6 June 2019


Lillie Harris looks back on the Young Composer Scheme announcement at NYCGB's annual showcase 2019

I always find, with these sorts of young composer schemes, that it doesn’t feel real until the announcement’s been made and we’ve seen our faces up on the press release looking all excited. But there’s another step, for me at least: it doesn’t feel like it’s happening until the first in-person meeting, activity, or concert. We’d had our announcement before Christmas, but the Annual Showcase was our in-person introduction. Here we were, it was happening.

Naturally I felt a little nervous as I made my way across London to the Royal Albert Hall. Not about the venue, oddly enough; I used to be a steward there, so that building has been a familiar friend for some time now! No, I felt the odd nervous tingle as I always do before doing anything in public, and I also hoped my spectacular inability to meet someone, hear their name, and retain it for more than three seconds wouldn’t let me down, and that my natural inclination to remain off-stage wouldn’t prevent me being able to express all the excitement and hopes I had for this scheme.

Thankfully, we were in very safe and organised hands, as the evening came to demonstrate very clearly and thoroughly to us all. We arrived, were met with all the print-outs and name badges we would need, introduced to everyone we needed to meet, and walked through how the evening would go. Ben Parry brought us up onto the stage to run through what he would ask us, to practise the sorts of things we might say, and to prepare us for the possibility of freer interactions between us four composers. I think we all felt a little awkward about being on a stage, with lights on us, talking about ourselves! But watching everyone else run through their bits helped us visualise the evening.

As guests began to arrive, we were enticed to mingle (the cheesy breadsticks were indeed excellent, as promised) and it was such a joy to meet some of the Fellowship singers and their parents, and to feel such strong positive feelings from them all about NYCGB; there was a warm aura of contentment and support, very much like a family.

The showcase itself was excellent: succinct but thorough, fun and creative, and musical throughout. Having the Fellowship from this year and last year to sing was brilliant, the best way to demonstrate what NYCGB does, and they sang so clearly and engagingly, even with the dry acoustic! (To be honest, they were so good I barely noticed, but I know they had found it a challenge so extra kudos to them.) The variety of formats utilised by the different segments (fabulous questioning of Ben Parry by the NYCGB representatives!) meant that the evening flowed beautifully and suddenly there we were, on stage, talking about ourselves.

And it felt fine! It felt great! My fellow composers are all lovely and bright people, and I was simply having a cool chat about why writing for choirs is such an exciting prospect with friends. I could have talked for much longer in the end, and I think my colleagues felt the same!

After the presentation, we had the opportunity to meet more of the guests, who were all lovely and fascinating to talk to. It was a particular pleasure to meet award-winning British Composer Benji Merrison, who we are so thrilled will be meeting with us during the year.

What with all the distinguished and accomplished guests, our enthusiastic and talented Fellowship singer colleagues, and the open-minded and organised support from the NYCGB, I left at the end of the night buzzing with ideas and the strong sense that it’s begun. So here we go.