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Royal Holloway Young Composer Competition

Royal Holloway Young Composer Competition

Royal Holloway Composition Competition

We are delighted to announce the 23/24 iteration of our Composition Competition, for composers in years 10-13 to have your choral piece performed by our world-leading Chapel Choir at Royal Holloway.

Are you a composer in Year 10 to 13 interested in writing for choir? Do you want to hear your music performed by our world-leading Chapel Choir?

Royal Holloway, University of London is launching a composition competition for young composers. The winners of this competition will have their pieces performed by the acclaimed Choir of Royal Holloway, led by director of choral music, Rupert Gough.

The Brief

  • Write a choral piece for our choir to perform.
  • The piece should last between 3-6 minutes in length.
  • The language should be in English, with your own text (or text supplied by a credited author).
  • It can be unaccompanied or written with piano accompaniment, even if a piano reduction from a larger ensemble.
  • You should submit your piece as a notated score.

The Competition

There are two categories, based on age:

  • Year 10/11 (i.e. aged between 15 and 16 on 31 August 2024)
  • Year 12/13 (i.e. aged between 17 and 18 on 31 August 2024)

One will be chosen from each category. The winning compositions will receive feedback and a one-to-one mentoring session from Lecture in Music Composition and Composer-in-Residence with the Choir of Royal Holloway, Nathan James Dearden.

The winning compositions will then be invited to our campus to hear their pieces performed.

Dates and Timeline

DEADLINE EXTENDED The deadline for sending us your compositions is 23:59 on Friday, 26 April 2024.

The winning pieces will be performed in a lunchtime concert in June 2023, as part of our Midweek Music Series. Some small travel bursaries are available and will be awarded based on need.

Apply now

To apply, please complete this online form and submit your music (link embedded)

About Music at Royal Holloway

The Royal Holloway Department of Music is one of the largest in the UK, offering a very broad and diverse range of courses, all taught by expert scholars. We are the only Music department in the country to hold a prestigious Regius Professorship, awarded by Her Majesty The Queen. Ranked among the top Music departments in the UK for both our teaching and our research, we also benefit from a vibrant creative campus community. Our Music and Theatre degree pathway is particularly popular with students interested in Musical Theatre, with our professional connections to major venues like the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House. 

For any queries, please email our head of admissions:

Helpful hints and tips

1.      “What do you look for when choosing a text to set to music?”

Friendly vowels and exciting consonants! Try singing the words on one note to have a feel for what your performers will experience from them.

Remember a text can be anything from an instruction manual to a poem to a string of words randomly extracted from the dictionary!

The text also needs to be out of copyright if the music will be performed publicly. Usually this means that the author (and translator if applicable) died over 70 years ago. [Or you can ask for permission from the copyright holder.]


2.      “What makes good word-setting?”

Think about which words you would like to emphasise. Don't be afraid of repeating them! 

Consider whether you are writing a syllabic setting (one syllable per note) or a melismatic setting (lots of notes on one syllable), or a mixture, and why. 

Remember that when you set a text, you are essentially sharing your interpretation of it. You can make your own edit of the text, too. For example, shortening it if it is too long, or omitting lines that you feel are less important or less singable.


3.      “How do you write effective accompaniment for a choir?”

Think about the magical sonorities you can find on the piano and explore the instrument imaginatively, rather than doubling the material that the choir is singing. Sometimes less is more!


4.      “How can I give my piece a satisfying structure?” (this might intersect with questions of text structure)

There are so many possibilities here. Try making a storyboard or plan that helps you to visualise the shape of your composition. You can add the text and other information to this plan as you develop your exciting ideas. You're encouraged to explore unfamiliar structures, too. 

5.      “What do I need to bear in mind when writing for choir?” (this could include spatial questions, questions of textures/effects, breathing space, common pitfalls, etc.)

Make sure you know the ranges of the voices. Avoid asking the singers to sing at the very top or very bottom of their range for long periods of time. 

Try singing the part yourself to check if it's really singable. 

6.      Anything else

Have fun with it! Try new things, and explore the voice's potential. You might like to think about creating contrasts (in dynamics/texture/timbre/harmony) that help articulate your structure as well as making some bold and daring moments. 


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