SCOTLAND'S national youth choir has become the first youth organisation to win a coveted Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) award.

At the annual RPS music awards in London last night, the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS) won the Ensemble category.

NYCoS joins an illustrious list of previous winners of that category, including The Hallé Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, the London Sinfonietta and I Fagiolini.

The award was given in celebration of its achievements in 2011 – a year which saw the NYCoS choir celebrate its 15th anniversary with numerous events, including a performance at the Edinburgh International Festival of Duruflé Requiem with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Robin Ticciati, and a five-star Gala Concert performance of William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Christopher Bell in September.

The RPS Music Awards are considered the most prestigious for live classical music in the UK.

Last night awards in 13 categories were announced, including prizes for Claudio Abbado, who won the RPS Music Award for Conductor, and Scottish composer Sally Beamish for the "hauntingly beautiful and expertly crafted" Reed Stanzas (String Quartet No.3) who won the Chamber-Scale Composition Award.

Christopher Bell, founder and artistic director of NYCoS, said: "Who would have thought that 16 years ago, when we formed our very first choir and took our first faltering steps, that NYCoS would be recognised and honoured with this prestigious accolade?

"I'm accepting the award on behalf of all the singers, staff, parents and supporters who have been on that journey together, and looking forward to the exciting things we have planned for the future."

The NYCoS was praised for leading "by example" through its training and development programme, by commissioning and publishing choral music and by taking choral singing to "the most prestigious platforms in the country".

NYCoS began as a choir in 1996 to give Scotland's young singers the opportunity to sing together at the highest level.

The organisation has four national choirs, 15 area choirs, an extensive publications catalogue and an education and early years programme currently operating under the NYCoS banner.