Reflections on the NCEM Young Composers Award

An original composition by a Block 3 student Shoshana was recently shortlisted in the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM)’s Young Composers Award 2021. After performing her composition in the final on 13 May, Shoshana reflects here on her experience in the competition. Listen to Shoshana’s composition, ‘Dancing Through Time’, here.

By Shoshana Yugin-Power, Block 3

When I first heard about the NCEM Young Composers Award, I knew I had to enter for the chance to meet my favourite ensemble, Palisander. As a recorder player myself, I was keen to rise to the challenge to create a piece of dance music for four recorders.

The brief was broad and any dance music was allowed. I was inspired by the numerous YouTube videos I watched in lockdown of things changing rapidly through time – such as fashion, dance and music – and was particularly interested in the idea of the transition between the styles. My goal was to meet Palisander in person by being shortlisted for the final, but I never imagined that would really happen! I was thrilled to be contacted by NCEM to say I was in the final, after they had selected my piece from 68 other entries.

After numerous lockdowns and months when social distancing and bubbles had prevented orchestras and ensembles from gathering, it was with real excitement that I made my way to the city of York, home of the National Centre of Early Music, for the final earlier this month. Once I arrived in York (by train – I enjoyed every moment of the journey, including delays, as public transport in itself is something of a novelty at the moment), I made my way to St Margaret’s Church.

I was one of five finalists in the Under 18 category of the competition, which was sponsored by BBC Radio 3. I spent the day listening to the other finalists’ pieces and attending engaging workshops led by Dr Christopher Fox and Palisander. I was amazed with the standard of the other finalists and it was fascinating to see their interpretation of the brief.  The moment I heard the winning entry in the Under 18 category, I knew it would be the winner – even before I heard the others. It was the dance of swallows in a murmuration.

In the workshop, I had to present my piece and work with Palisander to develop it even further. I learnt so much about how to negotiate changes to my piece to suit the players and how to present my work confidently. In the evening, there was a private concert involving all the young composers’ pieces as well as several pieces from Palisander’s repertoire.

The whole day was an incredible experience. Not only has enabled me to see myself as a composer, but I made many new friends and contacts, the winning composer gave me a copy of the winning entry to play with my recorder friends, and I am already writing my next piece with much more confidence than I previously had.