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  • 15 Nov 2019

Byron Wallen’s new commission for the 25th anniversary of Awards for Artists

This year we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Awards for Artists. Between 1994 and 2019, the awards recognised 175 artists across a range of artforms with funding totalling £7.2 million. The largest award to individual artists in the UK, Awards for Artists gives recipients the freedom to develop their creative ideas, contributing to their personal and professional growth. Unlike any other scheme, the awards come with no expectations or obligations.

To mark the anniversary, the Foundation commissioned a piece of music for the first time. We asked 2017 composer recipient Byron Wallen to write a new work that he felt encapsulated the awards, their impact, history and the spirit in which they are given. Performed with his band Four Corners, Wallen’s composition Unicorn Suite premiered at the Awards for Artists 2019 reception at LSO St Luke’s in front of an audience of over 300 leading artists, composers and arts and cultural professionals from across the UK.

Byron describes his inspiration for Unicorn Suite, which you can listen to below:

“Back in 2017, I was a recipient of the Awards for Artists. The last few years have flown by with the award bestowing gifts of affirmation, time and opportunity. Since the moment I was informed of the award the fabric of my life has entered a magical, enchanted phase. Such a meticulously researched and generous award, given with no strings attached is almost unbelievable in the realms of our social political climate. It seemed right then to name my piece after a mythological animal that is a symbol of miracles, purity, innocence and enchantment in cultures all over the world. The piece begins with the sonorous bell sounds of hand chimes; we then hear the arrival of the unicorn and are enamoured by its presence and the gifts of compassion and the belief in a brighter deeper experience of life. For this composition it was important for me to play with my longstanding group Four Corners. We have developed an empathy and rapport over the last five years that transforms dots off the page into evocative music.”

We would like to thank Byron Wallen on trumpet, Mike De Souza on guitar, Paul Michael on bass,  Rod Youngs on drums and Julian Siegal joining them on tenor saxophone for their stirring performance.