The Arts Foundation Futures Awards 2024 Opening Performance: John Barber & Echo Vocal Ensemble

We are delighted to share that the Arts Foundation Futures Awards 2024 Ceremony will also include the premiere performance of a new choral composition by John Barber (Choral Composition Fellow, 2021) with Echo Vocal Ensemble, conducted by Sarah Latto.


F*ck/Dystopian Loneliness is inspired by a poem taken from Inua Ellams’ collection The Actual. It chronicles a solitary walk through the city streets at night and moves in a few wonderful, fragmented sentences from a place of isolation to a place of love and connection. The piece will also be accompanied by a film by Fred Macgregor, featuring the performer, Jamal Sterrett. John said:

“As soon as I read the poem I wanted to set it to music and try to mirror this journey musically. My piece is essentially a long, solo melody that eventually finds its way to a resolution. To accompany the piece, together with filmmaker Fred Macgregor, we created a film and captured Jamal’s response to the piece as he danced around London’s streets listening to the piece on his headphones.”

The Awards Ceremony will take place on Wednesday 28 February at the Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre.

Watch the performance and follow all the award announcements via Instagram Live on the night from 7 pm!⁠


John Barber

John Barber is a composer from Bristol with a passion for voices, collaboration and storytelling. 

His versatile, rhythmic and intensely dramatic music has been performed by some of the UK and Europe’s leading opera houses, theatres, ensembles and choirs including the Royal Opera House, Gothenburg Opera, BBC Symphony Orchestra and The Sixteen.

He has written several operas and large-scale vocal pieces which often bring professional and non-professional musicians of all ages together. Notable pieces include We Are Shadows (Spitalfields Music), Consider the Lilies – based on the stories of refugees in the UK and Seven Seeds – a major retelling of the persephone myth featuring 1500 singers, Aurora Orchestra and soloists.

John’s music has been recognised with various awards including an Ivor Novello Classical award and two Royal Philharmonic Society awards. Recent projects include The Selfish Giant for Garsington Opera and Opera North, The Song of the Ladder – a major new community opera for the Camerata Stumentale, Italy and Our Dark Side And The Moon – an audio opera for the Royal Opera House’s 8bit digital project.

In 2021 John was awarded the Arts Foundation Fellowship for Choral Composition. This award enabled a new recording featuring members of Echo choir, which will be released later this year.


Echo Vocal Ensemble

Conductor – Sarah Latto

Described as “sparkling, poised and powerful” (The Arts Desk), Echo Vocal Ensemble is a dynamic group of singers known for their flexibility, innovation and excellence. Since their debut in 2017, the group has performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, as Ensemble-in-Residence at Ryedale Festival and live on BBC Radio 3.

The group has quickly developed a reputation for innovative programming and multi-disciplinary collaborations, including with poet Roger McGough, composer James MacMillan, visual artist Polly Apfelbaum and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Echo aims to explore the full range of what ensemble singing can achieve, including improvisation and audience-immersive concert experiences, whilst achieving musical excellence at all times.

Recent projects include a collaboration at Sadler’s Wells with choreographer Gregory Maqoma, and an audio installation at Frieze Sculpture in London. 2024 sees the release of Echo’s debut album, Innocence, with a launch concert at the Wigmore Hall in July.

The group has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with composer John Barber and are delighted to be premiering his music at the Arts Foundation Futures Awards 2024.