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NCEM celebrates BBC Radio 3’s 70th anniversary with Southbank premiere for Young Composers Award Winners

18 year old Alex Dakin and 21 year old Kristina Arakelyan, winners of the 2016 NCEM Young Composers Award, will have their pieces premiered at the Southbank Centre, London on Saturday 24 September at 12.30pm as part of BBC Radio 3's 70th anniversary celebrations. 

Dakin's Sonnet 147 and Arakelyan's Penelope will feature alongside Renaissance lute songs performed by Theatre of the Ayre directed by Elizabeth Kenny (lute), with Anna Starushkevych (mezzo-soprano) and Charles Daniels (tenor). The performance will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3's Early Music Show the following day, Sunday 25 September, at 2.00pm. 

For details of the 2017 NCEM Young Composers Award, presented in partnership with BBC Radio 3 and the internationally acclaimed vocal group The Tallis Scholars, directed by Peter Phillips visit:


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

▪ The 2016 Award invited young composers resident in the UK to create a contemporary response to one of the most intimate musical forms of the Renaissance, the lute song. They were required to set one of four selected poems by William Shakespeare or Carol Ann Duffy.

▪ Winners' Biographies and Programme Notes

18 years and under category

Alex Dakin (18)        
Sonnet 147
Alex Dakin was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire. He lived in Villasanta, Italy, and Deal, Kent, before moving back to Cheshire in 2008. He took up the piano at the age of 7, and three years later he began learning to play the cello. Soon this after he started taking an interest in composing. He was awarded a place at Chetham's School of Music in 2011, where he now studies composition with Jeremy Pike. He has composed a variety of pieces, including two orchestral tone poems, a piano sonata and a string quartet. His septet Abhorrentes was highly commended in the BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers' Competition in 2013, and his piano sonata won the under-16 category of the EPTA Composers' Competition in the same year. His interest in early music largely stems from his experiences accompanying songs by Dowland in arrangements for viola da gamba and harpsichord.

The structure of this song is based on the sonnet's changes in mood and tone, so I have divided it into three sections. The first section seeks to convey the narrator's yearning and the solemnity of the sonnet. Words like 'longing' and 'preserve' are given extended durations, and the lute accompaniment consists mostly of single notes, simple rhythms and slowly changing harmony. The second section follows the narrator's descent into madness. The writing here is more frantic, with shorter note durations and wider leaps for the voice, as well as a faster harmonic rhythm in the lute. In the third section the narrator condemns love to be 'as dark as night.' Here the texture and melody are similar to the opening, though the lute's open harmonics add a touch of coldness to the music. The choice of a very low register for the singer adds to the darkness and pessimism of the final lines.

19 to 25 years category

Kristina Arakelyan (21)
Kristina Arakelyan was granted a scholarship to study piano and composition at the Purcell School of Music in 2006. She is currently a composition scholar at the Royal Academy of Music. Aged 15, she won first prize in the BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers' Competition; other awards include overall cup winner of the EPTA Composers' Competition (2009), the David Cox prize (2012) and first prize in the 'Shakespeare 400' Orchestra of the Swan Young Composers' Competition (2014). In 2011 she was commissioned by Music for Youth to write a choral piece that was performed at the Schools Prom in the Royal Albert Hall; she has also been commissioned by Grace Francis to write a piano piece that was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 (2015) and in Florida. Her compositions have also been performed at the Vatroslav Lisinsky Hall (Croatia), Real Conservatorio Superior de Música in Madrid (Spain), and in London at the Wigmore Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Southbank Centre. 
The poem 'Penelope' by Carol Ann Duffy appealed to me because of the vivid imagery and because of the inspiring journey we see in Penelope's life. Contrary to the description in Greek mythology in which Penelope uses treachery to repel her suitors by telling them that she will accept their advances once she has finished embroidering, Carol Ann Duffy tells an entirely different story by focusing on the female perspective. She speaks of a woman who has found her life's purpose, her talent, and is preoccupied with pursuing it. The most exciting part of the poem for me was the sheer delight of being wrapped in your internal world of creativity - something that Duffy herself felt when writing about Penelope's embroidery, and that I felt as I wrote music to her poem. In my music I describe Penelope's psychological journey through the repetition of the beginning theme with different accompanying harmonies to symbolise growth. I have also used the Dorian and Phrygian modes in the harmonic and melodic construction in order to evoke what the Ancient Greek lyre may possibly have sounded like. The lute adds a very exciting and original colour and is very much in keeping with the idea of the ancient and the exotic that is explored in the theme of the poem.

▪ The National Centre for Early Music is administered by the York Early Music Foundation and funded by Arts Council England, Yorkshire. The NCEM has a thriving creative learning programme which includes the biennial International Young Artists Competition (July 2017) for emerging ensembles, and a year-round music programme focusing on young people living in challenging circumstances across York and the Humber region. 

The 2016 NCEM Young Composers Award is supported by Mayfield Valley Arts Trust and Arts Council England.

▪ BBC Radio 3 
Radio 3 connects audiences with remarkable music and culture. It broadcasts distinctive classical music and cultural programming, alongside regular arts and ideas programmes, jazz, world and other interesting music. The station has four dedicated jazz strands, is the only network station with a regular world music show and features more live classical music programming than any other. Since the early days of BBC Radio 3, as The Third Programme, the station has long been an important cultural patron, broadcasting every BBC Prom live and more than 600 complete concerts a year - alongside arts programming, 90 full-length operas, over 25 drama commissions and over 20 new BBC music commissions a year. The station is the most significant commissioner of new musical works in the country and is committed to supporting new talent, from composers to writers and new young performers, through schemes such as New Generation Artists, BBC Classical, Jazz and World Introducing, and New Generation Thinkers.

▪ Elizabeth Kenny & Theatre of the Ayre

▪ Anna Starushkevych mezzo soprano

▪ Charles Daniels tenor