Winners of RCO Composition Competition announced

Winners of RCO Composition Competition announced

The Royal College of Organists (RCO) has announced the winners of the RCO Composition Competition 2020.

The under 25 years category has been won by James Mitchell with Festival Toccata. The runner-up is Tingshuo Yang with Toccata.

The winner of the 25 years and over category is Paul Trepte with Who alone is good for tenor and organ, setting words by St Francis of Assisi. The runner-up is David Halls with Passacaglia.

The RCO Composition Competition was launched by the College as part of a series of new initiatives and opportunities for organists, choral directors, and composers facing the Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions. Entries were invited (in two age categories) of previously unpublished and unperformed compositions for organ solo or organ and one instrument or voice. Pseudonyms were used throughout the adjudication process.

The competition jury was chaired by Gerard Brooks, the RCO President, who was joined by Judith Weir CBE, Master of the Queen’s Music, and Thomas Trotter, international concert organist and organist of Birmingham Town Hall.

Mr Brooks reports: “The RCO Composition Competition has proved to be a very successful event. Perhaps the restrictions of Covid-19 were partly responsible for prompting an impressive outpouring of compositional talent, for no less than 64 entries were received: 16 in the under 25 years category and 48 in the 25 years and over category.

“With some trepidation, I and my fellow adjudicators, Judith Weir and Thomas Trotter, sat down individually to play and read through some 530 pages of music! I would like to pay tribute first of all to Judith and Thomas for their collective wisdom and dedication, and secondly to all the composers who entered the competition: without exception we encountered music that had been carefully and sincerely thought out, and what a variety of styles, forms, and expression we found, not to mention some highly imaginative pseudonyms!

“Clearly there are many dedicated composers out there and all are to be congratulated on their efforts. Finding winners was a difficult task and, unsurprisingly, our deliberations were wide-ranging; however, our final decisions were unanimous.”

James Mitchell, winner in the under 25 years category is based in Devon. He has recently graduated with a Double First in music from Girton College, Cambridge. James has also held posts at Ely and Manchester Cathedrals. Tingshuo Yang, runner up in this category, is a pianist, organist, and composer studying at Eton College. He has been the recipient of a number of awards for his playing and for composition, and is currently preparing for his ARCO.

Gerard Brooks writes: “We all enjoyed [James’s] eminently playable work: it is well-suited to the organ, convincingly constructed, consistent in its musical language and it maintains its interest throughout.” Of Tingshuo’s work the panel notes “a good sense of form … and the consistent use of the BACH motif worked well to produce a fluent and convincing composition.”

The winner of the 25 years and over category is Paul Trepte. Mr Trepte, a prizewinning Fellow of the College, is a former Organist and Director of Music of Ely Cathedral and has pursued a wide-ranging career in the organ and choral fields. He has a number of recorded and published choral works to his credit. Who alone is good sets a text by St Francis of Assisi. “This effective work with an approachable organ part”, reports Mr Brooks, “caught our attention from the start. The work has a strong and satisfying sense of form; the tenor part, whilst challenging, offers an expressive opportunity to the soloist, and the interplay between voice and accompaniment is both interesting and unusual.”

David Halls, runner up in the 25 years and over category, is currently Director of Music of Salisbury Cathedral. He was organ scholar at Worcester College, Oxford, and is a prizewinning Fellow of the College. Of Mr Halls’s Passacaglia, Gerard Brooks says: “We found this to be accomplished and well written, lying well under the fingers. The work has a good sense of forward movement, and the musical ideas are effectively and interestingly developed as the music progresses.”

The winner in each age category will have his work played at College concerts and events, recorded and made permanently available on iRCO (the College’s digital content hub), and published by the RCO. Runners-up will also have their works featured in performances at College-organised events. Details will be announced as soon as possible.

The following composers were highly commended by the jury:

Under 25 years –
Paul Greally, Chorale Prelude on ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’

25 years and over –
David Allen, St Mary Magdalene brings news of the Resurrection
Paul Ayres, For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry (passacaglia for solo voice and organ)
Tim Ravalde, Tu es Petrus

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