LICCC 2018, the inaugural edition of the London International Choral Conducting Competition held at the Royal Academy of Music, was won by Julia Selina Blank of Germany.
Ms. Blank, 29, wins £5,000 and the LICCC trophy. “For me the spirit in this competition felt very special” she said. “The contestants were colleagues and everyone met to celebrate a weekend of great choral music. I am happy to have had the chance to experience this and highly recommend it for all the young choral conductors out there.”
A second prize of £1,000 was won by Jack Apperley (UK). The other finalists included Pascal Adoumbou (France), Maria Avdeyeva (Russia), Rebecka Gustafsson (Sweden) and Jono Palmer (New Zealand).
“This fantastic new conducting competition is long overdue for a country with such an immensely strong choral tradition.” Simon Halsey (Chorus Master, London Symphony Chorus, Berlin Philharmonic).
The UK is a long-standing leading global hub for choral music and, whilst there are many competitions for choirs, instrumentalists and orchestral conductors, until now there has been nothing for choral conductors. LICCC aims to reflect the UK’s dominant reputation in this field by creating the world’s best competition in this space.
At London’s Royal Academy of Music, a distinguished international jury, chaired by Prof Ragnar Rasmussen of Norway, adjudicated performances by LICCC’s winners and finalists. LICCC 2018 received a huge number of entries of a very high standard, from 30 countries and 6 continents. A highlight of the Grand Final was the world premiere performance of The Cries of Music by award-winning British composer, Janet Wheeler, with words specially written by Euan Tait. The piece beautifully and appropriately drew the parallel between the singers’ experience of choral music and our common human experience of life's trajectory from beginning to end.
The event, which will next run in 2020, is open to choral conductors between the ages of 18 and 32 and is hosted by two London chamber choirs, Coro and Chantage, who were this year joined by distinguished Finnish ensemble cc FREIA under their conductor, the composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi.
The focus of the weekend being emerging choral talent, there were also masterclasses and workshops directed by leading choral conducting tutors, and a Gala Concert by the three participant choirs.
The founders of LICCC said “We have been delighted by the level of support from the musical community for this event, which we are convinced will have secured its place in the fabric of London’s world-renowned choral scene.”
The London International Choral Conducting Competition is delighted to announce a brand new choral work has been written specially for the competition. The piece – ‘The Cries of Music’ – has been composed by Janet Wheeler and set to a poem by Euan Tait, and provides the set piece for the Grand Final, for which the six finalists will conduct the combined choirs of Chantage, Coro and Chamber Choir cc FREIA.
James Davey, one of the founders of LICCC, said: "Janet is excellent at writing for a variety of different forces and really “gets" choirs. We’re thrilled to be working with her and Euan on this project’. Facilitating excellence in all aspects of the choral world lies at the heart of LICCC’s mission, and commissioning new music written specifically for choirs is a vital part of this. It is particularly exciting to have a new text for the piece – Welsh librettist and poet Euan Tait was commissioned to write the text, and worked closely with Janet Wheeler on the piece."
Janet Wheeler has said about setting Tait’s poem:
"The invitation from Amy Bebbington and James Davey (LICCC founders) to compose the test piece for the inaugural LICCC presented a hugely exciting opportunity to set a wonderful new text by Euan Tait. The poem beautifully draws the parallel between the singer's experience of choral music and our common human experience of life's trajectory from beginning to end.
I found the poem moving and powerfully inspiring, with its very musical combination of ideas from the aural and visual, the spiritual and emotional, all encompassed in a clear three-part structure - essentially birth, life and death. These sections are linked by a number of verbal motifs, reflected in my setting and developed musically across the course of the piece. Whenever I'm setting words, they always lead the way in my harmonic choices. The placing of harmonies and key changes give the chance to introduce elements of surprise and change among more settled sections and in this case to emphasise the arch shape and arrival points in each verse and across the piece as a whole.
Each of Euan's verses begins with the word 'music' which I have set with a slightly extended hummed opening, wanting this hum to embody the moment of giving voice together in song, but also aware of how often humming starts the choral singer's warm-up.
In response to the central more active section I've incorporated speed changes, partly to give artistic scope to the conductors. I'm very much looking forward to hearing how the competition finalists treat this and other interpretative matters in the six premiere performances of the competition. What a privilege it is to be involved in this exciting venture at the outset."
Euan Tait reflects on music’s life force:
"How wonderful, how unexpected, was Amy Bebbington’s email requesting a text for the first London International Choral Conducting Competition! As choral singing is about the roots of music, about the shared singing that is so natural to us and yet which takes so much dedication and hard work to shape to the highest standards, and as it concerns what it is to be human (people sing in harmony as an inherent human gift), Amy’s request stirred the roots of my own verbal music, and I immediately heard words about how music speaks for the hidden sufferings each of us live with, about the great, transforming energy of choral music, about the music of our final “welcome and farewell” – our goodbye to the old life, and welcome into the new. The words just poured out of me, as if they had been waiting a long time for this kind of commission.
To sing of music, of singing - to be given this great opportunity to write a text for a new competition that will draw the very best from musicians - means that I sing in this poem of choral music as a fundamental, catalytic force within us, inherently part of the life-energies of our humanity, the song of our creation and powerful living, and finally, the song of our ultimate vulnerability when we fall into mercy at our deaths. This text is joyous and fiery, just as this great event is so life-giving, a shared and unforgettable experience. There is a particular power in choral singing that leaves a mark on everyone's being after every concert. I have a sense of great thanksgiving, and joy is the life-force of the words. I'm so thrilled with Janet's beautiful and insightful setting, and feel so privileged to work with such a powerful compositional voice."
You can see the finalists conduct this thrilling new piece in the Grand Final on 21 October at the Royal Academy of Music – tickets are now available here.
We are delighted to announce the six conductors who have secured a place in our Grand Final, to be held at London's Royal Academy of Music on Sunday 21 October this year. Congratulations to:
The Jury would like to thank everyone who applied. Competition entries of an incredibly high standard arrived from 30 different countries - a testament to the quality of choral training going on worldwide.
Meet our finalists over the next few weeks as we introduce them on social media, and keep an eye out for more information soon on what is sure to be a thrilling weekend, 20 - 21 October 2018, including some exciting masterclass announcements.
First event of its kind in the UK launches to discover young talent, encourage inclusive choral collaboration, and promote music making of the highest quality
The LONDON INTERNATIONAL CHORAL CONDUCTING COMPETITION (LICCC), to be hosted at the Royal Academy of Music, will have its inaugural edition this autumn from 20th to 21st October 2018. Curated by Chantage and Coro, two of London's premier chamber choirs, the biennial festival will turn the spotlight on the next generation of choral conductors and provide a new platform for collaboration in the choral community. This ground-breaking initiative will lend a significant boost to exceptional choral conductors in the early stages of their career, aged from 18 to 32 years old, and will attract entries from an international field. Celebrating the bright future of choral music and giving much-needed opportunities to talented and motivated conductors starting out in the profession, the competition will enrich the United Kingdom’s reputation as a centre for choral music.
Alongside the competitive element, the festival will feature conducting masterclasses and, on Saturday October 20th, a Gala Concert which will see the two resident choirs joined by this year’s international guest choir: Chamber Choir FREIA, conducted by Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi.
Simon Halsey, Chorus Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, Chorus Director of the London Symphony Chorus, and Artistic Director of the Berlin Philharmonic Youth Choral Programme, commented:
“This fantastic new conducting competition is long overdue for a country with such an immensely strong choral tradition. I am delighted that three such inspirational choirs and choral directors have taken the initiative to broaden the reach of choral music in the UK and reinforce its global reputation in the process."
The impetus for the foundation of the Competition is a shared desire to engender international co-operation in choral music. The founding committee includes Chantage director, James Davey, Coro director, Mark Griffiths, and Director of Training for the Association of British Choral Directors, Amy Bebbington. Between them they have conducted choirs of all abilities, coached conductors at different levels of experience, directed the Young Conductors' Course at the ABCD's annual Convention, and adjudicated choral competitions at international and national levels. The partner choirs themselves have garnered many prizes whilst representing London and the UK at international choral competitions.
The procedures of the competition are intended to be transparent and thorough: all applicants will be judged by an initial video round, after which the best six will be invited to compete over the course of the weekend. Those six competitors will take multiple rehearsals with Chantage, Coro and FREIA, conducting from a repertoire which has been carefully selected by the committee to challenge competitors and allow them to demonstrate their rounded musical personality. A Grand Final will take place on the evening of Sunday 21st October, in front of a public audience. The winner, chosen by a distinguished international jury and the choirs themselves, will receive a £5,000 cash prize and the opportunity to attend rehearsal observation sessions with Simon Halsey at the CBSC and LSC and with Ben Parry at the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. The runner-up receives £1,000 plus a weekend pass and accommodation at the ABCD’s annual convention at the Birmingham Conservatoire in 2019.
Applications open on 23 February 2018, closing on 25 May 2018. Click here for full competition rules.