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NCEM Young Composers Award 2016

The National Centre for Early Music and BBC Radio 3 are proud to present the 2016 NCEM Young Composers Award in partnership with Theatre of the Ayre, directed by one of Europe's leading lutenists, Elizabeth Kenny, with mezzo soprano Clare Wilkinson and Nicholas Mulroy, tenor. The Award will be launched on BBC Radio 3's Early Music Show on Sunday 1 November 2015. The broadcast includes performances of the winning pieces of the 2015 Award.

This major national award is open to young composers resident in the UK up to the age of 25, divided into two age categories: 18 years and under and 19 to 25 years. Composers are invited to write a new work for lute and either a male (tenor) or female (mezzo-soprano) singer. The music must set one of four selected poems by William Shakespeare and Carol Ann Duffy.

Delma Tomlin, Director of the NCEM said: "We are delighted to present this unique opportunity for young composers, singers, guitarists and lutenists to create a contemporary response to one of the most intimate musical forms of the Renaissance, the lute song. As the National Centre for Early Music, we are particularly keen to ensure that the award offers young composers the opportunity to have their works rehearsed and performed to an extremely high standard and for the winning pieces to receive national recognition. To this end we invite the shortlisted composers to a day-long workshop with Theatre of the Ayre. Under Elizabeth Kenny's inspiring direction, and with two such highly regarded singers to work with, they are guaranteed to have an absolutely first rate experience of professional music making in a supportive environment. The winning pieces will be performed by Theatre of the Ayre and recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3's Early Music Show."

Les Pratt, Senior Producer BBC Radio 3 said: "BBC Radio 3 has always been committed to encouraging young talents across the arts, from singers and instrumental performers to writers and composers. Radio 3 is proud to continue its partnership with the National Centre for Early Music for its Young Composers Award 2016.  It will be a fascinating process to work in lute song, which brings its own unique set of challenges for young composers, but I'm sure the standard of submissions will be of its usual impressive quality."

Elizabeth Kenny, Director of Theatre of the Ayre added: "We are thrilled that the NCEM have decided to work with lute and voice for the NCEM Young Composers Award in 2016.  Theatre of the Ayre like nothing better than tussling with words and music and how they work together in this most intimate and dramatic of forms. We are looking forward to exploring what the entrants come up with and collaborating with them in rehearsal.  New young voices writing songs for voice and lute will extend our imagination and challenge us to find new sounds and colours to express the texts. The conversation between old and new is a vital source of creativity in terms of where historical instruments go next, and we are privileged to be a part of it."

Applicants must register their interest in the award by 5.00pm on Friday 19 February 2016 by emailing the National Centre for Early Music at
Completed scores must be received no later than 5.00pm on Friday 18 March 2016. 

The Award will be judged at the National Centre for Early Music in York on Thursday 12 May 2016. During the day a shortlist of entries will be presented by Theatre of the Ayre in a workshop led by composer Christopher Fox. At 7.30pm the Theatre of the Ayre will perform each of the pieces in the presence of a panel of judges, after which the two winners will be announced, one for each of the two age categories. 

Terms and conditions and details of how to take part in the NCEM Young Composers Award 2016 will be posted at:

For further information email:


Press Contact: 
Shona Galletly, on behalf of National Centre for Early Music 
m: 07813 796 733

Notes to Editors:
The National Centre for Early Music is administered by the York Early Music Foundation and funded by Arts Council England, Yorkshire. 

▪ BBC Radio 3 is the home of classical music and broadcasts a wide range of distinctive classical and cultural programming including jazz, world music, arts and over 30 new drama programmes a year. The station broadcasts more live classical music programming than any other and is the home of the BBC Proms, broadcasting every Prom live and over 600 complete concerts a year. Radio 3 is also committed to supporting new talent; composers, writers and new young performers through schemes such as World Routes Academy, New Generation Artists, New Generation Thinkers and is the most significant commissioner of new musical works in the country.

▪ Elizabeth Kenny is one of Europe's leading lute players. Her playing has been described as "incandescent" (Music and Vision), "radical" (The Independent on Sunday) and "indecently beautiful" (Toronto Post). ).  In twenty years of touring she has played with many of the world's best period instrument groups and experienced many different approaches to music making.  She has an extensive discography of collaborations with ensembles across Europe and the USA, and her own repertoire interests have led to critically acclaimed recordings of solo music from the ML Lute Book, and songs by Lawes, Purcell and Dowland. In 2011 she was one of three shortlisted nominees for the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards in the best instrumentalist category.  In 2007 she founded her group Theatre of the Ayre, its focus seventeenth century vocal music with an improvisational character.   Elizabeth Kenny recently devised and directed Le Malade Imaginaire, and A Restoration Tempest, for the OAE at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.  She was one of the artistic advisory team for the York Early Music Festival, 2011-14.  She returns to York in 2016 as a judge for the NCEM Young Composers Award, as part of a growing commitment to enlarging the repertoire for the lute with new work.  She has given premiere performances of solo and chamber pieces by James MacMillan, Benjamin Oliver, Heiner Goebbels and Rachel Stott.  

Elizabeth taught for two years at the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, is Professor of Musical Performance at Southampton University and Professor of Lute at the Royal Academy of Music. She guest-edited a Dowland-themed issue of Early Music to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the composer's birth in 2013, and is the author of occasional articles on seventeenth century performance.  

Theatre of the Ayre is Elizabeth Kenny's platform for bringing dramatically-minded singers and players together to create inspirational programmes of seventeenth century music.  They have given performances across the UK,  Belgium and Germany.  Always looking for innovative ways of presenting theatrical music, they created bespoke choruses of schoolchildren as Cupids in several cities during a tour of John Blow's Venus and Adonis, a live recording of which was released on the Wigmore Live label in January 2011.  Several smaller-scale projects (Ayres and Dialogues, Dowland; Anniversary Collection and Setting the Baa High: English pastoral) toured in 2013-14.  The Masque of Moments and Lutes&Ukes  - Theatre of the Ayre's groundbreaking collaboration with members of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - are touring in 2015, supported by a major award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

▪ Clare Wilkinson mezzo soprano
Particularly passionate about Bach and Byrd, Clare Wilkinson makes music with groups of different shapes and sizes - lute, consort of viols, vocal consort, and baroque orchestra - and loves them all. She also runs her own group, Courtiers of Grace. Several new works have been written for Clare, some of which were premièred at the Wigmore Hall. Clare has recorded very widely, and a number of her discs have won Gramophone awards. She lives in the woods in Flanders with her conductor husband.

▪ Nicholas Mulroy tenor
Born in Liverpool, Nicholas studied at Cambridge and at the RAM. Recent engagements have included Bach Christmas Oratorio with the ACO in Australia, Monteverdi Vespers in New York's Carnegie Hall and the Salzburg Festival, Schubert songs and Britten's complete Canticles at the Wigmore Hall, and Rameau Hippolyte et Aricie at the Opéra de Paris. He has especially enjoyed prolonged collaborations with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, John Butt, Jordi Savall, Paul McCreesh, Laurence Cummings and Emmanuelle Ham. He recently sang the title role of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo in Australia and sang Janacek's Diary of one who Vanished for Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Recordings include a Gramophone Award-winning Messiah, as well as Bach cantatas (Actus Tragicus and Oster-Oratorium) for SDG. He is an ARAM and a Musician in Residence of Girton College, Cambridge, where he was previously Director of Chapel Music.