Composition Competition 2019

Owain Park, Director of The Gesualdo Six, writes: We were all thrilled with the standard of the entries, 306 in total, which arrived from six continents in a variety of interesting styles. Singing through the pieces has been an immensely enjoyable experience, and it is heartening to see composers writing so well for the ensemble’s specific requirements. Alongside the winners, the judges decided to award two further prizes in each category.
We are delighted to reveal the results of our 2019 Composition Competition.

Results

22 years and above winner: Alison Willis (UK)
22 years and above highly commended: Ryan Malone (USA) and Karen Lemon (Australia)

21 years and under winner: Jacob Beranek (USA)
21 years and under highly commended: Aleksander Jan Szopa (Poland) and David Nunn (UK)

‘The Wind’s Warning’ by Alison Willis and ‘Abendgebet’ by Jacob Beranek will be premiered by The Gesualdo Six at Cadogan Hall on Thursday 7 March 2019. Tickets are available here.

In addition, ‘Evening Prayer’ by Ryan Malone, ’Abendgebet’ by Karen Lemon, ’Ave Regina Caelorum’ by Aleksander Jan Szopa, and ‘Da pacem Domine’ by David Nunn, will be performed by The Gesualdo Six in 2019. 

Young Composers’s Workshop

We look forward to running two composition workshops for entrants in the 21 years and under category with composers Cheryl Frances-Hoad and David Bednall later in 2019.


Feedback from the judges

Cheryl Frances-Hoad
It is incredibly heartening to see such interesting choral writing from all over the world in 2019! The winning and highly commended entries stood out for us because of their idiomatic word setting, excellent command of vocal line, harmonic colour, and suitability for the Gesualdo Six’s voices and programming style. As judges, we were delighted with the huge number of entries this year, many of which we think could easily garner many performances by choral groups all over the country and beyond. Read More The composers of the winning and highly commended pieces have obviously taken great care to think carefully about the text before setting words to music, and we would urge all the composers who entered the competition to do the same: we felt that occasionally the rhythmic stresses of the text were ignored, leading to an awkwardness in the music that no amount of melodic invention or dynamic interest could hide. Whilst very grateful to see a wide range of harmonic language in the submissions, we would also urge composers to combine innovative choral writing with a real command of melodic and harmonic line: too often interesting chords were arrived at in a way that seemed unprepared or unthought about, which lessened the intended impact of the material.

Nigel Short
I was very impressed with the overall standard and quality of the writing. I would ask composers to try and make their scores as easy as possible to read: whenever possible, include key signatures rather than relying on the notation software to add in all the accidentals. If you include a piano reduction, make sure that the notes are the same as in the score – otherwise it’s impossible to tell which is correct! It saves musicians a huge amount of time if they can assimilate information quickly when they pick up a new score. Read MoreI’d also encourage composers to think about the journey before they begin composing. There were numerous good ideas but in too few cases were those ideas really explored and developed, which led to many pieces lacking some sense of structure. Rather than simply stopping a piece altogether to start up with a new idea, whether it be harmonic or rhythmic, try to create something that carries the listener and performer throughout.

Kate Johnson
It was greatly encouraging for the future of choral music to know that there were over three hundred entries for this year’s Gesualdo Six Composition Competition, supported by Music Sales. A generous number of the submissions were of a high enough standard to be seriously considered: they encompassed a real effort on the part of the writers in one or more of the areas of composing to the brief, faithful text setting, thoughtful development of compositional ideas, clear and accurate presentation on the page and a promising grasp of harmony and counterpoint. In particular I felt that the entries in the ‘21 years and under’ category showed aptitude in originality of style. I hope that the winners can learn a great deal from the live performances given by the group. 

John Rutter CBE
I thought the standard of presentation of the entries I saw was higher than I ever remember in any comparable competition, and there was plenty of imagination in evidence as well as great stylistic diversity. Most of the composers got to the heart of their texts and showed a real understanding of writing for The Gesualdo Six. The winning entries ‘worked’ especially well, being memorable for the performers and audience alike.


About the winners

Alison Willis – winner, 22 years and above

Alison Willis (b.1971) is an award-winning composer whose works have been performed and broadcast internationally. She studied composition with Alan Bullard (Colchester) and George Benjamin (RCM). 

Her music has been described as, ‘Intensely moving’, ‘Beautiful yet pragmatic’ and ‘Saying what you have to say and then stopping’. She finds particular inspiration in historical sources and events, social issues and enjoys working collaboratively with both young people and adults. Alison is also an experienced pianist, organist, folk musician and Musical Director, enjoys composing music for theatre and is a Trustee of the Martin Read Foundation, supporting young composers. 

Recent works include ‘Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep’, released on Blossom Street’s album ‘This Day’ (January 2019), ‘The Ballad of the Harp Weaver’, released on Juice Vocal Ensemble’s ‘Snow Queens’ CD (December 2018) and ‘Non Omnis Moriar’ premiered by the BBC Singers (September 2018). Her work for Hampshire County Youth Choir, ‘Pax Vobis’ was performed as part of the Remembrance service at Winchester Cathedral (June 2018) and ‘A Light Not Yet Ready To Go Out’ for the London Concert Choir, raising awareness of and money for Breast Cancer Now, premiered at Holy Trinity Sloane Square in March 2018. 

Jacob Beranek – winner, 21 years and under

Jacob Beranek (b.1998) is an American composer and pianist. He currently serves as the first-ever Composer-in-Residence of the Midsummer’s Music Festival, which has commissioned two new pieces to date, Death’s Door (2017) and Partita melodica (2018). Other recent performances of Jacob’s music have occurred in Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, as well as the Czech Republic and Switzerland.

His work has garnered national recognition in several competitions, including the Edwin Fissinger Choral Composition Prize, Steven Stucky Young Composers Competition, NFMC Jr. Composers Competition, and Project 21 Prize; honorable mention in the ACF NextNotes Competition and American Prize in Composition; and Finalist in the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. Besides self-publishing, Jacob has eight works published by Alliance Publications, Inc. (distributed by Hal Leonard).

In addition to composition, Jacob is a serious pianist and devotee of Czech music due to his heritage. He has had the privilege of studying music in Prague during visits in 2015 and 2017, and returned in November 2018 for the European premiere of his Památník at Prague Castle by the Band of the Castle Guards & Czech Police.

Jacob has served as a Composition Fellow at the Talis Festival & Academy in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and has also studied at the Curtis Institute of Music Young Artist Summer Program. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Composition at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. You can learn more about Jacob and his musical endeavors at www.beranekmusic.com.


Ryan Malone – highly commended, 22 years and above

Ryan Malone (b. 1976) is music director for Herbert W. Armstrong College (a four-year liberal arts college) and Imperial Academy (a private K-12 institution), both sponsored by the Philadelphia Church of God in Edmond, Oklahoma.
Read MoreThere he has written and produced four full-length musicals, two oratorios, plus he has produced eight inspirational vocal/choral albums that included dozens of original works, arrangements of traditional hymns and show tunes. Throughout his composing career, Malone has also composed a variety of works, including instrumental works (three commissioned for weddings), art songs for his wife, soprano Paula Malone, as well as compositions for his many students and ensembles that he teaches. In 2010 he served as composer in residence for the Norman High School string quartet. His transcription of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs for soprano and piano trio was premiered by the Eroica Trio along with his wife in 2011 and recorded in 2018 on the Xolo label by Tess Remy-Schumacher, Hong Zhu and his wife Paula.

Karen Lemon – highly commended, 22 years and above

Karen Lemon is an Australian composer and musicologist whose qualifications include a PhD in Musicology from the University of Sydney (on Schoenberg’s post-tonal music c.1910) and a License in Dalcroze Eurhythmics from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA.
Read MoreThough a pianist by training, in performance she has been most active as a chorister and vocalist. Despite studies in composition in her undergraduate days,
it has only been in recent years that Karen has focussed more intently on composition; her works have received small international performances and have been prizewinners in composition competitions. Karen has worked as a lecturer in Musicology at the Universities of Sydney and Tasmania. She currently divides her time between Australia and France.

Aleksander Jan Szopa – highly commended, 21 years and under

Aleksander Jan Szopa is a Polish-American organist, pianist and composer. He started composing at the age of 15 and has amassed a portfolio of over sixty compositions, focusing on writing for organ, piano, a cappella choir, and orchestra.

David Nunn – highly commended, 21 years and under

David Nunn is a London-based composer studying with Helen Grime at the Royal Academy of Music, having previously studied with Julian Anderson and Christian Mason.
Read MoreHe has recently completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge. His music is often characterised by textures which seem to revolve and rotate as if in a kaleidoscope, and a rich, vivid harmonic palette. Recently, his projects have included a work for a mixed quintet drawn from the BCMG, a concert of new music for chamber orchestra by a collective of Cambridge undergraduate composers, and a work for the choir of St. John’s College with live electronics. Upcoming projects include an installation at The Hepworth Wakefield and collaborations with The Hermes Experiment, Psappha, and ensemble recherche.

Members of The Gesualdo Six playing through the entries

NEW Composition Competition

Over the last few months, we have been planning a second Composition Competition to coincide with our fifth anniversary and debut appearance at the Cadogan Hall. After the success of our inaugural competition in 2016, we are delighted to be able to reveal the details of our next competition, running from 2018 into 2019.

We have engaged prominent musicians Cheryl Frances-Hoad (composer, Chester Music) and Nigel Short (conductor, Tenebrae) as judges, and the winning pieces will be considered for publication by Novello & Co, part of the Music Sales group of companies.

The Gesualdo Six will premiere the winning works as part of our debut concert at the Cadogan Hall in London on 7 March 2019. Our concert forms part of the Choral at Cadogan series, which also features the Tallis Scholars and VOCES8 as guest artists.

One of the most rewarding experiences of our 2016 competition was running a composition workshop for entrants in the younger category, with sixteen young composers attending to hear their works sung as part of a masterclass and concert. This time, we hope to deliver two workshops for young composers in London and Manchester, and we are currently applying for funding to realise this ambition.

In addition, John Rutter CBE will hold a Q&A session on score presentation before the submission deadline, providing composers with an opportunity to learn from his vast experience of publishing scores and notating music for their own submissions.

Find out more about the competition here.

Workshops in King’s Bruton

Article by Ashley Marshfield – Director of Choral Studies at King’s Bruton

On Friday 17th November, King’s were fortunate to welcome the Gesualdo Six and their leader Owain Park to give a series of masterclasses to the King’s School Choir, Chapel Choir and Chamber Choir.

The group put the choirs through their paces with real attention to detail and thoughts on making phrases sound as musical as possible. It was a fantastic experience and a real boost to have professional singers performing in amongst our own pupil voices. The whole day really lifted the sound of our choirs to an incredibly impressive level.

During the afternoon, The Gesualdo Six ran a workshop with prep school children from All Hallows and Millfield. The boys and girls had a superb time and experienced singing rounds, ‘mash-ups’ of popular music combined with some beat boxing! The afternoon finished with a short recital to demonstrate to an appreciative audience what they had achieved during the afternoon.

The day culminated with The Gesualdo Six giving an evening performance in the Memorial Hall. The concert was a well-attended event with first-class music ranging from Loquebantur by Thomas Tallis to a performance of an impressive work Sequence: ‘In Parenthesis’ composed by the group leader, Owain Park. Equally comfortable with more light-hearted works, the concert also included selections of Folksongs from the British Isles and Light Music. It was the culmination of what was an excellent day of choral music at King’s and a wonderful experience for all. The group thoroughly enjoyed their visit and are keen to come again!

The original article was titled: The Gesualdo Six Take King’s Choral Singing To An Even More Impressive Level


Photos shared with the kind permission of participating schools.

Composition Competition 2016

The Gesualdo Six - Composition Competition Judging Panel 2016The ensemble and the judges were amazed by the number of entries and the extremely high standard of work. It was particularly pleasing to receive submissions from all over the world from composers of all ages, and in a variety of interesting styles. We thoroughly enjoyed looking through all the entries, and it was wonderful to see composers writing so well for the group’s specific requirements. We are delighted to reveal the winners of our Composition Competition 2016.

The Winners

In the 18-and-under category, the winner is Joanna Ward, with For a number of coins.

In the 19-and-over category, the winner is Phillip Cooke, with Judas Mercator Pessimus.

The two winning works were given their world premieres on Sunday 19 June 2016 at St John’s Smith Square, and the winners formally presented with their awards. We also ran a composition workshop for entrants in the under-19 category with composer David Bednall; sixteen young composers attended to hear their works sung as part of a masterclass and concert.

The Gesualdo Six - Composition Competition Entries

The Gesualdo Six - Composition Panel 2


About the winners

Joanna Ward – 18-and-under category winner

The Gesualdo Six Composition Competition Winner - Joanna WardJoanna Ward is an 18 year old composer, pianist and singer from Newcastle upon Tyne. After enjoying composing at school, she was encouraged to broaden her horizons and take specialised composition lessons, and has done so at the Sage Gateshead’s Weekend School for the past two years. Her compositional successes thus far include being selected as a composer for the NYO; having pieces performed at the Sage (including a piece she wrote for their Youth Orchestra, Young Sinfonia); and having a piece workshopped and performed by Voces8. She also enjoys playing the piano and singing, and is a member of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. She is currently studying for A levels in Music, Maths and Physics, and hopes to read Music at university next year. https://soundcloud.com/joannamward

Phillip Cooke – 19-and-over category winner

PhiThe Gesualdo Six Composition Competition Winner - Phillip Cookellip Cooke was born in the Lake District in 1980 studying at Durham and Manchester Universities before taking a PhD at Cardiff University with Anthony Powers. He was a Junior Research Fellow at The Queen’s College, Oxford University and Composition Tutor at Eton College before being appointed Lecturer in Music at Aberdeen University in 2013. His music has been performed across the country by many of the leading choirs and ensembles. He is active as a musicologist having co-written The Music of Herbert Howells in 2013 and is currently writing the first scholarly book on James MacMillan. He is married with two children, lives in rural Aberdeenshire and supports Everton. www.phillipcooke.com


About the 2016 Competition [archive]

Composers are invited to submit a new work for The Gesualdo Six’s inaugural Composition Competition. The winning works will be premiered by the group at St John’s Smith Square on Sunday 19 June 2016. A prize fund of £1000 is available.

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and the 450th anniversary of Gesualdo’s birth. Works by Shakespeare and words set by Gesualdo make up some of the chosen texts for composers to set, alongside poems by Christina Rossetti and Emily Brontë.

This competition is open to all composers, divided into two age categories: 18 years and under, and 19 years and above. The deadline for submissions is Friday 15 April 2016 at 5pm.

The competition is supported by St John’s Smith Square and Novello & Co Ltd, part of the Music Sales Group of Companies.

The Gesualdo Six Composition Competition 2016

Shakespeare 400

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. We have included two texts by William Shakespeare in our competition: passages from Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice.

Gesualdo 450

2016 marks the 450th anniversary of Gesualdo’s birth. We have included two texts that he set to music during his lifetime: Sparge la morte and Judas mercator pessimus.

Rossetti and Brontë

Composers are also invited to set poems by Christina Rossetti and Emily Brontë, A Birthday (My heart is like a singing bird) and Fall, leaves, fall.