The Kennedy Strauss Award

The Joyce and Michael Kennedy Award for the Singing of Strauss is recognised as one of the RNCM’s leading competitions for vocal students, offering a substantial financial First Prize to aid further studies at the College.

Established in 2001 thanks to the inspiration and generosity of Joyce and Michael Kennedy, the award is open to fourth year undergraduates and postgraduate students. Following a preliminary round, six finalists are chosen to compete for the prize, presenting a 15 minute programme of songs and/or arias by Richard Strauss to an esteemed panel of judges.

Thirteen people of various ages dressed in formal attire stand in a line.

The Kennedys together with the six finalists, adjudicators and accompanists, 2012

Both Joyce and Michael have been faithful and enthusiastic supporters of the RNCM since its inception and, before that time, of the old Royal Manchester College of Music. The RNCM remains extremely grateful for Joyce’s continuing support.

‘Michael and I, both lovers of the music of Richard Strauss, felt that his Lieder (of which he wrote about 250) are just as great as those of Schubert, Schumann and Wolf. But his orchestral works and operas have tended to overshadow them to such an extent that only the most popular, such as Morgen! and Ständchen, are really well known. They are, of course, not easy to sing, and we established this prize to encourage the student singers at the RNCM to explore some of these songs. It has given us a great deal of pleasure to know that the competitors have enjoyed discovering and learning these Lieder and have taken them into their repertory.’  Joyce Kennedy

Adjudicators have included Dame Felicity Lott, Dame Janet Baker, Nigel Douglas, Marie McLaughlin, Sir Mark Elder, Dame Anne Evans, Sir George Christie, Sir John Tooley, Sir John Tomlinson, Roger Vignoles, Lillian Watson, Dame Josephine Barstow and Sir Thomas Allen. This year’s adjudicating panel was chaired by baritone Alan Opie.

Michael Kennedy Memorial Concert CD

CDs of the memorial concert in honour of Michael Kennedy, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and Sir Mark Elder are still available to purchase. If you are interested in receiving a copy, please send a cheque for £10 made payable to ‘RNCM’ for the attention of:

Development Department/Memorial CD
124 Oxford Road
M13 9RD

Please mention that you wish to purchase a CD when returning your cheque so it isn’t confused for a general donation to the College.

Previous Winners

‘Long may the Joyce and Michael Kennedy Award for the Singing of Strauss prosper and thereby constitute an enduring tribute to honour the memory of Michael who so loved his Strauss.’  Sir John Manduell, Founding Principal of the RNCM

Michael Kennedy: 1926 – 2014

Tribute from Sir John Manduell, Founding Principal of the RNCM

It was in Salzburg, during a late night supper after a festival concert, that Joyce and Michael Kennedy first shared with me their imaginative intention to establish a very special new prize. At the heart of the Kennedy concept lay the clear and positive intention that the prize should be consecrated to the singing of works by Richard Strauss.

This came as no surprise to me. Michael’s devotion to the music of Strauss was deep and long-standing. The wisdom and insight he has brought to our understanding of both the composer and his music has been such as to enable us the better to appreciate the works of this very great composer. What has endowed the prize with additional distinction has been the intention that it should be exclusively dedicated to the vocal music of Strauss.

Those who know and love their Strauss, both in the songs and through the operas, will universally acknowledge the composer’s remarkable gifts for writing for voices, and, particularly perhaps, for female voices, where time and again Strauss achieves incomparable and joyous miracles.  Where in all music is there to be found anything more beautiful and moving than the closing trio in Der Rosenkavalier?

The benefits to young singers deriving from the existence of this distinctive and distinguished prize have been evident for all to experience and acknowledge. Year after year splendid prize-winners, who are now gracing platforms and opera stages throughout the world, have come forward to benefit from the opportunities they have enjoyed through competing for it. Moreover, I believe I should acknowledge that, until the Kennedy prize for the singing of Strauss came into being, young singers at the Royal Northern College of Music may not always have been sufficiently encouraged to devote themselves to the study of Strauss’s music. However, the advent of the prize has effectively remedied any such earlier shortcoming.

Long may the Joyce and Michael Kennedy Award for the Singing of Strauss prosper and thereby constitute an enduring tribute to honour the memory of Michael who so loved his Strauss.