The Finals of the 2016/17 Cambridge Young Composer of the Year competition took place on Sunday 30 October 2016 at West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge with an exceptional line up of entries by 13 young composers.
Judge Ewan Campbell said he found it particularly difficult to pick out winners as all the entries were so good.
The winner of the 15-17 age group and the new Cambridge Young Composer of the Year is 16-year-old Alexia Sloane – the first girl to win the competition since it began in 2006. Alexia has been blind since the age of two and composes using a braille keyboard. Each composition involves her in an extremely lengthy process of dictating the notes for someone else to write down.
Ewan Campbell described her winning composition, Passiflora as "an ambitious piece that makes excellent use of the available instrumentation, with some very interesting harmonies and unusual melodic scales. The piece attains its timeless, dreamlike feel with a loose sense of rhythm and flexible approach to meter."
Passiflora, was performed at the Finals by members of the Hermes Experiment – an unusual combination of harp, clarinet, double bass and soprano, which presented an interesting challenge for this year's composers. The group played all the entries and went on to give a concert in the evening.
Alexia, a student at Hills Road Sixth Form College, set Passiflora to the text of "Southampton Water", a poem by RG Gregory. She dedicated the work to the victims of the shootings in Orlando on the 12th of June, and to the LGBTQIA community.
Alexia was presented with the Young Composer of the Year cup and a cheque for £50. As part of her prize she will also be invited to compose a piece for performance at next year's event. A Highly Commended was awarded in this age group to Garrett Norton for his piece Baelcraft.
The 12-14 year age group was won by Oliver Mavaddat-Rhys, 12, for his piece The blurring of time, which Ewan Campbell said was a very quirky piece with constant surprises and unexpected new ideas. A Highly Commended in this age group was awarded to Jacob Fitzgerald for his piece Evolve.
The 11 and under class was won by Alfred Hopkins, 11, for his work Zen. Ewan Campbell said the piece was "very well imagined, and the composer has made excellent use of the creative freedom that comes with writing in free-time." Thomas Alban, 11, was awarded a Highly Commended in this age group for his piece Rippling Waters.
The Hermes Experiment specialise in contemporary music, and have commissioned new works from over 30 composers. They performed all the entries at the Finals with Ewan Campbell discussing each work in turn and he and the performers providing feedback and advice to the composers.