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St John's Smith Square names latest crop of Young Artists

18 May 2015

Tabea Debus © Maximilian Motel

St John’s Smith Square has welcomed four new members to its Young Artists’ Scheme.

Recorder player Tabea Debus, violinist Joo Yeon Sir, the Ligeti Quartet and vocal ensemble The Gesualdo Six will all receive performance opportunities, marketing and development assistance and career support during the 2015/16 concert season.

St John’s Smith Square launched its Young Artists’ Scheme last year to provide assistance for exceptional young artists on the brink of their professional careers.

The first group of artists selected were the Aurea Quartet, Anna Hashimoto (clarinet), Laura Snowden (guitar) and the Zelkova Quartet.

The Young Artists are each awarded three performance dates ranging from lunchtime concerts to full evening recitals and Sunday afternoon chamber music concerts.

Alongside this, they will also undertake activities in marketing, commissioning and outreach.

Richard Heason, director of St Johns Smith Square, said: ‘As a concert hall it is crucial that we don’t just give voice to established artists but that we also invest in future talent.

‘Through our Young Artists’ Scheme we are able to select musicians who have shown themselves to have enormous talent and energy and help them as they shape their careers.

‘The support we give off the concert platform, for marketing, development and outreach work, is just as important as the concert opportunities.’

Tabea Debus is a student at the Royal Academy of Music, while Joo Yeon Sir studies at the Royal College of Music.

The Ligeti Quartet is a group of recent graduates dedicated to performing modern and contemporary music, and The Gesualdo Six is a vocal sextet specialising in the performance of renaissance music, directed by Owain Park.

Songs of Praise school choir of the year winners named

18 May 2015, Katy Wright

Junior category winners Ysgol Iau Llangennech
Junior category winners Ysgol Iau Llangennech

Llanelli's Ysgol Iau Llangennech and Hereford Cathedral School's Cantabile Girls’ Choir have been announced as the winners of the 2015 BBC Songs of Praise school choir of the year competition.

Ysgol Iau Llangennech won the junior school category, while Cantabile Girls’ Choir took the senior school title. The final, which took place at Nottingham’s Albert Hall, was broadcast on BBC One on 17 May.

Lewis Richards, conductor of Ysgol Iau Llangennech said: ‘The children give so much time and energy during rehearsals. I’m over the moon that they have something to show for their efforts and perseverance. The children were determined to perform their socks off in the final, and that’s exactly what they did!’

Cantabile had appeared in the finals of the competition before, and have also won the international Eisteddfod on two occasions. Music director Jo Williamson said: ‘Words cannot express how happy I am for the girls – I’m so proud of them and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.  They have worked so hard for this moment and gave everything they had – heart and soul!’

Dave Stanford, executive producer of Songs of Praise, said: ‘The judges faced a difficult decision for both categories because the standard of entries was so high. Cantabile Girls’ Choir achieved success after an outstanding performance and Ysgol Iau Llangennech were faultless. Many congratulations to both the schools. The Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year competition has been running since 2003 and we are always knocked out by the quality and enthusiasm of the school choirs which enter.’

A new judging panel for the 2015 competition included: JB Gill, from boy band JLS; vocal coach and opera singer Yvie Burnett from The Voice; and Tim Rhys-Evans, the founder of Welsh male voice choirs Only Men Aloud and Only Boys Aloud.

The other finalists were Queen’s Young Voices (Chester) and Lindley Junior School Choir (Huddersfield) for the junior category, and Twyford Church of England High School Choir (London) and Strathearn School Chamber Choir (Belfast) for the senior category.

The competition launched in 2003 and attracts hundreds of entries annually. Over 45,000 young singers have entered to date.

Exam boards publish draft proposals for music GCSE

15 May 2015, Katy Wright

Music is part of the second wave of GCSEs to be reformed in a process being led by the Department for Education, with the new qualifications to be taught from September 2016. AQA, Pearson/Edexcel, OCR and WJEC/Eduqas have now all published and submitted their draft GCSEs to Ofqual.

Below is a summary of these initial proposals (although changes may be made over the next few months).

Under the reformed system, GCSEs will be awarded according to a new 1-9 grading scale, and will be assessed only at the end of the two-year period of study. Performance, composition, and written examination will make up 30%, 30% and 40% of the overall mark for each course.

Across the boards, performances should contain a minimum of two pieces, one performed as part of an ensemble and one solo. A portfolio of two compositions should be submitted, one in response to a brief set by the exam board, and the other free choice.   

AQA will require its students to study works by Haydn, Copland, Santana and The Beatles. For the listening section of the exam (68 marks), candidates will answer eight questions based on unheard works and covering all areas of study; for the contextual understanding (28 marks), there will be four sets of questions on the study pieces.   

Performances are expected to last seven minutes, and will be examined on accuracy, expression, interpretation and level of demand. AQA will award marks for awareness of the composing process, as shown through a composing log.   

Pearson/Edexcel specifies eight works, ranging from Purcell’s Music for a While to Queen’s Killer Queen. The first section of the exam (worth 68 marks) will contain six questions relating to set works, one melody/rhythm completion exercise, and one multi-part question on an unfamiliar piece. The second part will be an extended response comparison between a set work and unfamiliar piece (12 marks).

Performances will be examined on technical control, accuracy and fluency, and expression and interpretation. Students will be required to work on their compositions under controlled conditions.

OCR does not suggest set works, but suggests repertoire for students to learn within five broad categories (including ‘My instrument’ and ‘Rhythms of the World’). The board does not specify the breakdown of the exam, but says that it will contain questions based around musical elements, contexts and language.

For the performance component, marks will be awarded for difficulty, technical control and fluency, and expression and interpretation. Composition briefs will be linked to areas of study, using a stimulus (whether an image, a short story or a rhythmic pattern). The free choice composition will be for the candidate’s instrument.

WJEC is also moving away from set works (with the exception of Rainbow’s Since You’ve Been Gone and the third movement of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik), and will suggest repertoire within ‘ensemble’ and ‘film music’ categories. The exam will be made up of eight questions, six on unprepared musical extracts and two on prepared extracts.

The performance should last a maximum of six minutes, with one piece linking to an area of study. Marks will be awarded for: technical control, expression and interpretation, accuracy of rhythm and pitch, appropriate pace and fluency; effective dynamics; stylistic awareness; and ‘empathy’ (in ensemble playing). Candidates will be required to submit a composition log.

The ISM and Dr Alison Daubney have produced a comparison chart of the four GCSE courses on offer, available here.

NCEM young composers award winners announced

15 May 2015, Katy Wright

Joshua Urben and John Goldie-Scot
Joshua Urben and John Goldie-Scot

The 2015 National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) young composers awards have gone to Joshua Urben (for the 18 and under category) and John Goldie-Scot (for the 19-25 category).

Urben's Fractos Corde and Goldie-Scot's Why are you in such a hurry? will both receive their premieres from the Dunedin Consort in Glasgow on 2 October.

The competition brief was to create a new setting for a short dramatic scene from one of two works by Monteverdi: Orfeo or Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. The works were to be written for two or three singers, accompanied by a small ensemble of instruments.

Seven finalists were invited to have their works presented in a workshop with the Dunedin Consort. The winners were chosen by a panel comprised of Delma Tomlin (director of the NCEM), Les Pratt (senior music producer at BBC Radio 3) and John Butt (director of the Dunedin Consort).

John Butt said: 'The welcoming environment which the NCEM creates for this event and their enlightened approach to encouraging young composers to write for early instruments through this award is to be applauded. We look forward to polishing the winning pieces in preparation for their premiere later this year.'

The National Centre for Early Music

Manchester Camerata welcomes young performers for season finale

15 May 2015

Ingrid Fliter

Twenty young people will perform on stage alongside Manchester Camerata and pianist Ingrid Fliter this weekend to mark the culmination of an outreach project.

The 14 to 18-year-olds, who come from across Greater Manchester, will perform a live remix of music from the Overture to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

RE:Figared has been created by members of the orchestra’s Youth Forum, a group of young people who act as ambassadors for the orchestra and have a voice in the organisation.

Forum members come from culturally diverse backgrounds, with musical interests ranging from rap to singer songwriter, instrumentalists, actors, writers and artists.

Fliter will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 2 in B flat major, with the second half of the concert featuring Mozart’s Symphony No 41, ‘Jupiter’.

The programme also includes a performance of Etudes by Jack Sheen, winner of the orchestra’s 2015 Composers’ Project, which saw ten young composers try their ideas out at Manchester’s new UKFast Auditorium.

Sheen, from Manchester, was BBC Young Composer of the Year in 2011 and is now studying on the joint music course run by the Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester University.

The programme will be performed at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre on Friday 15 May and the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on Saturday 16 May.

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