The winners of the 2016 National Centre for Early Music’s young composers award are Alex Dakin (18 and under category) and Kristina Arakelyan (19-25 years category).

The competition invited young composers resident in the UK to create a contemporary response to the lute song, setting one of four selected poems by William Shakespeare or Carol Ann Duffy.

Dakin’s Demeter (a setting of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 147) and Arakelyan’s Penelope (a setting of a poem by Carol Ann Duffy) will be premiered by Theatre of the Ayre and will be broadcast on Radio 3’s Early Music Show this autumn.

Dakin is a student at Chetham’s School of Music, where he studies composition with Jeremy Pike. 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.

Arakelyan is currently a composition scholar at the Royal Academy of Music. She won first prize in the BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers’ Competition aged 15; 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).

Eight finalists were selected and invited to the NCEM on 12 May to hear their entries presented by Theatre of the Ayre’s Elizabeth Kenny, mezzo soprano Anna Starushkevych and tenor Nicholas Mulroy in a workshop led by composer Christopher Fox. At 7.30pm on the same day, each of the pieces was performed by Theatre of the Ayre at a public concert in the presence of a panel of judges comprising Elizabeth Kenny, Radio 3 producer Les Pratt and NCEM director Delma Tomlin.

Tomlin said the workshop had offered ‘a fascinating insight into a 21st-century vision of the English lute song’ and described the event as ‘a remarkable day for all concerned.’


The concert performance is available online at