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Rushworth Composition Prize Winners

The Rushworth Composition Prize in association with the Rushworth Foundation was established in 2015 during the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary year, and forms part of the organisation’s continuing commitment to the commissioning and performance of new music as well and supporting home-grown talent.

Previous recipients of the Prize are now composing, arranging and conducting for national organisations, including BBC Proms, BBC Radio 3. BBC Radio 4, Cheltenham Music Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe. Works and arrangements by three of the winners were recently performed at the launch of mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston’s residency at Liverpool Philharmonic in September 2019 with a programme of songs dedicated to Liverpool.


Samuel Kane (2023)

From a farm in Northern Ireland, Sam grew up with a love for classical and traditional Irish music. He was presented with the Northern Ireland Young Musician of the Year award before moving to Manchester where he studied violin with Cecily Ward at the Royal Northern College of Music. Sam was leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra and has enjoyed playing with Ulster Orchestra and Manchester Camerata. Sam performed Bruch’s First Violin Concerto with the Manchester Beethoven Orchestra and was awarded the RNCM Norman George violin prize after performing works including one of his own compositions. Sam has performed recitals at UK and Ireland Festivals such as Clandeboye, Charles Wood, Enys, Blackwater Valley Opera, Belfast International Music Festival, and Harp Ireland.

Sam is passionate about composing and performing new music – particularly music that combines his two favourite genres: neo-romanticism and Irish traditional. He was commissioned to write a piece for the Belfast-based Hard Rain Soloist Ensemble, and this year was selected to play alongside them as a HRSE Featured Young Artist. Sam has studied composition with Neil Martin and Steven Daverson, as well as having lessons with one of his favourite composers, Caroline Shaw, at the Stauffer Centre for Strings, Cremona. Sam performed his own violin compositions at Wigmore Hall, Leighton House, and St James’ Palace, London, as well as collaborating with pianist Ruth McGinley on BBC Radio Ulster’s Classical Connections programme. One of Sam’s larger works (premiered by soprano Zoë Valleé and the Carme Ensemble) was broadcast on Classic FM, winning Classic FM’s ‘Big Platinum Performance’ prize. Sam is now in his final year of Masters at the RNCM, and is kindly supported by the Irish Heritage Homman Potterton Bursary and Help Musicians Postgraduate Awards.


Christopher Cook wearing a blue shirt with his arms crossed looking into the camera

Christopher Cook (2022)

Christopher Cook is a composer for classical ensembles and media based in Manchester, UK. His music has been performed internationally, including in the US by the Dallas Brass Band (the first section champions) and in MediaCity, Salford, UK by the BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Elena Schwarz. He is the 2022 winner of the Brookwright International Brass Band composition competition and Paul Hindmarsh, one of the adjudicators, described his work as ‘imaginative, colourful, and thoroughly engaging’. In 2021, he was a finalist in the John Armitage Memorial Prize and in 2022, he was an RNCM Gold medal finalist and was awarded the Rosamond Prize for his collaboration with the poet Katherine Collins.

In 2020, he received a scholarship to the Royal Northern College of Music thanks to the Richard Newitt Fund, completing a composition masters under Adam Gorb and Emily Howard. He has since worked with many professional ensembles and performers including the Villiers Quartet, Onyx Brass and more recently, Ausiàs Garrigós Morant and the BBC Singers. He has also written the soundtrack to several internationally released feature films including Code of Silence (2021) starring Stephen Moyer, Wolves of War (2022) and the award-winning animated short Skeleton of a Moth (2021). 

On winning the Rushworth Composition Prize, Christopher said:
"My experience with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic has been incredibly fulfilling and hugely rewarding in both the chance to work closely with such world renowned players and also the wider opportunities associated with the prize, including the mentorship and broader collaborations I’ve now been able to form.I would highly recommend anyone who’s looking to bring their work to the next level to apply, as it was the most amazing feeling to have all that support and encouragement throughout the year; culminating in such an amazing performance of my piece by Ensemble 10:10 and Gabriella Teychenné which I will be forever grateful for."

Nneka Cummins (2021)

Nneka Cummins is a composer and music producer from Liverpool. Currently studying composition at Master’s level at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Nneka has been awarded the Gareth Neame Scholarship and the Trinity College London Scholarship. 

Prior to Trinity Laban, Nneka was a full-time solicitor and holds a first-class undergraduate degree in Law from Durham University.  

On winning the prize Nneka said: 
“Liverpool is where my passion for music was nurtured and as a teenager, I played in venues across the city as part of Saturday Morning Music Centre’s Liverpool Youth Orchestra. I’m grateful to Liverpool Philharmonic for this opportunity and very much look forward to working with Ensemble 10:10. It’s great to be deepening my musical connection to Liverpool.”  

Alex Papp (2020)

Alex Papp is a composer and violinist, originally from Southport. He currently holds a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. Papp is a composer alumnus of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and was an associate composer with the Britten Sinfonia Academy.

In 2016, Papp won the Royal Scottish National Orchestra “Notes from Scotland” Young Composer Competition and in 2020, the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra Emerging Composer Prize.

Following winning the Rushworth Composition Prize, Alex commented:

“The Rushworth Composition Prize allowed me to write my best piece to date and have an incredible recording of it. Just on that alone, it has had a massive impact on my compositional output as it’s allowed me to take the risk to write music in a way I had not previously considered before. Having the workshop with the players was extremely useful in making adjustments to my piece, and the mentorship with Stephen was really insightful - I learnt a great deal from him. Having a piece performed on the stage of the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall was something I had always dreamed of, so to be given that opportunity through this prize is something that will stay with me forever. "

 Athanasia Kontou (2019)

Athanasia Kontou is a composer and pianist from Greece. She has studied composition at the Royal Northern College of Music, and her music has been workshopped by the BBC Singers, Elias String Quartet and ensemble deCompagnie (BE).  Her first orchestral work was premiered by the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra in May 2017, and other works have been performed in the UK, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Austria.

Speaking about her experience of winning the Rushworth Composition Prize, Athanasia said:

Winning the Rushworth Composition Prize has been an all-round incredible experience. Ensemble 10:10 are a brilliant ensemble and it was a privilege to write for them. The premiere of my work was fantastically performed, a definite highlight of my career so far. The prize also gave me the chance to meet and connect with people from the industry whom I admire and respect."


Carmel Smickersgill (2018)

Carmel Smickersgill is a composer now based in Manchester, having finished an undergraduate degree in composition with Gary Carpenter at the Royal Northern College of Music. Her music has been performed on BBC Radio 3. She has previously been commissioned by Brighter Sound and has written for ensembles and performers such as Psappha, No Dice and CoMA.

As a performer, Carmel has directed her own ensemble, Smudge, and has been part of a collaboration between visual artist Liam Gillick and the band, New Order. She has previously been awarded the Terence Greeves Prize for big band composition, as well as the Edward Hecht Prize for composition during her time in college.

On winning the Rushworth Composition Prize, Carmel said:

“When I was awarded the prize it was the Christopher Brooks Prize. The scheme helped me learn how to work with professional ensembles as a composer in an environment where it was ok to get stuff wrong and ask questions and have conversations with performers about their instruments, conversations with programmers and education project leaders about other sides of the organisation and with other composers. It was the most invaluable support for me at the time I was awarded it because it helped me build up my confidence and experience as a professional (as opposed to student or amateur) composer. The recording from the concert of the commissioned work has since led to me being offered other opportunities, awards and commissions. Something that has been massively helpful to my career, but is the result of so many people at Liverpool Phil’s work.”

Grace-Evangeline Mason (2017)

Grace-Evangeline Mason studied composition at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. Since winning the BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers competition in 2013her music has been performed as part of the BBC Proms, broadcast on BBC Radios 3 and 4, and in venues across the UK and internationally. In 2014, she was also a composer in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.

On winning the Rushworth Composition Prize, Grace-Evangeline said:

“'The prize was a wonderful introduction to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and I was elated to have been given the opportunity to write for such fantastic and supportive musicians. My ongoing relationship with the orchestra has been a highlight of my career so far and it is a true privilege to make music with them; a relationship I continue to value immensely.”

Richard Miller (2016)

Liverpool-born Richard Miller completed undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Composition at the Royal College of Music, studying with Kenneth Hesketh and Simon Holt. He has also worked with composers Sally Beamish, Colin Matthews, Mark Simpson and the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

Bethan Morgan-Williams (2015)

Bethan Morgan-Williams gained early recognition as a composer, winning the Under-15 Composition Class at the Urdd National Eisteddford in 2004, and with works performed at Wells Cathedral School, the University of Bristol and the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM).

In 2010, Bethan gained a scholarship to the RNCM as a joint-study violinist/composer, studying composition under Gary Carpenter and violin under Leland Chen. In 2014, she was shortlisted for Manchester Jazz Festival’s Irwin Mitchell Prize.

Cookies on our website

Liverpool Philharmonic has updated its cookie policy. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. This includes cookies from third party social media websites. Such third party cookies may track your use on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time.