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The best new works by Britain’s contemporary composers have been announced today, with thirty-seven composers nominated for the 2018 British Composer Awards across 12 categories including orchestral, jazz, sonic art, chamber ensemble, stage works and wind or brass band.

Highlighting the diversity and vibrancy of contemporary composition in the UK today, the 2018 British Composer Awards nominees include: numerous works demonstrating the ways in which today’s composers give a voice to marginalised groups in society; compositions inspired by poetry and other artforms such as visual art and literature; and works that breathe new life and meaning into history.

Nominees giving a voice to disenfranchised groups in society include: a work by the world’s only ‘recovery’ orchestra (Conall Gleeson), composed and performed by an orchestra in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction; an opera reviving forgotten music by history’s overlooked female composers (Tom Green); and music composed for disabled performers (Oliver SearleLiam Taylor-West).

Compositions taking inspiration from poetry and other artforms include: a piece drawing on world music and Indian poetry to build musical bridges between cultures (Roxanna Panufnik); a reimagining of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to apply to refugees in the world today, first performed by children who are refugees themselves (Dee Isaacs); and a brass band composition based on coal mining strikes and inspired by poet Mervyn Peake (Gavin Higgins).

Nominated composers reinterpreting and breathing new life into history include: a brass band piece inspired by the life of Alan Turing (Simon Dobson); an orchestral work exploring the notion of ‘Deep Time’ through music (Harrison Birtwistle); a sonic art installation celebrating the rediscovery of a forgotten Baptist Burial Ground (Emily Peasgood); and a full-length string concert inspired by the North Sea Flood of 1953 (Oliver Coates).

A record-breaking year for entries, 2018 saw over 560 submissions, demonstrating the volume of quality new music being composed and debuted in the UK. This year all categories have been judged anonymously for the first time, and a second jazz category has been added. In 2018 51 per cent of the composer are aged under 40, and are first-time nominees.

The British Composer Awards are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PRS for Music. The event is in association with BBC Radio 3 providing exclusive broadcast coverage.

Crispin HuntChair at BASCA, said: “In this record-breaking year for entries, BASCA is delighted to celebrate the breadth of works for the British Composer Awards, representing a wealth of UK talent. As ever it’s hugely exciting and inspiring to see the fresh passion represented by our first-time nominees. Congratulations to everyone nominated today.”

Nigel EldertonPRS for Music Chairman, commented: “I am delighted for PRS for Music to once again be supporting the British Composer Awards, with its impeccable record of recognising the best contemporary classical works. It is inspiring to see that over half of this year’s nominated composers are aged under 40 and first-time nominees, showing that the UK classical music landscape is truly continuing to flourish. Congratulations to you all and I look forward to celebrating with you at the ceremony in December.”

Alan DaveyController BBC Radio 3, added: “Broadcasting the outstanding work of composers from across the UK – throughout our schedule – is an intrinsic part of our role to connect audiences with remarkable music and culture. We look forward to sharing highlights of this year’s awards and some of these marvellous new compositions on the station.”

Celebrating the art of composition and showcasing the creative talent of contemporary composers and sound artists, the winners in each category will be announced at a ceremony at the British Museum in London on Tuesday 4 December 2018.

Presented by BBC Radio 3’s Andrew McGregor and Sara Mohr-Pietsch, the ceremony will include a performance in memory of nominated composer, Oliver Knussen and the presentation of two Gift of BASCA awards – the British Composer Award for Innovation and the British Composer Award for Inspiration, presented in association with the Music Publishers Association.

British Composer Awards 2018 Nominees:

Amateur or Young Performers
Works for voluntary, amateur or youth choirs and ensembles
• Fiery Tales by Richard Bullen
• Microscopic Dances by Oliver Searle
• The Caretaker’s Guide to the Orchestra by Jeremy Holland-Smith

Chamber Ensemble
Six or more instruments or voices written for one player or voice per part
• Libro di fiammelle e ombre by James Weeks
• O Hototogisu! by Oliver Knussen
• Tanz/haus : triptych 2017 by James Dillon

A cappella or accompanied, except works for choir and orchestra
• In the Land of Uz by Judith Weir
• Mielo by Raymond Yiu
• Unending Love by Roxanna Panufnik

Community or Educational Project
Works demonstrating a composer’s work in community engagement alongside compositional craft
• Solace by Conall Gleeson
• The Rime of the Ancient Mariner- a retelling for our times by Dee Isaacs
• The Umbrella by Liam Taylor-West

Jazz Composition for Large Ensemble
Nine or more instruments or voices that contain interactive improvisation as an essential element
• Afronaut by Cassie Kinoshi
• Rituals by Matt London
• Time by Finlay Panter

Jazz Composition for Small Ensemble
Up to eight instruments or voices that contain interactive improvisation as an essential element
• Close to Ecstasy by Simon Lasky
• Vegetarians by Ivo Neame
• You’ve Got to Play the Game by Johnny Richards

• Deep Time by Harrison Birtwistle
• Recorder Concerto by Graham Fitkin
• The Imaginary Museum by Julian Anderson

Small Chamber
Three to five instruments or voices written for one player or voice per part
• Chant by Charlotte Bray
• Lines Between by Robert Laidlow
• Unbreathed by Rebecca Saunders

Solo or Duo
Instrumental or vocal music performed by one or two players or voices
• A Damned Mob of Scribbling Women by Laura Bowler
• Belmont Chill by William Marsey
• The Harmonic Canon by Dominic Murcott

Sonic Art
Sound art installations, electronic music and works with live electronics
• Halfway to Heaven by Emily Peasgood
• The Otheroom by Rolf Wallin
• Two Machines by Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian and Hugh Jones as ‘Crewdson & Cevanne’

Stage Works
Works specifically written for the stage, including opera, dance and musical theatre
• Shorelines by Oliver Coates
• The Exterminating Angel by Thomas Adès
• The World’s Wife by Tom Green

Wind Band or Brass Band
• Dark Arteries Suite by Gavin Higgins
• Mindscapes by Lucy Pankhurst
• The Turing Test by Simon Dobson

Works eligible for the 2018 British Composer Awards must have received a UK premiere between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018. Works are also composed by a composer born in the UK or ordinarily resident in the UK.

For more information visit the British Composer Awards website

Submit an existing work for ensemble and electronics for a chance to have it performed at the ECSA General Assembly in Brussels

Closing date extended to Wednesday 10 October 2018 at 12 noon

Performance date: 19 February 2019

About ECCO

ECCO (European Contemporary Composers Orchestra) is the name for the bi-annual concerts presented by ECSA (European Composer and Songwriter Alliance) to coincide with its General Assembly and Creators Conference each year. The programme for ECCO concerts is drawn from a competitive Europe-wide call. This will be the tenth European Contemporary Composers Orchestra (ECCO) Concert. Selected works will be performed by the Hopper ensemble and Centre Henri Pousseur on 19 February 2019 in Espace Senghor, Brussels. The ECSA General Assembly is a high-profile meeting of composer organisations from all over Europe and we encourage all Standard and Professional members to submit works for this call.

Previous performances include:

  • The Stargazer by Lynne Plowman performed by Ensemble Sturm und Klang at the ECSA Creators Conference in Brussels, February 2015
  • Standing as I do before God by Cecilia McDowall and It Sounded as if the Streets were Running by Jonathan Dove performed by the BBC Singers in London as part of the ECSA General Assembly hosted by BASCA, November 2015
  • Musical Chairs by Michael Berkeley and Strike Opponent’s Ears With Both Fists by Julian Grant performed by Ensemble Sturm und Klang at the Creators Conference in Brussels, February 2016
  • Concerto for Orchestra 1st & 4th movements by John Casken performed by RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra in Ljubljana, September 2016
  • Plainsong for Strings by Jennifer Fowler performed by Wiener Concert-Verein in Vienna, October 2017


Specification the Brussels 2019 call

Only pieces of mixed music (acoustic instruments and electronics) are eligible for this call.

Live instruments available:

  • Piano
  • (Electric) Guitar
  • Clarinet
  • German Flute/Transverse Flute
  • Violin
  • Viola
  • Cello

Plus electronics, which may be either:

  • Pre-recorded sound files (“tapes”). The use of a click track or a visual time code is possible
  • Live effects on instruments via cycling 74’s Max software (cycling74.com/products/max) and/or ableton live (https://www.ableton.com/en/live/)
  • The electronics can be stereo or multi-channels (up to 6 channels)

Other requirements:

  • We encourage pieces of all lengths but ask that the piece does not exceed 15 minutes
  • Works composed in movements cannot exceed 15 minutes in total. Separate movements will not be accepted
  • Works must have been written within the last twenty years and have already received a performance

Application and selection

This call is open to Standard and Professional members of BASCA. Please apply online via the link below. BASCA will judge entries anonymously, so please remove your name and any publisher details from the score, recording and file metadata.

BASCA will select up to three works from those it receives to submit to ECSA. The ECCO Artistic Committee will then select the concert programme. We will inform all composers whether or not their work is one of three submitted by BASCA to ECSA and, if so, whether it has been selected for the concert.

Apply online for the ECCO call for works


In celebration of her 90th birthday, Thea Musgrave CBE, master of the modern orchestra
and recent Ivor Novello Award recipient, talks about her life in music.

When did you start making music as a child?
My first musical experience was my very first piano lesson as a child of five in Edinburgh. My teacher had the wisdom to ask me to stand on the piano bench and peer over the top of the opened upright piano and look in at the mechanisms all the while as she played the notes on the keyboard. Well, naturally, I was hooked for life! I also had a baby sitter who used to sing Swanee River to me! You studied at the University of Edinburgh, but began studying medicine before switching to music.

How did you realise that you needed to change path?
Well, unlike the rest of the University, the medical school and the music school happened to be in close proximity to each other. Originally I had started studies in medicine intending to find cures for all (yes, all!) the major diseases – but I found myself spending more and more time in the music school rather than cutting up frogs. And the creative opportunities in music eventually won out for me with a different kind of ‘discovery’.

After Edinburgh you moved to Paris for four years to study with Nadia Boulanger. What was she like as a teacher?
Nadia Boulanger was a very important influence on me. The four years I spent with her in private lessons and at the Paris Conservatoire really shaped my discipline and technique as a composer, and helped me enter the wider world of music where I came to find my own individual voice. After studying, you established your career in
London. What was the musical scene like there? It was filled with concerts. I went to one almost every night – frequently with Richard Rodney Bennett, or other composers, or with friends. How did your idea of ‘dramatic-abstract’ composing come about? From a dream actually! I woke up in the middle of the
night terrified from dreaming that, while I was conducting an orchestra, suddenly an instrumentalist stood up and challenged me by going his own way with the music. I laughed about that with my friends at dinner that night. And the very next day (and I mean the very next day) I got a commission to write a piece for Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. That became my very first ‘dramatic abstract’ piece – The Concerto for Orchestra, during which the clarinet
stands up to defy the conductor.

How do you decide which topics or stories are going to work as operas?
The stories that have attracted me and have formed the basis of my operas have all been about issues such as power struggles, sexism, racism, and individual heroic journeys – whether they were successful in the end or not. They are also often about well-known historic personages like Harriet Tubman, Simón Bolívar, or Mary, Queen of Scots – who were all up against strong odds but nonetheless still persevered. But always dramatic situations. As a composer I have been fascinated to shape their journeys for the stage, to write the words they might really have said. And to set and surround their emotions with music, bringing their
dramatic confrontations and lives to the stage so others can feel them as I do.

You have written some of your own libretti. What are the advantages of doing this and what are the challenges?
It was from Mary, Queen of Scots onwards that I took over writing my own libretti. And never looked back. Although other writers may be more experienced at writing plays and poems and prose, I find that the needs of words that are going to be set to music are very different indeed. For instance some pages of text can fly by in fast-moving music, and yet just a few lines can suffice for a long slow aria – where the orchestra can also elaborate upon the feelings and the moment. And it is certainly more efficient for a composer to write the words for the music they will eventually compose, thereby consolidating and organically intensifying their understanding of how the drama moves. It also means one can change words up to the last minute if one needs to. Nobody’s permission needed! Richard Wagner certainly understood the benefit of that process! Ultimately, it is easier for me to talk with myself as both librettist and composer. There is much less chance of misinterpretation, and certainly no need for tact or compromise.

You have written a lot of orchestral music and often conduct your own works. Which orchestras have you particularly enjoyed working with?
I have loved working with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, which gave me my first chances, as well as the other BBC orchestras. In the US, the Philadelphia
Orchestra, Boston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras as well as several opera companies including San Francisco Opera and the New York City Opera. And then I must mention the years in Virginia.That is where I really learned about opera: from my husband, Peter Mark, who conducted there for nearly four decades, and from all
the wonderful singers, directors, musicians and organisers as well!

Which soloists have you particularly enjoyed working with?
Barry Tuckwell, the famous horn player, now retired. Oboist Nicholas Daniel and French horn player Martin Owen, who are both very active. Conductors Norman
del Mar and Colin Davis, earlier in my career – and, more recently, Martyn Brabbins and Susanna Mälkki. I have only mentioned European (and Australian!) performers.There are also many, many wonderful American performers that I have had the pleasure of working with. I must mention Ashley Putnam, soprano, who gave the first US performances as Mary in Mary, Queen of Scots. She was right at the beginning of her career.

Which composers’ music do you most enjoy listening to?
A long list, inevitably incomplete: Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók, Witold Lutosławski, Luciano Berio, Peter Maxwell Davies, Richard Rodney Bennett, the classics, and, of course, Johann Sebastian Bach. Then there is opera. And let us not forget Claudio Monteverdi.

What are the differences in the musical scenes between the UK and United States?
The UK of course is much smaller and its musical life is more concentrated and interconnected. The US is enormous and one simply can’t be in contact with all the
different music centres that exist there. There is also a huge difference in how musical organisations are funded.We need to keep that in mind and make very sure that young people can get the right kind of exposure to the wonders of music at the right age.

Your 90th birthday year is being celebrated with performances throughout the US and Europe. How much will you try to get to? And what are you most looking forward to?
As many as possible! It’s great to see old friends and haunts as well as meet new friends and colleagues. I am very much looking forward to hearing my two new works, Missa Brevis and A Collect for John the Baptist, for the Wells Cathedral this June. And I’m also to going to Stockholm, Sweden – where I have never been – for four concerts of my works as their FOCUS composer in November.

What advice do you have for young composers starting out today?
Be true to yourself. And don’t try to be ‘original’! Above all, make friends with wonderful performers.

Composer and conductor, teacher and artistic director, Oliver Knussen died this week aged 66.

A towering figure in contemporary music, Knussen was one of the most influential and performed composers of his generation. He was also the recipient of the Ivor Novello Award for Classical Music,

Gary Carpenter, chair of BASCA’s classicial committee said “This week saw the sad passing of Oliver (Olly) Knussen. Apart from his achievements as one of the world’s finest composers and conductors, Olly was unstinting in his support and encouragement of at least two generations of composers, most recently as Richard Rodney Bennett Professor at the Royal Academy of Music. There are innumerable BASCA members whose lives have been enriched over the years by him and all of us at BASCA are devasted that he has gone so early and we will always be grateful and thankful for everything he was and did.”

Read The Guardian obituary

BASCA is delighted once again to be working with the BBC Singers to present a workshop and concert in September 2018 and Standard and Professional members of BASCA are invited to submit works for the concert and workshop.

Workshop on Tuesday 18 September

Concert on Friday 21 September

Closing date for both calls: Sunday 8 July 2018


There will be a composers’ workshop with the BBC Singers at BBC Maida Vale Studios on Tuesday 18th September 2018. BASCA Standard and Professional members are invited to submit works for the workshop. This is a rare opportunity to gain experience hearing your work rehearsed by one of the world’s leading a cappella chamber choirs.

Further details and application form for the workshop


This year the theme of the concert is The Refugee Experience.  The concert will be on Friday 21st September at a venue in London with the BBC Singers conducted by James Morgan. The concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

The call is Europe-wide and designed to be as broad as possible, so the subject of works might extend to historical instances. (The children of the Kindertransport might be a good example). BASCA is also interested in receiving scores from composers (and writers) who have familiarity with the refugee experience in the widest sense, whether through direct contact, family history or because they are refugees themselves.

This will be the fourth time that BASCA has collaborated with the BBC Singers on a special concert based on music drawn from composers all over Europe. The previous concerts have given an opportunity for composers new to UK audiences to have their voices heard and introduced new and exciting choral music from a wide range of European countries such as Ireland, Slovenia, Norway etc. UK composers are also well represented.  This year’s call seeks to widen the opportunities for choral composers with a theme that is relevant both historically and in the present. There is hardly a European country that has not been touched by the refugee experience and we are hoping for an eloquent articulation in music of the many pressing issues involved.

Further details and application form for the concert



Kerry Andrew is a London-based composer, performer, writer and educator. She has so far won four British Composer Awards and has just released her debut novel, Swansong, published by Jonathan Cape. Here she shares her top five tracks.


The Furrow Collective: Polly Vaughn I love the Furrow Collective’s subtly modern take on traditional songs, and this folk ballad is very dear to me. It’s a gorgeously tragic tale of an accident and subsequent male grief. I did my own version of it (under the name You Are Wolf), before expanding and twisting it in my debut novel, Swansong.

Messaien: Quartet For The End of Time (V. Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus) The entire Quartet for the End of Time is a beloved piece of mine, but it’s the cello and piano duet in the fifth movement, Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus, that burrows into my soul. It’s just the most astonishingly beautiful music, with doggedly pulsing piano and an achingly expressive melody that seems to never end. Hearing classical ensemble Chroma play this in a packed community hall on Fair Isle, Shetland was an unforgettable moment.

Tom Waits: Blue Valentines One of Waits’ simpler songs – I’m a big fan of his more avant-garde outings, too – this is an exquisite marriage of melody and poetic lyrics. Being delivered in his ragged style only makes it more heartbreaking.

The Beach Boys: Our Prayer I’ve always had a soft spot for the Beach Boys, growing up with their surfer songs and later discovering Brian Wilson’s wildly creative Smiley Smile. This succinct, wordless hymn opened that album and shows off their incredible vocal blend with some agile harmonies. Four of my friends sang it as I walked down the aisle at my wedding!

Fiona Apple: Hot Knife I could choose a hundred vocal pieces that excite me, but there’s something utterly infectious about Apple’s brilliant slice of alt-pop. It has a killer chorus, “I’m a hot knife, he’s a pat of butter,” and layers up vocal lines in a way that compels you to dance.

It’s the unexpected events in life that can keep the BBC Proms particularly interesting, as David Pickard found out in his first season as Director. With around 50% of the programme’s events already set in place by his predecessor, David was busy putting the finishing touches of his contribution together in January 2016 when the death of David Bowie led him to add a tribute to the rock and pop legend to the 2016 festival. David says: “It’s important that we can react to these events to reflect the mood and spirit of the nation, and it felt completely appropriate that we marked the music of an artist who meant so much to so many”.

Rolling out the welcome mat

Indeed, it is a growing awareness of people’s diverse needs that continues to drive the ever-evolving culture of the festival, and a more inclusive approach to its programmes. Its latest addition – The Relaxed Prom – has been designed to provide a comfortable environment for all audiences. It has a particular focus on facilitating an informal atmosphere for children and adults, with a wide range of sensory and physical impairments, to enjoy an orchestral concert. There will be changes such as auditorium doors left open and designated ‘chill out’ spaces, while the BBC National Orchestra of Wales perform.

“We are passionate about opening our doors to new audiences and introducing classical music to those who may not have experienced it before.” Says David.

For the first time since 1930, the Proms are travelling out of London. The festival is heading north to Hull, (this year’s UK City of Culture winner), for an open air concert at Stage@TheDock where the Royal Northern Sinfonia will perform Handel’s Water Music suites. It was first performed 300 years ago at a river party on the Thames for George I.

Not surprisingly, there are some nerves regarding the logistics and mechanics of such a feat. However, after 14 years as General Director of Glyndebourne, David isn’t too fazed with trickier or alternative venues – ‘I just pray it doesn’t rain!’

As with every year, there is the pressure to balance more traditional expectations with concerts that might appeal to different audiences. The BBC Concert Orchestra’s performance of John Williams’ best-loved scores (in honour of his 85th birthday) will be no doubt be an extremely popular event –  as fun and accessible for fans at the Royal Albert Hall, as it is for those watching at home on TV.

However, David is “particularly proud” of the breadth of contemporary pieces this year, which he describes as ‘extremely good pieces’ that have wide appeal.

One of David’s top recommendations for new music is Anders Hillborg’s ‘hugely atmospheric’ Sirens, which will premiere at the Royal Albert Hall. David is also excited by the work of American composer Missy Mazzoli, who makes her debut at the Proms this year – she was recently described as ‘Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart’ by Time Out New York.

History speaks

Perhaps one of the most alternative spaces this year for contemporary works is the Tanks at Tate Modern. Once used for storing oil, it will be brought back to life by performances that will include a collaboration between the London Contemporary Orchestra and London-based electronic artist Actress. These cutting-edge explorations aim to reach out to, as BBC Radio 3 broadcaster Sara Mohr-Pietsch puts it “a growing audience of adventurous listeners for whom the usual distinctions between music, art, architecture, theatre and dance just don’t exist in the same way.”

As much as contemporary music encourages us to look ahead and embrace the new, there is a certain tone of solemnity in this year’s programme. The marking of several extremely significant historical events invites audiences to explore the powerful impact they’ve had on composers’ works.

Rachmaninov is just one of the Russian composers who will be celebrated to mark the 100 year anniversary of the October Revolution. As if sensing his country was heading for a seismic shift – where not only old beliefs would be questioned but obliterated – Rachmaninov composed the All Night Vigil (Vespers), now hailed as ‘the greatest musical achievement of the Russian Orthodox Church’. This will be performed by The Latvian Radio Choir, alongside his Piano Concerto No 3. in D minor and Symphony No 2.

The Proms also marks 500 years since the Reformation. In a world that is still arguably reeling from its effects, it’s interesting to see that composers of the present day are still inspired by Martin Luther’s chorale –  Cheryl Frances Hoad’s prelude Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott and Jonathan Dove’s prelude Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam will both premiere on Reformation Day.

As David comments:  “Composers have always looked to the past to find new ways of reinventing – they don’t always need to look ahead for it.”

Celebrating diversity

From the Reformation to the Referendum, our concepts of Europe and our relationship to it continue to change.  Although Sir James Macmillan wrote European Requiem before last summer’s result, it resonates as a piece that reflects the issues Europe is currently wrestling with. Interestingly, Sir James felt drawn to set the texts in Latin because it “represented the ideal rediscovering of the common European language that existed before nationalist barriers were erected.”

From our commonalities to our differences, questions surrounding diversity still pervade.  Although David acknowledges there is still much to be done to tackle disparities, he is proud of what has been achieved in this year’s programme.  Out of all the world premieres at the Proms this year there is an almost 50/50 gender split, and out of the nine conductors making their debut, three are women.

The Chineke! Orchestra will also make its BBC Proms debut at the Royal Albert Hall in August this year – with a performance including the premiere of Hannah Kendall’s The Spark Catchers. This is a decision that David is quick to assert is not about tokenism but rather the quality of the music that the orchestra makes. He says: “We wouldn’t be doing anybody a service by bringing in anything other than a first rate orchestra.”

Whatever the future brings, The Proms’ popularity endures. Perhaps this is because, to some extent, the performances create a refuge from whatever’s going on in the outside world. As David comments, the atmosphere in the Royal Albert Hall is always incredibly intense “When the performers feed off that energy, it helps them to give unique, incredible performances.”

Deadline: 16 July 2017

BASCA is delighted once again to be presenting a workshop and concert with the BBC Singers in October 2017 and Standard and Professional members are invited to submit works.

On Tuesday 3 October BASCA will present a composers’ workshop with the BBC Singers and Judith Weir at BBC Maida Vale Studios. BASCA Standard and Professional members are invited to submit works for the workshop. This is a fantastic opportunity to gain experience hearing your work rehearsed by one of the world’s leading choirs and receive feedback from the Master of the Queen’s Music.

Then on Friday 6 October we will present a concert of works by BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) composers, performed by the BBC Singers conducted by James Morgan. The works for the concert will be drawn from a Europe-wide call for scores and BASCA Standard and Professional members who identify as belonging to an ethnic minority are invited to submit works for the call. This is a fantastic opportunity to hear your work performed by one of the world’s leading choirs, and the concert will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

In 2016 BASCA and BBC Radio 3 presented a conference on Diversity in Composing and one theme which emerged was the low visibility of BAME composers and the need for more role models. We hope that presenting this concert will provide visibility to these composers and help to inspire a younger generation of composers from all backgrounds.

This project is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Arts Council England logo


Guidelines for submitting scores to the workshop

  • This call is open to BASCA Standard and Professional members.
  • Works selected for this call will be presented at a workshop led by Judith Weir and conducted by James Morgan at BBC Maida Vale Studios in London on Tuesday 3 October 2017. Composers must commit to attending the workshop.
  • The maximum duration of works is 5 minutes.
  • Works may have been previously performed, but must be unpublished.
  • Works in progress are permitted, but scores must be complete and ready as if for public performance.
  • Pieces may use any text, but copyright texts must be cleared for setting; this is the responsibility of the composer.
  • Pieces should be for unaccompanied choir, and may be for any combination of SATB. The BBC Singers’ usual 18 voice division is
  • Use of a common European language is helpful.
  • While you may want to write music that takes advantage of the BBC Singers’ particular abilities in contemporary music, please bear in mind that pieces which are unduly complex may not be easily performable by other choirs.
  • Please provide scores with a piano reduction.
  • The score should contain a separate page containing the text.
  • Applications will be made online. Click here to apply for the BASCA BBC Singers Workshop.
  • The deadline for submitting works to this call is 23:59 on Sunday 16 July 2017.
  • If you have any questions regarding the call please email Anna Reich anna@basca.org.uk


Guidelines for submitting scores to the concert

  • This call is open to BASCA Standard and Professional members who identify as belonging to an ethnic minority.
  • Works selected for this call will be presented at a concert given by the BBC Singers conducted by James Morgan on Friday 6 October 2017 at St. Gabriel’s, Pimlico in London, which will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
  • The maximum duration of works is 10 minutes.
  • Pieces may use any text, but copyright texts must be cleared for setting; this is the responsibility of the composer.
  • Pieces should be for unaccompanied choir, and may be for any combination of SATB (including men-only and women-only pieces). The BBC Singers’ usual 18 voice division is
  • Use of a common European language is helpful.
  • Please provide scores with a piano reduction.
  • The score should contain a separate page containing the text.
  • Applications will be made online. Click here to apply for the BASCA BBC Singers Concert.
  • The deadline for submitting works to this call is 23:59 on Sunday 16 July 2017.
  • If you have any questions regarding this call please email Anna Reich anna@basca.org.uk



Whether listening to her family’s LP and magnetic tape collection or attending the Plovdiv Verdi festival every summer, Dobrinka Tabakova was surrounded by music from an early age. Many of Dobrinka’s earliest and fondest memories are singing in school or chapel choirs, cocooned against the beautiful and magical backdrop of the Rhodope Mountains. As well as the dramatic landscape that surrounds Plovdiv, it also – as one of the oldest cities in the world – boasts a vast treasure of Thracian and Roman ruins.

In 1991, at the age of 11, Dobrinka moved to London when her father was invited to take up a position in medical physics at King’s College London.  The move from Plovdiv’s relics of antiquity to London, with its endless pursuit of the new – most evident in Canary Wharf constructions that dwarfed the city – must have been a stark contrast to what she’d left ‘back home’.

It may well have been this first significant move that lends such a strong sense of maturity and sensitivity to her work. Even as a student, the composer John Adams praised her music as “extremely original and rare”. Critics have described her work as having “huge emotional depth” that perhaps hints at a landscape left behind, among “glowing tonal harmonies and grand, sweeping gestures.”

This transition at such a young age may also have contributed to her desire to always seek out new experiences in music, an instinct that has brought her to the attention of The BBC Concert Orchestra, who have recently appointed her as their Composer in Residence.

The move is part of the orchestra’s commitment to new music. And there is no doubt that Dobrinka’s talent and innate curiosity, combined with one of the most versatile orchestras in the world, will produce some exciting and unusual results. As Alan Davey, Controller of BBC Radio 3, says:  “The BBC Concert Orchestra’s adventurous spirit and Dobrinka’s creative musicality are a perfect match and I look forward to showcasing the results of their partnership to our audiences.”

For Dobrinka, it is an “opportunity to bring as much living music to different audiences”, a factor she believes to be particularly important within contemporary music.  She says: “I’m so lucky to be offered the chance to work with such a diverse orchestra – from classical to jazz, folk and film; they work with an exciting variety of music.” She adds: “I have no preconceived ideas regarding how I’ll approach the work – I anticipate that it will be a freeing experience, where the music will develop organically, from conversations with the orchestra.”

Dobrinka’s collaborative spirit was shaped from an early age, when she began studying composition, piano and conducting at Alleyn’s School and the Royal Academy of Music Junior Department. At the age of 12, she began to find musicians to play her work, a practice that consolidated the importance of the relationship between composer and performer.

She says: “I am inspired by the performers I write for- their energy and passion. I imagine them on stage and recreate that in the music.” A group of regular ‘champions’ of her music, amongst whom are violist/conductor Maxim Rysanov and violinist Janine Jansen, featured on Dobrinka’s debut album on ECM Records- ‘String Paths’. The album received a Grammy nomination, reached No. 2 in the UK’s Specialist Classical charts and attracted international praise.

While Dobrinka studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, she was always looking for people who were interested in new music. She says: “It was the classics which ignited my love for music, but as a composer, I was interested in finding performers who also wanted to play the next generation of music and push the repertoire. I was always writing with that purpose in mind.”

As President of the Contemporary Music Society she was driven by a desire to create a community that could share ideas, experiment and create exciting collaborations, within an environment of collegiate support. She then channelled this into her work promoting music by living composers, when she coordinated ‘The Cutting Edge Series’ at the British Music Information Centre.

Dobrinka’s transition from university into full time composing was fairly seamless. Indeed, it was while she was studying at Guildhall in 2002 that she won the Barclays Private Banking Prize for the anthem for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations – a choral composition that was performed at St Paul’s Cathedral. A string of prizes and awards followed in subsequent years, which included the Adam prize of King’s College London, where she completed her PhD in composition and her first significant American accolade-First prize and Sorel Medallion in choral composition, in 2011. Choral music continues to form a significant part of her output and most recently she was appointed composer-in-residence with Truro Cathedral.

Dobrinka particularly enjoys the research part of composition, a fact that could be attributed to her scientific background, with both her parents working in medical physics. One of her most substantial choral and research projects to date was to write a cantata for the Shakespeare 400th anniversary. Created during her residency with the Stratford-upon-Avon based Orchestra of the Swan, the cantata required extensive research, which led Dobrinka to uncover rare J.M.W. Turner sketches of a trip to the poet’s birthplace, which she used as inspiration.

She read all of Shakespeare’s plays, imagining how the words could be successfully structured to music, and consulted with Dominic Dromgoole, the then Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe. She says: “I love that all this expertise is open to you to take inspiration from – this is what I enjoy about the research stage.”

Dobrinka’s work continues to embrace many different collaborations –the music she wrote for the New Music Biennial film Pulse, directed by Ruth Paxton, combined gamelan with piano and percussion. She says: “It was exciting to work with someone who deals with structure and time.”

She describes her generation of composers as ‘lucky’, benefitting from a relaxation in styles of composing. She values the ability of composers to create accessible works which also challenge. Indeed, one critic described her as a contemporary artist whose “ideas do not discard the training that shaped them.”

And although statistics show that female composers’ work is underrepresented in the contemporary music world, there is no doubt that many aspiring young composers will look to Dobrinka as an inspiration, just as she admired the generation before her. Dobrinka names Judith Weir, Sofia Gubaidulina and Kaija Saariaho as just some of her early influences – female composers who made significant impacts with their work, so that it would be possible for the next generation “not to feel excluded.”

She believes that technology continues to create many new opportunities – for example, the live streaming of concerts. She adds “technology also has a responsibility to nurture creativity and the two should develop alongside, not at the expense of each other.”

Her excitement for the way in which contemporary music has developed over the past 25 years is palpable.  She says: “The variety of music out there is some of the richest, and most exciting there’s ever been –orchestral instruments are fusing many different genres from jazz and electronica to folk.” She adds: “I think it’s important we keep this work visible and celebrate it regularly.”


“Great art needs to reflect the society it comes from” – IMG_6837 Alan Davey BBC Radio 3

Last week BASCA, with BBC Radio 3 hosted a Diversity and Inclusion in Classical Composition Conference at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester.
BASCA CEO Vick Bain opened the conference saying “This summer, BASCA published research that focused specifically on classical music composition. The large amount of applications we receive during the awards gives us the closest data set we have to a comprehensive list of new music commissions in the UK; in 2015 we received nearly 300 submissions from commissioned composers. Information on ethnic background showed that of these composers only 6% were of black and minority ethnic heritage. This is less than half the 14% of people in the general UK population…Aside from a moral obligation to make music more accessible to all communities, we at BASCA realise diversity is essential to the survival of British music. A diverse group of individuals will create more enriching opportunities and experiences within music. I hope this conference is a first step towards facilitating that and making it possible”.

FullSizeRenderPresented by Tom Service and Josie D’Arby, the day consisted of a series of panel discussions and keynote speeches given by a selection of composers including Jeffrey Mumford, Raymond Yui, Daniel Kidane, Eleanor Alberga and Errollyn Wallen along with representatives from organisations, Sound & Music, Arts Council England, Southbank Centre, Chineke Foundation and London Music Masters.
Following the debates raised throughout the day Alan Davey announced that BBC Radio 3 would be:

> Expanding the BBC Radio 3’s classical canon to be more representative and to feature unjustly neglected composers.
> Reappraising the commissioning process based on advice and discussion at the conference
> Commissioning a new work for Chineke! Orchestra to perform
> Committing to reconvening the conference to ensure on-going action

As a starting point for this new focus, composer and BASCA Classical Executive Committee member Dr Shirley J Thompson has already curated a page on the BBC Radio 3 website, highlighting some of the major BAME composing names of the past.

The conference ended with a live BBC broadcast of In Tune from the RNCM with A celebration of BAME composers featuring the BBC Philharmonic orchestra.
Vick Bain was interviewed by Suzy Klein and highlighted the stark and shocking figure that only 6% of commissioned compositions were from BAME composers last year and that the conference, attended by people of power and influence throughout the classical sector who could now start addressing the problem.

Click here to listen to the broadcast

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