Abel Selalocoe wins at RPS Awards Ceremony 2023 opened with a rallying cry from Chairman John Gilhooly


The RPS Awards – the classical music industry’s annual opportunity to honour outstanding achievement amongst its ranks – was held last night at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Thirteen awards were presented to artists, ensembles and other creatives, looked on by an excitable appreciative industry crowd.

Cellist Abel Selaocoe secured the Instrumentalist award, while organist Anna Lapwood won this year’s coveted Gamechanger award. Elsewhere in the ceremony, the Singer category was topped by Anna Dennis (Violet, Aldeburgh Festival 2022), and Martin Brabbins was awarded the Conductor award.

I was especially pleased to see Manchester Camerata secure the Storytelling award for their touching short film entitled Keith, telling the true story of a man grappling with the onset of dementia. Emotionally highly charged, Keith wore its sense of social responsibility lightly, deftly demystifying the disease at the same time as playlisting the ensemble’s range of repertoire.

Manchester Collective’s win in the Ensemble category was well-deserved too. Raki Singh and Adam Szabo have not only established a new and distinctive ensemble for a whole new audience, but also built the brand’s UK-wide reputation in a relatively short space of time.

Raki Singh and Adam Szabo from Manchester Collective

Several months before recording a podcast about Manchester Collective, I met Adam. He and Raki clearly had already established a strong connection to the industry. I was struck both by their inclusiveness – reaching out to all manner of writers, influencers, and other like-minded souls Their clear consistently articulated vision was thought-provoking. That MC’s rise has been swift is in no small part down to both him and Raki building effective networks of allies in the industry putting their passion front and centre in conversations. That’s a case study in authentic leadership that builds space in the cultural landscape for an iconoclastic product without alienating the industry.

I was also pleased to see The Multi-Story Orchestra collaboration with South East London schoolkids – The Endz acknowledged in the Impact category. Last year, I saw firsthand how the work of a handful of passionate workshop facilitators empowered young people who wanted to tell a personal story. Here again, the vision driving Multi-Story’s co-creation was articulated with clarity by Artistic Director Kate Whitley. This was not an educational ‘project’ or imposing music on the people of South East London, but Multi-Story dynamically responding. I remember feeling reassured about the impact of their co-creation, emboldening young people with skills that super-charged their creativity.

Anna Lapwood receives RPS Gamechanger Award at the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards 2023 in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Centre on Wednesday 1st March Photo by Mark Allan

In what was a well-conceived ceremony, RPS chair John Gilhooly gave a fierce opening address – a rallying cry for industry and policy makers, galvanising them around a shared vision and a call to arms: reinstate music education for all. The message is not new, but the energy powering its delivery was. Gilhooly’s industry audience was always going to be on side, but the effect was still uplifting.

This from Gilhooly’s speech was particularly striking.

“The arts are central to the international standing, character and well being of the nation and bring in over £110 billion annually to the economy. Looking elsewhere: Berlin – a single city – gets cultural funding of around 600 million euros, while the annual ACE budget is £428 million. Charlotte Higgins aptly called this funding a thin gruel that organisations are forced to beg for. And we all remember ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ that subsidised restaurants during the pandemic. That cost some £849 million for one month alone. If any government, current or future, addresses the awful cost of living crisis by subsidising the hospitality sector, the arts should get a similar deal. At the very least, the government could look for new tax incentives which would encourage individual donors to give more effectively to causes they love.”

An affordable ticket price made it possible for the RPS to attract its largest audience ever, which many attendees said was critical to their decision to attend. A wide range of industry representatives attended the event, which provided a glimpse into what goes into creating compelling concert experiences. And it was a warm atmosphere too, familiar faces and old friends side by side cheering on nominees and winners alike. A pseudo-networking event with a polished presentation from presenters Dr Hannah French and Petroc Trelawny from BBC Radio 3, giving classical music a bit of pizazz. The entire evening serving up potent reminders of a year packed full of memorable experiences.

Shortlist of nominations for each award listed below.

Full list of winners, plus video catchup (available from 9 March) and John Gilhooly’s headline speech available via the RPS website.

Award Shortlist 
Chamber-Scale Composition 
supported by Boosey & Hawkes in memory of Tony Fell 
Bára Gísladóttir – Animals of your pasture 
Ben Nobuto – Serenity 2.0 
Thomas Adès – Alchymia 
Conductor  Karina Canellakis  
Martyn Brabbins 
Robert Ames 
supported by Wise Music Group  in its 50th anniversary year 
BBC Singers 
Ensemble 360 
Manchester Collective 
supported by OUP Music in its centenary year
Awards for Young Musicians  
Opera-tic – Second Movement 
The Endz – The Multi-Story Orchestra   
supported by Warner Classics 
Bradford Festival Choral Society 
Côr CF1 
Torbay Symphony Orchestra 
Tredegar Town Band 
Ula Weber 
supported by Lark Music 
Abel Selaocoe – cello 
Adam Walker – flute 
Elena Urioste – violin  
Large-Scale Composition 
supported by The Boltini Trust 
Gavin Higgins – Concerto Grosso for Brass Band and Orchestra  
George Lewis – Minds in Flux 
Joe Cutler – Concerto Grosso 
Rebecca Saunders – To an utterance 
Opera and Music Theatre 
supported by Jenny Hodgson 
Bluebeard’s Castle – Theatre of Sound and Opera Ventures Orfeo – Garsington Opera 
Scottish Opera 
The Handmaid’s Tale – English National Opera   
Series and Events 
supported by Decca
Leeds Piano Trail 
Oxford Lieder Festival 
Ryedale Festival 
Sound Festival   
supported by ISM, the Independent Society of Musicians  
Anna Dennis – soprano 
Lise Davidsen – soprano 
Lucy Schaufer – mezzo soprano   
supported by Schott Music
Sound Within Sound – Kate Molleson 
The Great Passion – James Runcie 
Untold: Keith – Manchester Camerata  
Young Artist 
supported by Sir Simon and Victoria, Lady Robey OBE 
Nardus Williams – soprano 
Timothy Ridout – viola