previous recipients when there are so many other deserving composers.” The Academy said that Cecilia is “a highly skilful and captivating composer who communicates through her music with stunning beauty, sensitivity and impact.”

British-Bahraini trumpet player Yazz Ahmed is recognised for her approach to jazz composition with an Ivor Novello Award for Innovation. Yazz brings together the sounds of her mixed heritage through her music, explaining that “I hope that through my music I can bring people together, building bridges between cultures, and changing perceptions about women in jazz and people of Muslim heritage.” The Academy has recognised Yazz for “her unique creative voice that smashes the boundaries between jazz and electronic sound design by drawing on her heritage to create intoxicating musical worlds.

Genre-defying composer Julian Joseph OBE becomes an Academy Fellow, the Academy’s highest honour, in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to music in the UK. Julian is the 21st Academy Fellow, joining a prestigious list which includes Kate Bush CBE, Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Academy said, “We’re delighted to honour Julian for his incredible achievements in music as an educator and as a truly unique and exceptional voice in jazz and classical composition.”


My heartfelt congratulations go to all the winners, nominees and recipients of Gift of the Academy awards. An Ivor Novello Award represents innovation, quality, creativity, determination and beauty through composition and music creation. But most of all it represents the esteem that composers and music creators hold for each other. Contemporary classical, jazz and sound arts rely on performances, venues and events to reach our audiences. As hopefully emerge from the worst of this health crisis we have an important opportunity to rejuvenate culture in the UK by supporting, nurturing and playing work by contemporary music creators.

Gary Carpenter, Chair, The Ivors Academy’s Awards Committee



Congratulations to all the winners at The Ivors Composer Awards. We are incredibly proud that two of the composers nominated for awards this year have taken part in PRS for Music development workshops, and 26 received funding from our charity partner, PRS Foundation. Now more than ever, it is important to celebrate and support composers and the dedicated teams that help bring their works to life. While the classical, jazz and sound art communities have all faced their own unique challenges in recent months, creativity has not stopped, and we must ensure it continues to thrive. We hope that these accolades help to shine a light on the remarkable work of those honoured.

Andrea C. Martin, CEO, PRS for Music



What an incredible opportunity it was to host this year’s Ivors Composers Awards Ceremony on the airwaves at BBC Radio 3. In such a difficult year for composers and performers alike, this celebration of UK contemporary creativity was very inspiring to listen to, and we are sure our listeners were equally delighted and intrigued by the breadth of genres, approaches, and themes presented as part of the event. This is what we need now more than ever: to keep that relationship going between audiences and music; to highlight the future even when the situation is complex; to provide moments of stimulation and relief for people at home, while supporting composers and performers at this difficult time. Congratulations to all the winners tonight.

Alan Davey, Controller, BBC Radio 3 and classical music

The Ivors Composer Awards are sponsored by PRS for Music. Winners of Ivor Novello Awards at The Ivors Composer Awards were announced on Tuesday 1 December on BBC Radio 3 during an exclusive live broadcast hosted by Kate Molleson and Tom Service. Click here to listen back (available for 30 days).




  • GRIN by ROBIN HAIGH for chamber orchestra


  • PIETÀ by RICHARD BLACKFORD for mezzo soprano, baritone, SATB chorus, optional children’s chorus and string orchestra


  • MORE UP by OLIVER VIBRANS for chamber orchestra and electronics


  • CREPUSCULE by CHARLIE BATES for jazz orchestra


  • THE VISION THEY HAD by RENELL SHAW for seven-piece band


  • HONEY SIREN by OLIVER LEITH for string ensemble


  • HORROR VACUI by JONNY GREENWOOD for solo violin and 68 solo strings 


  • SIX MOVEMENTS by DANIEL FARDON for string quartet


  • DIARIES OF THE EARLY WORM by GARETH MOORCRAFT for solo alto recorder


  • TWITTERING MACHINES by KATHY HINDE bespoke vinyl, objects, live electronics, field recordings and video projections


  • DENIS & KATYA by PHILIP VENABLES opera: for mezzo soprano, baritone, four amplified cellos, tape and video, with libretto by Ted Huffman








About The Ivors Academy

The Ivors Academy is the UK’s independent professional association for music creators. We represent and champion a diverse, talented community of songwriters and composers. We are a self-funded not-for-profit organisation, relying on the continued support of our members and partners to carry on our work. 

Our Ivor Novello Awards are the ultimate accolade for songwriting and composition in the industry. The Ivors with Apple Music celebrate the talents of songwriters and screen composers, and The Ivors Composer Awards recognise music creators in the classical, jazz and sound art fields. 

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.

About BBC Radio 3

We believe arts and music make the world a better place by bringing people together through shared experience and understanding, providing a place of inspiration, and a means to navigate a complex world.

At BBC Radio 3 we want to enable as many people as possible to have life changing musical and arts experiences. We aim to provide listeners with time out from a busy world through full-length artistic performances and slow radio that takes the time it takes. We pride ourselves on being a commissioner and interpreter of complex culture; shining a new light on well-loved artistic works and investing in new artistic talent to bring cutting edge work to audiences everywhere.

We are one of the most significant commissioners of contemporary classical music anywhere in the world and the biggest broadcaster of live classical concerts including the BBC Proms. From classical music to arts discussion, documentaries to essays, drama to sound art, video games and film music, to jazz, world, ambient, electronic and the avant-garde, there is a Radio 3 for everybody – we welcome you to join us on BBC Sounds, DAB, online, and on FM.

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