Alumni shortlisted for prestigious classical music awards

The Royal Philharmonic Society has shortlisted several RNCM alumni for prestigious prizes at its annual awards.  

Contenders in this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society Awards (RPS Awards) include renowned conductor Alpesh Chauhan OBE, vocalist/composer Alice Zawadzki, and Jo Yee Cheung’s Manchester-based charity Olympias Music Foundation – shortlisted in the Impact category for the organisation’s work championing diversity in music. 

Alpesh Chauhan, Alice Zawadski and Jo Yee Cheung

LGBTQ+ choir The Sunday Boys, a low voice singing group founded by RNCM composition graduate Michael Betteridge in 2016, is up for the Inspiration award – a category decided by public vote. RNCM graduates also feature in every Ensemble shortlisted, including Riot Ensemble whose founding Co-Artistic Director Adam Swayne is also Deputy Head of Keyboard Studies at the College. 

The Manchester Classical Festival, a collaboration between The Hallé, BBC Philharmonic, Manchester Camerata, and RNCM alumni Manchester Collective, will compete in the Series and Events category. 

RNCM Innovate Fellow Jasdeep Singh Degun has also been shortlisted in the Instrumentalist category and for his Large-Scale Composition, Orpheus. The virtuoso sitarist will work with RNCM students for the next two years to enhance their understanding of musical cultures outside the Western tradition through workshops and collaborative projects. 

Jasdeep Singh Degun with the sitar

RPS Chief Executive James Murphy said these extraordinary artists prove that ‘classical music pulses through the city’s veins’ as he plans to bring the event up to Manchester after 34 years in London. The conservatoire will host the glittering 2024 ceremony on the event’s first trip outside of the capital since 1989. It is now regarded as ‘the biggest night in UK classical music’ and will be co-presented by BBC3’s Elizabeth Alker and Linton Stephens – an RNCM graduate in bassoon. 

The RPS Awards debut in Manchester on Tuesday 5 March and tickets, starting at £10 (plus booking fee), are available here. The event will also be available to watch on the RPS website from Tuesday 12 March, and a BBC Radio 3 special broadcast featuring the music of the winners and nominees will broadcast on Wednesday 6 March, at 7.30pm.  

Speaking about the decision to bring the event to the RNCM, RPS Chief Executive James Murphy said: ‘Given the truly national story they represent, we’re so pleased to be taking the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards out of the capital for the very first time. We’ll be venturing elsewhere in years to come, and back to London of course, but this year Manchester is the ideal destination.  

‘With big wins last year for Manchester Collective and Manchester Camerata, and nominations this year for local heroes The Sunday Boys, Manchester Classical, and Olympias Music Foundation, classical music pulses through the city’s veins. We’ve received such a wonderful welcome from our hosts at the Royal Northern College of Music, and we invite Greater Manchester’s music-lovers to come and join in the festivities.’ 

The full shortlist and categories are: 

Chamber-Scale Composition 
Ben Lunn – History needs…
Laurence Osborn – TOMB! 
Nilufar Habibian – Az nahāyate tāriki (From the deep end of darkness) 

Alice Farnham 
Alpesh Chauhan 
François-Xavier Roth  

BBC Singers 
Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective 
Riot Ensemble 

Call of the Mountains – Drake Music Scotland 
Re:Sound – Streetwise Opera 
Music in Secondary Schools Trust 
Olympias Music Foundation 

Inspiration (cast your public vote here)
Derwent Brass 
Glasgow Madrigirls 
Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus 
The Sunday Boys 

Ayanna Witter-Johnson – cello 
Jasdeep Singh Degun – sitar 
Pavel Kolesnikov – piano 

Large-Scale Composition
Cassandra Miller – I cannot love without trembling 
Jasdeep Singh Degun – Orpheus 
Kaija Saariaho – Innocence 
Noriko Koide – Swaddling Silk and Gossamer Rain 

Opera and Music Theatre
Chornobyldorf – Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 
Dialogues des Carmélites – Glyndebourne Opera 
Innocence – The Royal Opera 

Series and Events
Aldeburgh Festival 
Manchester Classical 
Oratorio of Hope – London Borough of Croydon  

Alice Zawadzki – vocalist, songwriter 
Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha – soprano 
Nicky Spence – tenor  

Composer of the Week – BBC Radio 3 
Eastern Classical – BBC Radio 4 
Quartet – Leah Broad 

Young Artist 
Aaron Azunda Akugbo – trumpet 
Lotte Betts-Dean – mezzo soprano 
Ryan Corbett – accordion 

30 January 2024