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Young composer wins nationwide carol competition

Alex Woolf, a former BBC Young Composer of the Year and music graduate, has won the inaugural Sir David Willcocks Carol Competition with his composition Nowell.

Judges of the Award are David Hill, Musical Director of The Bach Choir, John Rutter, composer, conductor and record producer, and Jonathan Willcocks (son of Sir David), a composer himself.

The new carol will be premiered by The Bach Choir at Carols at Cadogan, on Friday 22 December 2017, at 7.30pm. The Bach Choir is described by the London Evening Standard as: “Probably the finest independent choir in the world.”

This is the first Sir David Willcocks Carol Competition, which will be held each year as a memorial to Sir David Willcocks, who was musical director of The Bach Choir for 38 years from 1960-1998, and conductor laureate thereafter until his death in 2015. The cash prize is provided by the David Willcocks Music Trust.

This is not the first public award that Alex Woolf has won. He was one of seven composers to have been commissioned by Classic FM to write a composition for their 25th Anniversary celebration earlier this year.

He was the 2012 Young Composer of the Year, and that same year he became Principal Composer of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and won the National Centre for Early Music composition award. Alex is a current member of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Panufnik Composers’ Scheme, writing music for the LSO to be premiered in 2018.

Alex read Music at St John’s College, Cambridge and graduated in 2016 with triple First Class Honours in Music. His music has been played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra on Radio 3 and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, and has been performed in venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, Snape Maltings Concert Hall and Maida Vale Studios as well as in Holland, Germany and the United States.

David Hill, Musical Director of The Bach Choir says of this latest carol: “Alex’s carol Nowell is inventive, suitably challenging and a worthy winner of the first Sir David Willcocks Carol Competition. We look forward to performing it.”

Speaking about his win Alex Woolf says: “It’s a huge honour to have won this year’s Sir David Willcocks Carol Competition, especially given Sir David’s enormous and inspiring influence on the choral world. I’m so excited that The Bach Choir is giving the premiere of Nowell – I’ve been aware of this choir’s huge status for as long as I can remember, so it’s an absolute dream to write for them!

“I was keen to capture all the excitement and promise of Christmas, expectant energy brimming over into the full unbridled joy of the season. I love that our favourite Christmas carols range from being triumphant and full-on, to incredibly intimate and gentle – Hark the Herald right through to Silent Night … My carol contains both extremes – big, extroverted expressions of joy surround a more peaceful, lyrical middle section.

“Carols often seem to suggest a kind of ‘angel music’, and I like the idea that this carol can bring to mind not only trumpet-wielding herald angels, but the benevolent spirits which watch over Mary and her new-born child. Christmas is such an exciting time of year, and I love that music plays such a big role in its traditions and celebrations.

“I love singing: singing in choirs has always been one of my favourite things about being a musician. Partly, of course, the group music-making experience is so rewarding and the repertoire is so great, but the experience of group singing has also taught me so much about composing (and not only for voices!).

“Understanding how ensembles breathe together, feeling the music ‘as one’, and how your individual line fits into the whole work has been so important to me – it’s constantly on my mind, whatever music I’m writing!”

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