Winners of the 2023 Making Music Awards revealed

Making Music, the UK’s membership organisation for leisure-time music groups, has announced the winners of the 2023 Making Music Awards. 

Now in their fourth year, the annual awards celebrate the unsung heroes of the leisure-time music sector from music creators, to arrangers, community groups, their volunteers and innovative new projects. 

The 2023 awards were presented by Debbie Wiseman OBE, Making Music President and award-winning composer, at an online ceremony on Thursday 5 October. 

Debbie Wiseman OBE, President of Making Music and Chair of the Best Creator/Arranger panels, said:

'With such an impressively high standard and diverse range of styles, showcasing the imaginative and inspiring writing and arranging within leisure-time music groups, it gets harder each year to choose a shortlist, but it's a joyful task. We celebrate every entry and all the creators and arrangers, even those who didn't make the shortlist, should know that their efforts were applauded for imagination, skill, and exceptional quality.'

Barbara Eifler, Chief Executive of Making Music, said: 

'The benefits of leisure-time music groups to their participants and their communities are now well-recognised, and these awards give us the opportunity to celebrate their achievements and share their stories with a wider public. Once again I have been bowled over by the variety and quality of these nominations and delighted we are able to shine a well-deserved spotlight on them.'

The 2023 winners range from a Glasgow choir which commissioned seven new choral works by female composers to respond to the under-representation of women in music, to a conductor and artistic director who has devoted over six decades of his life to supporting East Anglian music groups. 

This year’s ceremony included the new Making Music Green Award, which celebrates musical groups who have made outstanding efforts to improve their environmental sustainability. The inaugural Green Award winners are Derwent Brass, who have transformed the way they work to reduce their carbon emissions. 

Other award winners range from the arranger of an inspiring new version of a Harry Styles pop song for women's a cappella chorus, to the composer of a new cantata written for a North London community choir, based on the stories of Noah’s Flood and the Tower of Babel. 

The awards were judged by panels of experts drawn from across the music sector, with the exception of the President’s Award which was the result of a public online vote. 

Making Music is the UK’s membership organisation for leisure-time music, and represents almost a quarter of a million music makers across the country. The organisation is dedicated to empowering everyone, whatever their background or experience, to come together in their community to make or present music as a group.

The Making Music Awards 2023 winners and shortlisted nominees are as follows:

Best music creator for leisure-time music group 

  • Winner: Richard Blackford 
  • Shortlisted: Ashley Thompson, Kirby Spencer 

Winner Richard Blackford wrote Babel, a cantata for choir and small orchestra, for Camden Choir’s 50th anniversary. The panel praised the piece’s assurance, pace, part writing and convincing use of musical colour. The piece is based on the stories of Noah’s Flood and the Tower of Babel.  

Watch a video of shortlisted nominees:

Video created by Peter Baumann


Best arranger for leisure-time music group 

  • Winner: Fran Carter  
  • Shortlisted: Christopher Killerby, Harry Castle

Winner Fran Carter arranged a Harry Styles song Treat People With Kindness for Vocal Dimension Chorus, a women’s a capella chorus based in Surrey. The panel praised the message of hope conveyed by Fran’s arrangement, which they felt made the song both ideal for chorus and very enjoyable both to perform and listen to.

The panel for Best music creator and Best arranger awards included Debbie Wiseman OBE (President of Making Music), Dorothy Wilson MBE FRSA (Vice Chair of Making Music), Russell Keable (Music Director of Kensington Symphony Orchestra), and Sally Groves MBE (former Creative Director of Schott Music). 

Watch a video of shortlisted nominees:

Video created by Peter Baumann


Best project with a focus on new music 

  • Winner: The GSA Choir for the Composeher project 
  • Shortlisted: Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus  

The ambitious Composeher project was devised by the Glasgow School of Art Choir (GSA) in response to a survey revealing huge gender inequalities in the granting of music commissions. Composeher shone a spotlight on seven female composers by commissioning each of them to compose a new choral work. The project also included workshops to engage with, and encourage, a national discussion surrounding women within the music industry. 

Panel for the Best project with a focus on new music included Dorothy Wilson (Vice Chair of Making Music), Jo Towler FRSA (Chief Executive of Music in the Round), Carl Stevens (Senior Manager, Audience Insight & Innovation / Music at Arts Council England) and Michael Betteridge (Composer, Musical and Artistic Director of The Sunday Boys, previous winners of this award. 

Watch a video of shortlisted nominees:

Video created by Peter Baumann


Lady Hilary Groves Prize

  • Winner: Christopher Green  
  • Shortlisted: Gwyn L Williams, Peter Morris  

Winner Christopher Green has been the inspiration and energy behind a wide range of amateur music in Suffolk and Essex for over six decades. Chris has been Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Trianon Music Group over its entire 64 years. Chris has made a huge contribution to the musical and general artistic life of Ipswich through leadership of Ipswich Arts Association. He also conducts the Anglia Singers, based at Anglia Ruskin University (Chelmsford). 

The panel for this award included Phil Castang MBE (Music for Youth Chief Executive and Chair of the Music Education Council), Helen Harrison (Conductor of Blackpool Symphony Orchestra, amongst several), Dorothy Wilson MBE FRSA (Vice Chair of Making Music) and Valerie Taylor (conductor and Making Music trustee). 

Watch the shortlisted nominees' video

Video created by Peter Baumann

Making Music Green Award 

  • Winner: Derwent Brass  
  • Highly commended: Maldon Orchestra 
  • Shortlisted: KJV Community Children's Choir, Sheffield Brass Network  

Winner Derwent Brass are based in Derbyshire and strives to lead the way for sustainability within brass banding. They launched six sustainability pledges in 2022, selected to have a meaningful and measurable impact on their day-to-day operations, and have since made a wide range of changes to improve their environmental sustainability.  

Highly commended Maldon Orchestra is a much smaller organisation than Derwent Brass, but it, too, has thought about all the practical aspects of its activities. The group methodically analysed its carbon foot print and where and how it could be reduced in small but practical ways which can be copied by many other groups. A shining example of what can be done by a small volunteer-led group with limited resource.

The panel for this award included: Rhiannon Harrison (Chair of Making Music), Alice Nicolay (Senior Officer, Arts Council England), Barbara Eifler (Chief Executive of Making Music) and Harriet Laidler (Project Administrator at Making Music). 

President's Award (winner decided by public vote) 

  • Winner: Brian Woodley
  • Shortlisted: Daniel Friesner of Wye Valley Chamber Music Festival, Nikki Lord of Bolton Symphony Orchestra, Sebastian Valentine of Blue Light Symphony 

Winner Brian Woodley has been a loyal and conscientious member of The Blackheath Choir for well over forty years, as one of the tenor sections but also as the vital role of concert manager. His fellow singers have praised him as dedicated, extremely competent – a tower of strength, whose roles have contributed significantly to the growth and health of the choir in multiple ways. 

Making Music presents numerous awards and prizes to individuals, music groups and organisations in both the leisure-time and professional music sectors. Find out more