Behind the Scenes at the RPS Music Awards

“The music world is not short of awards ceremonies, but the RPS Music Awards continue to stand alone, the grand-daddy of them all, side-stepping the hysteria as a calm voice of sanity, seriously assessing the true value of music making.” Musical America

The RPS Music Awards – the UK’s most prestigious awards for live classical music – are being lined up once again for a glittering ceremony in May and, some 26 years and 306 individual awards since they started, here’s a glimpse from behind the scenes at the RPS office… 

Presented in association with BBC Radio 3, the RPS Music Awards are the highest recognition for live classical music-making in the UK and undoubtedly a highlight of our annual calendar. The planning begins with an open call for nominations across all 13 categories with a submission deadline at the end of January. Every nomination is read and categorised, then makes its way onto a mammoth spreadsheet which becomes the ‘brain’ of the entire process. Between Robin and Megan – our fantastic Administration Assistant and RPS Music Awards Intern respectively – information is requested for every eligible nomination submitted and packs are prepared for each category.

This is always a hugely intense process as, despite a two month window for nominations, I’d estimate that nearly half of them arrive within the final week before the deadline! Meanwhile, Rosie – our Executive Director – will have been lining up industry experts that form the independent juries whose task it is to judge each of the 13 categories.

Group shot of Winners of the RPS Music Awards Photographed at the RPS Music Awards, London, Tuesday 10 May
Group shot of Winners of the RPS Music Awards Photographed at the RPS Music Awards, London, Tuesday 10 May (Image credit: Simon Jay Price)

Jury meetings often begin within two weeks of the nomination deadline, so preparing supporting materials in time for the first meetings is always a challenge, and take place over six weeks in February and March. Some categories carry a heavier workload for the jurors (reviewing books, TV and radio broadcasts or compositions in advance) while others can be sorted through on the day. Armed with the criteria for their category, and remembering the RPS core values of “creativity, excellence and understanding”, the five jury members whittle the nominations down to a shortlist of three (occasionally four), one of which will be chosen as the winner. And it is rarely an easy decision! How long do the jury meetings last? Depends on how much they all agree with each other! The decisions are always taken extremely seriously – I think our record meeting length is six hours – and one year a jury took a week to come back with their final answer!

Next step: announcing the Shortlist. Every year the buzz around this time feels like it gets bigger and bigger. This year’s announcement was on 31st March and it’s fantastic to be able to share the good news with all of the wonderful people and organisations who have been shortlisted. The social media boom certainly has a huge part to play and we were manically tweeting as ever while the shortlist was revealed live on air.

Finally, it comes to the awards themselves. It’s always a wild scramble between the announcement of the Shortlist and the Awards night to ensure that everybody gets there, but somehow it always works out and we have a great time! This year’s winners were announced at the ceremony and dinner on 10th May at The Brewery in the City of London and you can follow the evening’s events by searching #RPSMusicAwards. You can also browse the winners list at rpsmusicawards.com, and find videos, photos and the keynote speech from RPS Honorary Member Graham Vick on our website, social media and YouTube pages.

Laura Bloomfield

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www.philharmonicsociety.uk | www.rpsmusicawards.com

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