Composer of the year accolade delights brass band maestro Simon Dobson
A Cornish composer who has already enjoyed a meteoric career and won a string of major awards was this week named brass band composer of the year.
Simon Dobson, who is originally from Launceston but now lives in Plymouth, was presented with the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) award at a lavish ceremony in London's Goldsmiths' Hall.
To put the 31-year-old's success into context, winners of the other BASCA categories this year included world-famous composers Thomas Ades and Sir Harrison Birtwistle.
A cornet player with Lostwithiel Brass Band at the age of five, Simon Dobson went on to study at the Royal College of Music and was named European Young Composer of the Year in 2003. As well as composing his own work, he works with brass bands across Europe and regularly judges competitions in Switzerland, Belgium and Scandinavia.
Speaking after this week's presentation for his A Symphony of Colours, he said: "To be honest, I wasn't really nervous about the ceremony because I was sure I had no chance of winning. I was just sitting back and enjoying the free champagne, red carpet treatment and wonderful surroundings of Goldsmiths' Hall. It's a grand place and I really felt the weight of the occasion. So when my name was announced as the winner I was extremely surprised. To receive such a prestigious award in the company of world class composers such as Harrison Birtwistle and Thomas Ades is something I am very proud of – and I hope it reflects the growing importance of contemporary works for brass bands."
The British Composer Awards are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PRS for Music in association with BBC Radio 3, which is broadcasting a programme about this year's awards at 2pm on Sunday.
A Symphony Of Colours, which was written for the award-winning Fairey Band and premiered at the 2010 European Brass Band Championships in Montreux, took the honours in the Wind Band/Brass Band category. Fairey's musical director, Russell Gray, who commissioned the piece, described the Cornish composer as "a genius – a dark, mad genius". BASCA's judges said their decision had been "unanimous".
Simon, who described his winning composition as a "homage" to 20th century French composer Olivier Messiaen, said he had written it in only four weeks. "I just worked and slept for a month," he said.
"I had no social life and hardly left the house during that time. I would work for 18 hours, sleep a bit, and then get back to the work. It wore me out and nearly broke me but this award proves it was worth it."
Simon is currently working on a Benjamin Britten-themed commission with Gavin Higgins and Paul McGhee for the Brass Band Heritage Trust, which is due to be performed by Tredegar Band at the 2013 Royal Northern Festival of Brass. After that he will be working on a CD of his own work, which is likely to include Penlee, written as a tribute to those who died in the 1981 Penlee Lifeboat disaster.