Helen SprottNMC Recordings announces appointment of Helen Sprott as Executive Director

NMC has announced that Helen Sprott will succeed Anne Rushton as Executive Director. In a year-long appointment, commencing 1 November 2020, Helen will lead the strategic, financial, and artistic activities of the charity. Following a staffing restructure with General Manager Eleanor Wilson going on maternity leave, she will work with Director of Development Alex Wright, a newly appointed Recordings & Marketing Manager, and the NMC Board.


'Anne Rushton is a precious jewel who, working tirelessly with its inspired founder composer Colin Matthews and the gifted NMC team, has enabled NMC to become a national treasure that also shines far beyond the boundaries of the UK. It is testament to the stature of the organisation that it can attract a person of the exceptional calibre of Helen Sprott as Anne’s successor. How fortunate NMC is to be welcoming Helen into the fold, to carry and nurture the treasure into the future over the next months.'Jackie Newbould, Interim Chair


‘From pragmatic beginnings in 1989 NMC has grown into a substantial and dynamic survey of British contemporary music whose value grows with every new acquisition. Founder, Colin Matthew CBE, outgoing Executive Director Anne Rushton, and NMC’s enterprising team are to be admired for the fearlessness with which they have pursued their mission. To browse the catalogue is a wonder and delight and I look forward to many more extraordinary discoveries, and the satisfaction of championing this phenomenal national resource. Thank you to NMC’s dedicated Trustees for the privilege of accompanying NMC into a new era!’Helen Sprott


About Helen Sprott

Helen has spent her career in music. Following an early career break with publisher Faber and Faber where she was appointed Commissioning Editor, Music Books, Helen has gone on to leadership roles in broadcast television (she was an award-winning Commissioning Editor with Channel 4 Television) and in orchestral administration, as Managing Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra. For 12 years, Helen was Arts Council England’s Director, Music, first in London then nationally, overseeing public investment in music and music education. Helen has worked as an independent recruitment consultant, advising arts organisations on senior executive appointments, and is an Associate with Not-for-Profit recruitment specialists, Execucare. In January 2020, Helen was appointed to the Board of St Martin in the Fields Limited; in December 2020, she joins the Board of the Academy of Ancient Music.


YCSThe NYCGB Young Composers Scheme is an annual initiative which identifies and develops four talented composers aged 18-29 who are passionate about creating high quality, imaginative new music for vocal ensembles. NMC is delighted to be the programme's digital partner.






Now entering in its third year, the scheme aims to challenge perceptions of, and support the development, innovation and diversity of new choral music. Running over a whole year, it offers a four-phase programme of residential courses, workshops, peer and professional mentoring and performance showcases and outlets.  

Most residential courses will be shared with the National Youth Choir and NYCGB Fellowship, allowing composers an exceptional opportunity to work in partnership with and have their music brought to life by two outstanding ensembles of young singers of their own age. There will be expert advice and tuition from distinguished composers. Professional mentoring will be led by NYCGB Artistic Director and composer Ben Parry, a highly sought-after composer. His music is published by OUP and Peters Edition and he has many years’ experience in writing for a variety of media. Previous Guest mentors include Errollyn Wallen, John Rutter, Roxanna Panufnik, Richard Allain, Anna Meredith, Alexandra Harwood, Jonathan Dove and Eleanor Alberga.

We will provide exceptional showcase opportunities for works completed during the programme and a professional recording and release for their work on NMC Recordings. NYCGB and NMC Recordings will significantly raise awareness of the young composers and their work through publicity and profiling. Each composer will be awarded a personal Innovation Fund of £500 to undertake their own creative initiatives. 

Young Composers will receive free licenses and training in Dorico Pro notation software by Programme Innovation Grant Sponsors (Technology Partner), Steinberg Media Technologies, a piece of music published and promoted by Innovation Grant Sponsors (Publishing Partner), Stainer & Bell, specialist workshops with Stainer & Bell, including a joint workshop with Steinberg Media Technologies on notation (preparing scores for publication), and further workshops on publishing, royalties, copyright and useful resources. Young Composers also take part in an annual retreat at The Red House, Aldeburgh, home to composer Benjamin Britten. 


Application Deadline: Friday 4th September 2020, 5pm


More information and application forms here.

Following a successful pilot, we are pleased to announce our first official NMC Listening Club. Composer Emily Howard will be joined online by pianist Alexandra Dariescu and mathematician, writer and presenter Marcus du Sautoy to take a deep dive into Emily Howard's debut album Magnetite, released on NMC in 2016.


As well as analysing the music, our guests will discuss the influences behind the pieces on the album: the oldest known magnetic substance (Magnetite), energy and solar flares (Solar) and the pioneering mathematician Ada Lovelace (Mesmerism). Viewers of the live stream will be able to leave comments and ask questions in the YouTube chat room feature.

Tune in via YouTube on 2 July at 19:00 (GMT+1)

Submit your questions for our guests in advance at or during the live stream.


We're excited to introduce our new NMC Listening Club series. Taking place virtually during this time of social distancing, in each session we’ll be exploring selected releases from our back catalogue, in conversation with the composers and artists involved in their creation.  

For our first NMC Listening Club, Colin Matthews and Lucy Walker (Head of Public Engagement, Red House) guide us through the 2007 award-winning release Britten on Film (NMC D112). The album collects all the surviving music Benjamin Britten wrote during the 1930s for various organisations such as the General Post Office and Southern Railways.  

NMC Listening Club took place as a live stream for NMC donors/supporters via YouTube on Wednesday 13 May. You can rewatch the broadcast here: 

Future NMC Listening Club events will be announced via our enewletter (sign up here) and socials. Tune in to watch live and send in your questions to our guests.

We'd love to know what you think? Watch the broadcast and complete this short survey. Thank you.


We are delighted to share the news that Edmund Finnis's Debut Discs albumThe Air, Turning has won the 2020 BBC Music Magazine 'Premiere Award'. 

Described as 'a striking collection of works ... richly mysterious and compelling' (The Guardian) this debut album from Finnis reached No. 3 in the Official Specialist Classical Charts and No. 29 in the Classic FM Charts. Congratulations to Edmund, all the incredible artists involved and the recording engineers and producers. A big thank you to the Trusts, Foundations and individuals who have invested in this recording and NMC’s Debut Discs series.


The awards ceremony was due to take place at Kings Place, London last month but was understandably cancelled. Here is Edmund Finnis accepting the award from his home.







Related Recordings

The Air, Turning

In this week's NMC Archive blog composer Colin Riley tells us about his compositional process. His first album on NMC, Shenanigans, was released in 2017. 

Colin RileyWry, Fond, Understated and Slightly Bonkers

The primary drive to create, at least for me, is to put some bit of myself out into the world. This might be into the air of a concert space, into the fingers or breath of a performer, or into the ear and brain of a listener. 

The music that I create therefore partly takes into account these spaces, fingers, breaths, ears and brains during its formation. But my compositional process is also fired by something else. It is cajoled along out of a desire to make something for me; music that is constructed and sounds the way I wish it to be. This is probably what I would describe as the inward (perhaps almost selfish) drive, where your own fascinations are explored.

As a composer it is very important to keep hold of these guiding fascinations (because they are after all, what is pumping the creativity), but we must also listen to the outward (listener-facing) drive at the same time. So, I find myself balancing fundamental technical questions about forming ‘the music I want to hear’ with pragmatic ones; is this passage appropriate for the instrument? Will this particular approach excite or deflate the performer? What will the listener specifically get from this musical moment on a single listen? Does the overall piece create the impact I intend? In the heat of creative battle, when you are pulling together lots of bits of paper, lists of ideas, drawings, audio recordings on the phone, half-remembered ideas in your head, and clumsy fumbles on the piano, keeping the balance is sometimes difficult. 

So a piece of music gets completed. If we’re lucky it gets rehearsed and there is a performance in front of an audience.

All creators are interested in some kind of reaction to their work and this takes many forms. At a performance, the level of applause is obviously a direct indicator. Equally it is always lovely to have feedback from your performers. If you’re fortunate enough to get a review, this takes reaction to an even higher and more dangerous level. Potentially people will read a review and base their assumptions about you not on music they have actually heard, but on what has been filtered by a single person. If it goes badly (and a reviewer has an axe to grind) then your personal feelings can be severely damaged. If it goes well, it creates a slightly unreal sense of hype; something which, after the struggles of composing, seems bizarre and potentially out of place. Either way, as composers we have to take the rough with the smooth and use the good reviews as some kind of official validation of worth, however selective we may be in this. The review that all composers prize most is one that is intelligent, addresses the musical content and understands where you’re coming from. I was lucky enough to receive such a review in the Guardian. Thank you Kate Molleson! 

It’s hard to describe your own music, but I thank Kate for making a very good stab at this on my behalf. The music of my latest release Shenanigans was described as ‘taut’, ‘wonky’ and ‘endearing’ and this is, of course, very complimentary. What I was most warmed by was a clear recognition of the contradictions between seriousness and play (something I value similarly in my favourite comedy) and between the collisions of musical aesthetics in my music. These two things have probably driven my composing more than any other over the last twenty years. 

As well as my thanks to Kate Molleson for understanding me, and to NMC for trusting me, my thanks also goes to all the spaces the music was conceived and recorded in, the fingers and breaths of the wonderful performers on Shenanigans, and to the ears and brains of all those out there who might come across my music.

Colin Riley Shenanigans

NMC Archive blogs are all articles written for our Friends Newsletter over the years. If you'd like to receive our quarterly Friends Newsletter, you can become a Friend here (memberships start from £50). If you'd like to support our work with composers as well as our expanding Learning Programme, you can make a donation to our 30th Appeal here. Thank you!





All entries in chronological order
14 September 2020
21 August 2020
26 June 2020
18 May 2020
11 May 2020
9 January 2020
16 December 2019
9 December 2019
28 November 2019
21 November 2019