Birtwistle joins youngsters to scoop composer awards

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The Independent Culture

Harrison Birtwistle won two top honours last night at the British Composer Awards, but he was joined on the podium by young composers including Tarik O'Regan, 27, and Errollyn Wallen, a Belize-born singer-songwriter who left the Dance Theatre of Harlem to study composition.

The awards were set up three years ago by the composer Sarah Rodgers and the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters in a bid to win due recognition for composers whose profile is often much lower than the artists who perform their works. This year's shortlist included some of Britain's best-known composers, including Judith Weir, Michael Nyman and John Tavener.

Birtwistle took the choral prize for The Ring Dance of the Nazarene and the orchestral award for Night's Black Bird. The only other composer to win in two categories was Michael Finnissy, 59, who is renowned for his work with dance companies. He was honoured in the Making Music Award category for Molly-House, a piece which includes parts for gadgets such as hair-dryers and drills. He also took the instrumental solo and duo prize for Verdi Transcriptions Book 4, part of a cycle he has been working on for more than 30 years.

O'Regan won the vocal prize for Sainte. Wallen took the BBC Radio 3 listeners award, the only award voted for by the public, for Spirit Symphony - Speed-Dating for Two Orchestras, inspired by Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks. Sarah Rodgers said the diversity of winners spoke tremendously about the current state of British composition. "It's really vibrant," she said.

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