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2014 Winners' biographies

Joint winners (19 to 25) Hugo Bell and Kerensa Briggs with Freya Ireland (18 and under)

Freya with Peter Phillips and Les Pratt, BBC

Kerensa and Hugo with Peter Phillips and Les Pratt
WINNER of the 18 years and under category:
Freya Ireland (16)    Lamentations
Throughout the piece, the bass part sings in Latin; in my setting of these Latin words I aimed to emulate the sounds of plainsong, through the resolutions and the contour of the line, and through the rhythm, which mimics that of spoken word. The upper four parts sing in a mixture of English and Latin, as well as of course the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The bass writing juxtaposes my writing of the top four parts, whose long indulgent notes explore a fairly free tonality. The piece is about harmony: passages of careful dissonance gradually whittle down to a unison note, or a consonant chord. This reflects the text of the piece, since Jeremiah is lamenting at the destruction of Jerusalem, a subject that also relates to harmony. There is harmony between different civilisations, as well as the discords that caused the people to destroy the city. 

Freya Ireland has sung in church choirs for many years and is currently a member of the Tewkesbury Abbey Choir - an experience that has given her an enthusiasm for sacred choral music. She plays orchestral percussion, drum kit, clarinet and piano, and has played extensively with county and regional orchestras. She has also recently joined the National Youth Orchestra as a composer. She has written a number of small choral anthems, and also many works for instrumental ensembles, some of which have been performed at her school. She is currently learning about photography and is planning a performance that will combine an acoustic electronic score with a series of projected images.

JOINT WINNERS of the 19 to 25 years category:
Hugo Bell (22)    The Lamentation of Jeremiah
The Lamentation of Jeremiah gravitates between the tonal centres of F# and C and never reaches absolute closure. The variety of textures and compositional techniques in the piece seek to express the multifaceted sorrows of the original text. The opening octatonic tenor melody appears throughout the piece, and features a descending four-note pattern that is commonly associated with mourning.

Hugo Bell is an aspiring young composer who recently graduated from Newcastle University with a First (Hons) in Music and has also studied for a year at the Gothenburg Academy of Music and Drama in Sweden. He has had works performed by members of the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Newcastle University Contemporary Music Ensemble, Iuventus Cantat (Austria), Gothenburg Academy Chamber Choir (Sweden), and has received runner-up awards in the Whitehall Choir Young Composer Competition and the Durham Cathedral Compostion Competition. As a musician, he has directed several choirs and ensembles in the North-East and won the Lawrence Phelps Recital Award at Hexham Abbey in 2012. Hugo is currently studying composition with James Weeks. (Updated October 2014)
Kerensa Briggs (23)    Lamentations of Jeremiah: Jerusalem, return to the Lord thy God
The piece is based on the sayings of the Biblical prophet Jeremiah following the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, but it also resonates deeply with the tragedies of our own time. To reflect this, I wanted to include early compositional techniques in a modern idiom, while exploring a journey through grief and atonement, despair and hope. As in the style of late Renaissance English composers, melodic lines begin by imitating each other. The long held notes that were historically in the bass parts are here transferred to the upper voices, with the lower parts creating more scrunchy harmony underneath. The interval of the fifth is also evident, but decorated with richer harmonies above. I also wanted to reflect the emotive response of the people in the wavering demi-semiquavers that are sung above one of the most important messages of the text: 'Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord thy God'. As the piece progresses, the verses depict the mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem, and the emotive response to the terrible things that happened to the people following the conquest. The piece ends with an intimation of hope at the text 'Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord thy God', which is here presented in the major key.
Kerensa Briggs is a young composer based in the UK. Kerensa specialised in composition at Bristol University, where she was second harpist with Bristol University Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra and a member of several university choirs. Kerensa is a winner of the NCEM Young Composers Award 2014 and has recently had compositions performed and recorded by the Royal School of Church Music Millennium Youth Choir at Gloucester Cathedral for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong. Kerensa has attended composition courses at the Purcell School and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where her tutors have included David Horne, Gordon McPherson and Rory Boyle. (Updated October 2014)