Winners of 2021 Making Music Awards announced

Annual awards celebrate leisure-time music groups and the often unrecognised talent that helps music to flourish in communities across the UK

Making Music, the UK’s membership organisation for leisure-time music groups, has announced the winners of the 2021 Making Music Awards. The annual awards celebrate the creativity of Making Music’s 3,600 member groups as well as the talent and tireless work of individuals who help to make the UK’s leisure-time music sector so vibrant. 

This year’s awards included two new categories, Group Hero, which was awarded to an individual, small team or committee who went above and beyond to keep their group together through the challenges of 2020, and Best Music Director, for which so many nominations were received that two awards were given – one to a Music Director of a vocal group, and one to a Music Director of an instrumental group. The awards were presented by Debbie Wiseman OBE, Making Music President and award-winning composer, at an online awards ceremony on Wednesday 8 September.

Barbara Eifler, Making Music Chief Executive, said:

“This year’s awards, to no-one’s surprise, carry the sign of Covid. But they celebrate the positives: the amazing creativity and ingenuity displayed by music creators, arrangers, conductors, group members and organisers, in order to continue making music together and supporting each other socially, too.

“Making Music is proud to highlight, through these awards, the joyous persistence music groups have been showing in the face of adversity. We have been especially touched by the vast number of heartfelt tributes to music directors and group heroes which demonstrate that those who lead and organise music groups make a real difference to people’s lives.”

Debbie Wiseman OBE, Making Music President, said:

“The latest Making Music Awards winners – and all the nominees – have displayed, as usual and despite the challenging circumstances, an extremely high standard of music-making. The tenacity and enthusiasm of the individuals and groups who have come together to create such excellent work is an inspiration to us all here at Making Music, and we are proud to recognise and applaud the creativity and ingenuity of everybody who is moved to make music, through good times and bad. Congratulations to everyone involved in this year’s awards ceremony, and special congratulations to the winners to whom it was an honour for me to present the awards.”

The Making Music Awards 2021 winners and shortlisted nominees are as follows: 

Best music creator for leisure-time music group

  • Winner: Neil Brownless, Abingdon Concert BandKeep the Rhythm Going for concert band. Watch on YouTube

Shortlisted: Mark Elvin, Horsham Symphony Orchestra; Ashley Thompson, Phoenix Singers, Leek

Best arranger for leisure-time music group

  • Joint winners: Paul Ayres, Harrow Choral SocietyWhere’er you walk (G.F. Handel) arr. for SATB choir
    Michael Betteridge, The Sunday BoysSummer will come again (Swedish psalm) arr. for choir in three parts

Panel for best music creator and best arranger: Debbie Wiseman OBE, Making Music President; Sally Groves MBE; Russell Keable from Kensington Symphony Orchestra; and Dorothy Wilson MBE FRSA, Making Music Chair

Best project with a focus on new music (21st century)

  • Winner: Bristol Choral Society – The Mary Otty Christmas Carol Composition Competition. 70 submissions were received from all over the world and whittled down to a shortlist of five, which were rehearsed and recorded by the 120-strong choir between lockdowns. The online finale sold 400 tickets for charity.

Shortlisted: Llandaff Cathedral Choral Society – Winter Legends, Christmas Bells: a festival of nine songs; The Sunday Boys – At Home: 90-minute online concert including new pieces

Panel for best project with a focus on new music: Carl Stevens, Arts Council England Senior Manager, Audience Insight & Innovation/Music; Clare Edwards, Conductor and Producer; and Dorothy Wilson MBE FRSA, Making Music Chair

Best vocal group Music Director

  • Winner: Hilary Campbell, Chiswick Choir and Bristol Choral Society

Shortlisted: Themba Mvula, Lichfield Gospel Choir; Johnny Kilhams, Walton Voices

Best instrumental group Music Director

  • Winner: Robert Baxter, Helensburgh Orchestral Society, Glasgow Chamber Orchestra and Dunbartonshire Concert Band

Shortlisted: Samantha Harrison, Elland Silver Youth Band; Hugh Boyd, The Moonlight Mandolin Orchestra (Cambridgeshire Mandolin and Guitar Association)

Panel for best vocal director and best instrumental music director: Martyn Brabbins, Music Director of English National Opera; Manvinder Rattan, Head of Conductor Training and CEO of Sing for Pleasure; Valerie Taylor, Music Director of Vocal Dimension Chorus and Making Music board member; and Dorothy Wilson MBE FRSA, Making Music Chair

Group Hero (public vote)

  • Winner: St Neots Choral Society committee. Nominated by St Neots Choral Society for the innovative ways it kept members engaged during lockdown rather than starting Zoom rehearsals, including a Desert Island Discs project, monthly newsletters, quizzes, selecting favourite clips from previous concerts, and a photography competition for members and their families.

Also shortlisted for public vote: Choir with No Name managers; Ella Miskin, Vocal Dimension Chorus; John and Julie Bradbury-Sharp, Knot Another Choir; Peter Steadman, Leatherhead Concert and Arts Society. Read nominations

Lady Hilary Groves Prize

Presented to an individual of a Making Music member group who has made an outstanding contribution to the success of their music group or music in the community

  • Winner: Derek Harrison. As Music Director of Hertford Choral Society for 44 seasons, Derek has provided the choir of currently 140 singers with both the stability of clear, creative leadership and the confidence inspired by a community figure able to understand and respond to the growing and changing interests of Hertfordshire audiences. Find out more

President’s Award

Presented to a Making Music volunteer in recognition of exceptional service to the organisation

  • Joint winners: Glynne Stackhouse, Chair of Selected Artists Panel (2017-2020) and Stephen Leeder, Secretary of Selected Artists Panel (2011-2020)

Every year, Making Music present a range of awards and prizes to individual musicians, music groups and organisations in both the leisure-time and professional sectors. For more information, contact Sally Palmer, Making Music Projects Manager, at


Making Music, 8 Holyrood Street, London SE1 2EL
020 7939 6030

Twitter: @MakingMusic_UK
Instagram: @makingmusicuk

Making Music, The National Federation of Music Societies
A company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales no. 308632
Registered Charity in England and Wales no. 249219 and in Scotland no. SC038849

Notes to editors

Making Music has championed leisure-time music groups since 1935 across the UK with practical services, artistic development opportunities and by providing a collective voice for its members. We represent over 3,600 groups made up of around 200,000 musicians of all types, genres and abilities. We help them run their groups so they can get on with making music!



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