Wed 5 Jul 17
The highly prestigious RPS (Royal Philharmonic Society) Music Award for Audiences and
Engagement 2017 was presented last night to Memorial Ground, a new choral work by American, Grammy Award
winning composer, David Lang. It was co-commissioned by the East Neuk Festival (ENF) and 14-18 NOW - the UK's
arts programme for the First World War centenary – with the support of Creative Scotland to mark the centenary of
the Battle of the Somme. World premiered on 2 July 2016 at the East Neuk Festival in Fife by singers from local choirs, Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus and Theatre of Voices conducted by Paul Hillier, it was then performed by choirs across all four UK nations. The RPS Music Awards, presented in association with BBC Radio 3, are the highest recognition for live classical music in the UK and East Neuk Festival is proud to have now won the same award twice (previously in 2007) and also to have been in the company of such auspicious contenders as Chineke! Orchestra and #DnA/Birmingham Opera.
Memorial Ground is the latest in ENF's annual series of 'Big Projects' which aim to commission new work from major composers that bring together professional and community musicians, and reflect the shared history and heritage of the East Neuk of Fife where the Festival happens.
ENF Artistic Director Svend McEwan-Brown commented: "Looking back over the decade since ENF last won this award, it gives me great pleasure to see how the Festival's audience has grown so dramatically and how its work has evolved. We're inspired by Benjamin Britten and Peter Maxwell Davies, two composers and festival founders who showed how 'community' music can also be world class music in its own right, and deserves it place on the main stage of our festival. We aim to draw our audience into the commissioning, creating and performing of new work, to build understanding and a powerful relationship that enriches everyone's experience. This work is far more demanding than simply putting on a concert and I would especially like to thank composers like John Luther Adams and David Lang who show such inspiring generosity of spirit and have given us such memorable, enduring and meaningful music."
While ENF Chairman, Donald MacDonald added: "We are delighted to win this award, particularly bearing in mind the category of Audience and Engagement which are crucial components of artistic activity. The Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Lang has produced a moving piece to which individual choirs, not just in the East Neuk of Fife but all over the country, have been able to put their own perspectives. We are most grateful to our supporters - 14-18 NOW and Creative Scotland - who helped make this project happen."
Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, said: 'It's fantastic that East Neuk Festival has won this well-deserved and prestigious award. David Lang's Memorial Ground was a highlight of 14-18 NOW's season of new commissions marking the centenary of the First World War. The nature of the work called for a very personal response exploring the tragedy of the Somme, engaging many local communities and bringing people together.'
Janice Kelly of Creative Scotland said: "Memorial Ground is an excellent example of the cultural collaborations that have so vividly brought into public consciousness the personal sacrifices, stories, and memories inspired by WWI. As one of the high-profile projects supported through Creative Scotland's relationship with 14-18 NOW, Memorial Ground makes a significant contribution to activity in Scotland. We congratulate East Neuk Festival for its ambitious partnership with David Lang, and on winning this RPS Music Award."
With Memorial Ground David Lang has created an act of remembrance and constructed his score to allow every choir
that performs it to personalise it with their own choices of texts, duration, forces, and scale, thereby making it unique
to their community and place. Following the premiere, the score and a wealth of online materials (including audio and video aids) were made available to choirs free. A four-month online and social media campaign was also enacted to inspire and assist them in adapting the piece to their own skills and WW1 stories. The resulting concerts took place in schools, churches, cathedrals, schools, universities - even health centres - from Belfast to Skipton, Canterbury to Cumbria, and Gosport to Glasgow around Remembrance weekend in November 2016.
To date, 40 events have taken place, involving more than 1600 participants performing to over 5,600 people – a huge audience for a new work of this kind.
The project was originally intended to last the duration of The Battle of the Somme (i.e. to 18 November 2016) but
David Lang has made Memorial Ground available for free until the end of November 2018 to mark the end of the
Great War a century ago, as well as the final year of 14-18 NOW's major arts initiative. More performances are already planned for 2017.
And, last but not least, composer David Lang: " Wow! This is so exciting! Working on Memorial Ground was so
meaningful to so many people - my deep thanks to all the amateur and professional singers who participated in these
performances. And thanks to the Royal Philharmonic Society for recognizing our commitment, our passion, and our
A special programme dedicated to the RPS Music Awards will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at 19.30hrs on
Sunday 14 May.
The East Neuk Festival's 'Big Project' for 2017, devised to embrace both local musicians and audiences, is entitled
De Profundis and pays tribute to the Fife mining communities and their legacy of brass band music.