Sax orchestras shortlisted for national RPS award


Leicestershire’s Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra and Scotland’s Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra (ASO) have been jointly shortlisted for a prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) national award, and they are calling on the Leicestershire community, and saxophonists worldwide, to give them their vote!

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”.

These awards usually go to professional musicians, with past winners including percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, singer Bryn Terfel and conductor Simon Rattle. But this year, the RPS has chosen to present one of its awards – the ‘Inspiration Award’ – exclusively to a non-professional group.

Phoenix and ASO have been jointly shortlisted for the 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 joined forces to record an arrangement of the rousing march ‘Entry of the Gladiators’, by Czech composer Julius Fučík.

The six shortlisted nominees have been selected from literally thousands of potential projects nationwide by a panel of experts. The nominees are now being featured prominently on the RPS website and the public is being asked to vote for a winner. There is a dedicated page for each nominee with a short video describing the project.

Speaking about the project, RPS Chief Executive James Murphy said: “While the pandemic isolated us all to some extent, it’s stirring to hear of people nationwide who brightly, brilliantly found ways to make connections they hadn’t before. Connecting with each other, Phoenix and ASO have found fresh drive, energy, and new friends for life. Shared Zoom rehearsals led to this expression of true unity – an encounter which everyone cherished, and which looks set to continue both online and in person.”

The RPS has also recognised other activities undertaken individually by the two groups over the past year, saying: “ Phoenix recorded a Christmas single raising funds for the charity Voluntary Action South Leicestershire, held online workshops with their patron, renowned sax soloist Gerard McChrystal, and even remarkably increased their membership thanks to a committed, creative media campaign throughout the year. Meanwhile, the Aberdeenshire cohort met regularly online, they filmed themselves performing a piece by Musical Director Richard Ingham at the Easter Aquorthies stone circle in Inverurie and, through Making Music, commissioned disabled composer Ben Lunn to write a new work, created through a series of online conversations drawing on the players’ own musical passions.”

Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra’s Jane Smith, who plays soprano sax on the piece, said: “Being able to make music across borders in this way has been a real inspiration for all of us, and we are absolutely thrilled to have been chosen as joint nominees for this Award. We all put a lot of work into it – from arranging and rehearsing to recording and video production. We’ve learned so much along the way and it’s fantastic that the Royal Philharmonic Society has selected us for this honour. We now hope that saxophonists worldwide and our local communities will take a moment to vote for us on the RPS website and help put sax, Leicestershire and Aberdeenshire firmly on the musical map!”

The winner will be announced at a ceremony at London’s Wigmore Hall on 1 November.

View full video – Entry of the Gladiators!

Notes to editors

  • Phoenix and ASO are both members of Making Music, the UK’s membership organisation for leisure-time music. They first got together after Phoenix came across ASO online, and ASO’s Musical Director Richard Ingham invited Phoenix along to one of their Zoom rehearsals. The joint piece Entry of the Gladiators was recorded for International Make Music Day, a celebration of music that takes place on 21 June every year, currently across 125 countries.
  • Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra currently has 15 active members. The group formed in January 2020 for adults to enjoy playing the saxophone together and to share the versatility of the sax with a wider audience. Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra has 35 members aged 11 to 79, some of whom joined during lockdown. The group was formed in September 2019 from an original Schools Music Service/Youth Music Initiative funded orchestra. ASO is now an independent orchestra welcoming all ages and a wide range of playing standards.

For more information, please contact

Jane Smith, Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra, 07800 523077,

Foss Foster, Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra, 07719 690878,

Victoria Taylor, Royal Philharmonic Society, 07900 183560,

In the Media

CASS GB E-Newsletter, September 2021

Harborough Mail, 16 September 2021

BBC Radio Leicester, 6 September 2021

Harborough FM News Bulletin, 3 September 2021

Harborough FM website, 3 September 2021

Aberdeenshire Evening Express, 2 September 2021

National media (mentions)

Classical Music UK, 2 September 2021, 29 September 2021, 29 September 2021

Opera Wire, 4 October 2021

The Violin Channel, 4 October 2021

Regional media (mentions)

Lichfield Live, 3 September 2021

Bristol Post, 8 September 2021

Wales Art Review, 13 September 2021, 1 October 2021