Phoenix celebrates at national awards ceremony


It’s been a momentous week for Leicestershire’s Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra (PSO) and Scotland’s Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra (ASO), who were down at London’s Wigmore Hall on Monday (1 November) for the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) awards – the Oscars of the classical music world, presented by BBC Radio 3’s Katie Dereham.

The two groups had been jointly shortlisted for a prestigious RPS Inspiration Award in recognition of a pioneering cross-border project, produced for Make Music Day in June this year, where 17 saxophonists from the two groups, playing seven different types of saxophone, joined forces to record an arrangement of Julius Fučík’s rousing march ‘Entry of the Gladiators’.

Following a public vote which drew an amazing 4,667 responses, the award went to Hilary Campbell and the Bristol Choral Society. PSO’s Jane Smith and ASO’s Foss Foster (pictured left) were delighted to attend the glittering ceremony, meet their fellow nominees and take in the true spectacle of the occasion.

RPS Chief Executive James Murphy said: “Our expert panel decided on this year’s shortlist from countless groups nationwide, and all six nominees – who each received several hundred votes – are winners in our eyes. Phoenix and Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestras should feel justly proud to have brought recognition to their instrument, and indeed to wind bands and orchestras. They are a remarkable force for good, and long may that continue.”

The RPS awards are widely considered to be the highest accolades in the UK for classical music, celebrating excellence and innovation, and recognition by the RPS is a guarantee of outstanding musical achievement. BBC Radio 3, who are the media partner for the RPS Awards say that “for classical music, it’s like the Oscars, the BAFTAs and the Grammys all in one”.

PSO’s Jane Smith said: “It is a true honour for us to have been shortlisted for this award. We’d like to thank everyone who voted for and supported us, and to congratulate the Bristol Choral Society and all our fellow nominees on their fantastic achievements. We are now looking forward to more joint projects with ASO, and maybe even some of the other Inspiration Award nominees too! Music has the power to unite us all, across borders, and we will be taking every opportunity we can to make music together and to continue to show the versatility of the saxophone in all genres of music, including classical!”

ASO’s Foss Foster said: “It has been a delight working with our new friends in Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra. It just goes to show that distance needn’t to be an obstacle, and we fully intend to carry on with a joint music making programme, both live and digital. It is a massive boost to our efforts that the RPS has chosen to honour us and our saxophones this year, and the nomination has already helped ASO attract seven new players!”

The other Inspiration Award nominees were Themba Mvula and Lichfield Gospel Choir; South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus; Orkney Winter Choir and Orkney Camerata, and Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra.

A selection of music from the award winners will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at 7.30pm on Monday 8 November and a film of the complete RPS Awards presentation will be freely available here on the RPS website from 9 November.


PSO and ASO recorded Entry of the Gladiators for International Make Music Day, a celebration of music that takes place on 21 June every year, currently across 125 countries. The piece was arranged for saxophones by Jonathan Shaw, with audio produced by David Fiander and video by Jane Smith. You can find more information and view the video here.

Media coverage

Cap Arts Centre/Making Music, Nov 2021

BBC Radio Leicester, Ady Dayman Show, 3 November 2021

Harborough Mail online, 11 November 2021