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NCEM Composers Award: Short List Announced

29 April 2009

Six talented young composers from across the UK have been short-listed to take part in the prestigious 2009 NCEM Composers Award in York on Thursday 14 May.

This is the first year of the National Centre for Early Music's new partnership with BBC Radio 3 and The Tallis Scholars which will see the winning pieces, for four part a cappella (unaccompanied) choir, receive the honour of being premiered by The Tallis Scholars at the opening concert of the York Early Music Festival on 10 July 2009 in York Minster. Highlights from the concert, including the winning composition, will be broadcast on the BBC Radio 3's Early Music Show on the 25th July.

The short-listed composers are: Michael Perrett (20yrs), from Gosport, Hampshire, currently studying at the RNCM; William Blake (20yrs) from Beckenham, Kent, studying at Queens College, Oxford; Paul Edis (23yrs) from Durham; Thomas Neal (18yrs) from Stockton on Tees; Tom Harrold (17yrs) from Glasgow and Elizabeth Edwards (16yrs) from Camberley in Surrey (see biographies in Editor's notes).

They will work with the composer Christopher Fox on Thursday 14 May prior to a public performance of their work by York's own Ebor Singers in the evening at the NCEM. The winning pieces will be announced at an awards ceremony at the end of this concert.

Each of the six new pieces will be recorded by University of York music technology students and, as part of the comprehensive development programme behind this Award, visitors to the NCEM website will be able to listen to them there.

Delma Tomlin, director of the NCEM and one of the panel of judges for the Award, says: "We were absolutely delighted to see so many entries, over 50, from all over the UK and clearly have something very positive to build on in the future. Our youngest composer was just 11 and whilst he has not been short-listed, we were particularly pleased to see such positive enthusiasm. So much so that we have already agreed the Award will go ahead in 2010 and that the experience would be enhanced by offering a commissioned set text.

"We are really looking forward to welcoming Michael, William, Thomas, Paul, Tom and Elizabeth to the NCEM on 14 May for what is guaranteed to be a very positive, nurturing and enriching experience for these young composers and one which offers a valuable opportunity to begin building the all important relationship with an audience within the supportive surroundings of the NCEM."

Further information about the Composers Award is available from: or
Alternatively, contact the NCEM on 01904 632220 or email

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


Press Contact:
Shona Galletly, on behalf of National Centre for Early Music
t: 0113 255 1308
m: 07813 796 733

Notes to editors

1. Composers' biographies and information on short-listed works

Michael Perrett aged 20 a student at the Royal Northern College of Music living in Gosport, Hampshire.

Born in Hampshire in 1988, Michael Perrett began playing the clarinet at a young age and was a chorister in the local parish church. In 2006 he began studying clarinet at the Royal Northern College of Music with Professor Linda Merrick.

A committed performer of contemporary music, Michael has recently given performances of Carter, Birtwistle and Holt. Michael's formal study of composition began only recently and he now studies privately with Matthew Sergeant. He hopes to study composition at postgraduate level.

Michael's piece, entitled God, is a setting of a minstrel's song from Isaac Rosenberg's verse-play Moses, published in 1916. A similarly uncomfortable image of the deity reappears in Rosenberg's poem God of the same year. The piece is generally meditative, though the tenor/bass duet towards the end disturbs the calm somewhat.

William Blake aged 20 studying at Queen's College, Oxford University living in Beckenham, Kent

William Blake (b.1988) is currently a first year undergraduate reading music at Queen's College, Oxford, where he is a choral scholar. He first started to compose seriously at school, where he was commissioned to write a piece for the school orchestra. Last year, while he was a choral scholar at Wells Cathedral, he had a piece premiered by the cathedral choir, which was conducted by Matthew Owens. William currently studies composition under Martin Suckling, having been previously taught by Sinan Savaskan. Other than his compositional activities, William is also an active singer and conductor.

William's piece, Why art thou so heavy, O my Soul, takes its title from Psalm 43 vs 5-6:
Why art thou so heavy, o my soul and why art thou so disquieted within me?
O put my trust in God. For I will yet praise him, my saviour and my God.

Paul Edis aged 23 from Durham has been a composer and performer from a young age. Paul's formal composition training began when he studied for his degree at the London College of Music, where he received tuition from Kit Turnbull, Paul Robinson, Francis Pott and Laurence Roman. Whilst in London he had works performed at the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, as part of the BBC/TVU 'Endangered Species Event' and by performers including Philip Mead, Suzanne Stanzeleit and Chris I'Anson.

Since then Paul has completed an MA in Composition at the University of York under the supervision of Dr John Stringer, and he is currently in his second year of a PhD in Composition at York. Two of Paul's works have recently been selected in competitions - A Series of Variations for Brass Trio, to be performed by the Chimera Ensemble, and Nocturne for String Quartet, selected in a national call for scores by the internationally acclaimed Kreutzer Quartet.

Paul has written both music and text for his piece entitled, Redemption.
To cease to blame, to fail to recall
Would leave no shame or pain at all

To forgive and forget is not easy
To muddle through without reflection.
Grudge ingrained in heart and mind,
Nature's conviction would see us blind,
And yet, if we could only unwind,

To cease to blame, to fail to recall
Would leave us free of guilt,
Happy, once and for all.

This is a setting of a poem of the same name which Paul wrote based on the common expression 'forgive and forget'. It is a reflection on forgiveness and guilt.

As with the poem, there is a three part structure to this piece, the first and last section being closely related. The music draws upon a small number of motives and is rooted in the intervals of a major 7th and a perfect 5th.

Thomas Neal aged 18 from Stockton on Tees began his initial musical education as a violinist and pianist, and as a chorister at St Peter's Church, Stockton, where he is now Organ Scholar. He is taught by James Parsons as a student of the St Giles International Organ School, and in July 2008 gained his first diploma with the Royal College of Organists. Thomas is a keen musicologist, focusing on early choral music, and recently completed a paper on word-painting in Bach and Palestrina. He is becoming increasingly active as a choral director, recently leading two chamber choirs to success in the National Festival of Music for Youth and leading workshops on music by Bach and Allegri. He sings regularly with the Tees Valley Youth Choir (runner-up, BBC Choir of the Year 2006) and in the Tallis Quartet. He is currently preparing to sit A-level exams and hopes to meet his conditional offer to read Music at Clare College, Cambridge in 2009.

Thomas' piece, Pange lingua, is written in memoriam to Josquin des Prez (c1450-1521) and is a polyphonic motet, based on the plainsong 'Pange lingua' (Of the Glorious Body Telling).

Tom Harrold aged 17 was born in Glasgow, Scotland and is now in his final year at The Music School of Douglas Academy, a specialist music school funded by the Scottish Government. He studies composition under Colin Broom and Dr. Robert Marshall, piano under Jean Hutchison and viola under Andrea Gajic.

He was a winner of the BBC Proms /Guardian Young Composers' Competition 2007 and has had his music performed and recorded in London, Amsterdam, Glasgow and Aberdeen, with several BBC Radio 3 broadcasts and two live BBC performances in 2007 and 2008. His music has been performed and work-shopped by members of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Aurora Orchestra and the Endymion Ensemble. He has received commissions from the BBC Proms, the Scottish Centres of Excellence in Music and several professional soloists. Tom was joint winner of the 2009 Heriot-Watt University Young Composers' Competition. In addition to this, he was asked to write a new work for solo tuba and percussion to be performed at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

Upcoming projects include the release of the recently recorded "Beastie" on the Brass Classics Label and a commission for a new fifteen-minute work to be performed by the Scottish Philharmonic Orchestra.

In September 2009 Tom will begin undergraduate studies in The School of Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Tom's piece, The Day is Done, has a text adapted from Longfellow: The day is done and the darkness falls from the wings of the night as a feather is wafted downward from an eagle in his flight
And the cares that infest the day shall fold their tents like the Arabs and as silently steal away

Elizabeth Edwards aged 16 from Camberley, Surrey, attends Farnborough Hill School in Hampshire where she is studying for her GCSEs. She began playing the cello aged 4 and is now Principal Cello with the Surrey County Youth Orchestra. In October 2008 Elizabeth won the Surrey Heath Young Musician Competition and in Easter 2009 she was invited to, and did, play with the Youth Orchestra of the Middle East in Dubai. She attends Colourstrings Saturday Music School in South London, where she learns cello with Miguel Calvo and piano with Shay Loya. She also studies singing with Roy Rashbrook and composition with the Guildford-based composer, Will Todd. At school, Elizabeth plays bass recorder in the recorder consort, string bass in the swing band and sings in the senior choir. Elizabeth has won a place as a music specialist at Wells Cathedral School and will begin her A level studies there in September 2009.

Elizabeth's piece is called Arise with text from Isaiah chapter 60 Arise! Shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you