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RNS Young Composers' Competition: Meet the Finalists

Posted on 25 January 2018

On 26 January 2017, join us at 6.30pm in Sage One for the world premiere performances of the three shortlisted compositions in Royal Northern Sinfonia’s Young Composers’ Competition. Click here to book for the concert

Royal Northern Sinfonia is passionate about the sound world of the classical chamber orchestra – the committed playing; the importance of each individual contribution; the clarity, finesse and focus of sound it can produce.

The RNS Young Composers’ Competition was established to give a platform for young composers to write for a chamber-size orchestra, open to composers studying full-time at undergraduate or postgraduate level at a UK university or conservatoire during 2017/18.

The criteria for the piece was brief: a composition of up to 8’ in length scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two French horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings. We received an overwhelming response from applicants all over the country.

The three finalists selected are Jocelyn Campbell, Joel Järventausta and Sturdivant Adams, whose works will be performed on Friday 26 January 2018 at 6.30pm in Sage One as part of Royal Northern Sinfonia’s New Year New Artists concert. Vote for your favourite, along with our jury, and the RNS Young Composers’ Competition 2018 winner will be announced from the stage after the interval. Book tickets now

The winner will receive £1,500 and the runners-up will receive £1,000 each.

Good luck to all – and happy voting!

Meet the Finalists

Jocelyn Campbell

Jocelyn Campbell (b. 1990) is a London-based composer who is currently studying at King’s College London for a PhD in composition under the supervision of George Benjamin.

Jocelyn had previously studied with Silvina Milstien at King’s for a Masters of Music, and completed a BA in music at Middlesex University under Brian Inglis, François Evans and Peter Fribbins.

Ensembles who have played works by Jocelyn include the Lontano Ensemble, the Allegri String Quartet, the Finale Orchestra, the Solarek Piano Trio, Newe Vialles, and Ensemble x.y, among others.

About the piece

[note] WAVE is a love letter to numerous styles of orchestral music, past and present. The overall musical language is indebted to composers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries such as Helmut Lachenmann and Salvatore Sciarrino, who have greatly expanded the sonic potential of the orchestra with their innovative extended performance techniques, allowing for sounds reminiscent of wind, cracklings, scrapings and rumblings to exist alongside the more conventional sounds of the classical orchestra. In this piece I have used many facets of this extended-technique style of composition combined with a collage of more classical and romantic musical materials.

The piece opens with fragments of different musical styles that are presented in succession. Nothing lasts much longer than a few seconds: the horns state a strident refrain, the strings play agitated tremolo and clusters of high harmonics, wind instruments produce air sounds or percussive tremors, and short fragments of orchestral music from Beethoven, through Mahler and into the present day fleetingly emerge and subside.

As the piece continues, consistency gradually begins to emerge. Sounds and quotations become more drawn out and interact with one another in a more fluid and consonant manner; the language ceases to jump abruptly from moment to moment and settles into something reminiscent of a ballad. The piece ends in a much softer space than it started.

Jocelyn Campbell ©

Joel Järventausta

Joel Järventausta (b. 1995) is a Finnish composer currently completing a Masters in Composition, as a Charles Stewart Richardson Scholar at the Royal College of Music in London.

He holds a BA in Music with 1st class honours from the University of York and was awarded the Nicola LeFanu Composition Prize 2016 by the Department of Music.

Recent achievements include his orchestral work Cantus winning the RCM Concerto Competition, leading to a performance by the RCM Philharmonic in June 2017. Joel was also chosen to participate in the BrittenPears Young Artist Programme Composition Course 2017 and had his vocal work Frozen Place selected for performance by Juice Vocal Ensemble in 2016.

Joel’s solo cello work Racing Thoughts was awarded 2nd Prize in the London Ear Festival Composer’s Competition 2016 and in 2015, Stony Mountains to Rise was chosen as a finalist in the PARMA Student Composer’s Competition. He also received the 2015 Chimera Undergraduate Commission at the University of York.

His works have been performed by the Ulysses Network Ensemble & Jonathan Berman, RCM Philharmonic & Martin André, Chimera Ensemble, Juice Vocal Ensemble, CoMA Singers, cellist Rohan de Saram, flautist Simon Desorgher, cellist Jari Piper, pianist Laura Farré Rozada and the Red Note Ensemble.

A selection of Joel’s works are published by Verlag Neue Musik, and he was recently granted a membership of the Society of Finnish Composers.

As a conductor Joel has worked with the Chimera Ensemble, conducting the UK premiere of Ana Sokolovic’s Ciaccona, the UK premiere of Jean-Luc Fafchamps’ S2 (Thà’) (Ryegrass), Fausto Romitelli’s Flowing Down too Slow and Patrick Jones’ Unfurl.

About the piece

Stonewalls is based on a Brigittine from Naantali, Finland (15th-16th century). Transcribing the melody and using it as the core – or skeleton – for the piece was my starting point.

The melody distortedly journeys through the piece, saturated with the use of microtones and excessive instrumental colouring around it, suddenly disturbed by a dense chord – a wall of sound. The quiet melody is frustratingly fighting to be heard over the gradually growing intrusive, obsessive mass of sound which
drowns it out.

The title Stonewalls refers to the stone church/cathedral association that comes with the plainchant, or perhaps even to the dense ‘walls’ of sound
experienced in the piece.

Joel Järventausta ©

Sturdivant Adams

Sturdivant Adams is a 24-year-old composer currently pursuing an MPhil in Music Composition at the University of Oxford under Robert Saxton.

He graduated from Columbia University magna cum laude in 2016, where he studied both music and economics.

He has studied classical and jazz piano, performing jazz piano widely as well as arranging and transcribing for Grammy winning and nominated artists Terri Lyne Carrington, Eric Harland, Taylor Eigsti, Julian Lage, and Ambrose Akinmusire.

Sturdivant is a film composer, recently working as an arranger and orchestrator at Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions studios in Los Angeles. In the UK, he has worked with the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra as the winner of their 2017 Composers’ Workshop.

About the piece

POLIN is an expression of the early beginnings of Polish Jews, as powerfully conveyed by Warsaw’s POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The piece starts as the story of the Polish Jews starts, surrounded by the magic of pure nature. Through this lens, the mythical descent from the heavens of a slip of paper urging Jews to find a home in Polania is interpreted through a prolonged descent from the orchestra. As the instruments descend in an overlapping manner, each plays a fragmented version of the central Polin melody.

The speed picks up, and the early, intricate development of Jewish life and its rich culture in Poland is explored. The violin plays the Polin melody, over swirling textures in the wind and brass. Variations are explored, and a motif is introduced in the strings that reaches upwards, emphasizing the centrality of faith in Polish Jewish life.

As the piece progresses, darkening, these two melodies are increasingly shrouded. The climax is reached as the orchestra erupts, an allusion to terrible violence interrupting the beauty of Polish Jewish life.

The music fades, and three solo violins seek a path upwards through the darkness, ascending the characteristic mode of the piece. There is a pulse, a glow, at the end, signalling continuation – life.

Sturdivant Adams ©