Williams-Howard Prize

The RNCM is raising funds for the second year for an annual singing competition that celebrates and encourages the study and performance of art songs of composers of African heritage.

We are passionate about encouraging the next generation of musicians and performers to keep music from African heritage alive.

Established and led by RNCM tutor Michael Harper, whose international career as a countertenor has uncovered the distinct and worrying lack of performances of art songs of African heritage, we are working to ensure that these songs are known, celebrated, performed, and not lost and forgotten.

This is the second year of the Williams-Howard Prize – an annual competition held at the RNCM that celebrates and encourages the study and performance of art songs of composers of African heritage.

It is the first prize of its type in Europe, and celebrates both singers and collaborative pianists, with financial prizes for both as well as for the opportunity for the winners to perform at RNCM and Buxton Festival and mentoring and coaching through the Cooper Hall Foundation (Frome, Somerset). Participants in the Williams-Howard Prize will learn and perform repertoire from the great spirituals of Harry T. Burleigh, songs of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Florence Price, William Grant Still, Margaret Price, Undine Smith Moore, Errollyn Wallen, Shirley Thompson, and Dominique Le Gendre.

Our vision is that the new generation of professional singers and pianists embrace this work and that they are not forgotten but embedded firmly into the canon. This prize will celebrate rarely heard songs, influenced by international arts movements – serialism, neo-classicism, modernism, minimalism, and culturally specific movements such as Pan Africanism, the Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights, and the Black Arts Movement. It will champion the recent renaissance of art and music in the African diaspora and a burgeoning of new art music.

Since the debut of the prize last year, a repository of music is now held at the RNCM Library:

“I’ve been heartened to learn of students performing songs from the collection at events over the past year, including the Season Launch for the RNCM’s 50th anniversary year, celebratory events for the College’s supporters and a recital at Buxton International Festival. I’m immensely proud that the Prize is already forging a place for these often-neglected songs.” Michael Harper

Generous donors have helped us to raise £15,000 in the first year of the Prize, but our aim is to raise £50,000 to endow the Prize and to secure the future of this important competition for many, many years to come.

For alternative donation methods or further information about the prize, please contact Margot Walker [email protected] / 0161 907 5338


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