Congratulations to these young composers!

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2020 CSA Composition Competition! First prize for the Under 14 section has gone to Thomas Coldrick who was Senior Chorister at Exeter Cathedral and a pupil at Exeter Cathedral School. The Senior winner is 17 year-old Jacob Fitzgerald, a 6th form pupil at Chetham’s School of Music.


Congratulations to Thomas (left) and Jacob (right).

Once again thank you very much Jonathan Willcocks for taking on the not inconsiderable task of assessing so many entries received this year. We are so grateful to the David Willcocks Music Trust for their continued support for the competition which celebrates its 40th birthday next year. Our thanks too to the Cathedral Organists’ Association (COA) for all their support.

Lots of good pieces were submitted from lots of different schools and cathedrals and we have some very worthy winners.

Jonathan Willcocks writes to entrants

It was wonderful that we have had so many entries for the 2020 CSA Composition Competition, held in memory of my father Sir David Willcocks who spent so much of his life involved with cathedral, church and other choral music as a chorister, organ scholar, cathedral organist and choral director.

It was an uplifting experience to read all of your scores, with so many different settings of the given text – all of which showed an appreciation of how singing can bring such a huge extra dimension to words. While inevitably in a competition not everyone can be prize-winners, you have all clearly given such care and musical creativity to your compositions and I hope that you will be encouraged to continue to compose as your musical lives develop. Thank you all so much.

Celebrating our Junior Winners

In the Junior Section Thomas is joined by Benedict Tanner, a former chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral and now an academic and music scholar at Rugby School, in second place. Jacky Zhang a pupil at King’s College School came third. 

Thomas is thrilled with his win. “When lockdown happened, it was sad because we couldn’t sing services any more and our concerts all had to be cancelled. My Music Teacher at school offered some composition workshops to the Year 8 choristers, so I signed up for them. It was all online using Microsoft Teams and Mr Roberts suggested that I enter the CSA composition competition.

During the Trinity Term, I arranged some pieces to play virtually with my friends – we recorded each part separately and then put them together using music technology. I wanted to include a recording of my composition so we used the same technology to record the parts and put them together. Even although my last year as a chorister didn’t go as planned, I learnt lots of new skills!

I’m now in Year 9 at Wellington School, where I’m a music scholar and chorister. I’m really looking forward to singing my composition next term with the Chapel Choir. In the future, I’d like to study Music and Physics, as well as do more composing and arranging.”

Since September this year, Benedict has been a music scholar at Rugby School where he studies violin, viola, piano and organ. He says: “I enjoyed my time at St Paul’s, and was fortunate to sing for the Queen’s 90th Birthday service and to tour America with the Choir. However, I loved singing services every day in the Cathedral, and learnt so much from wonderful musicians such as Andrew Carwood, Simon Johnson, William Fox, and James Orford. I loved singing a broad repertoire of music from Byrd to Britten, and particularly enjoyed singing music that was specially written for the choir.

It was music like Behold Now Praise The Lord, by Matthew Martin which inspired me to write music of my own. I have composed a variety of different kinds of music, such as a setting of the Christmas text, What Child Is This, and writing music underneath a scene from Wallace and Gromit. I particularly enjoy putting music to text, and it was the opportunity to do this that attracted me to this competition. I have ambitions to be a musician when I am older, and even though I do not know what kind I will be, I suspect that it will involve composition and organ playing.”

Jacky joined King’s in Year 3 and developed an interest in composition early on – participating in the Cambridge Young Composer of the Year competition back in 2014. Now in Year 8, his music has been played by the New Music Ensemble of the University of Cambridge, as well as ensembles at the Royal College of Music where he is part of the Junior Department. 

As a pianist Jacky was joint winner of the III Vladimir Krainev Moscow International Piano Competition (2019), a finalist in the keyboard category of the Young Musician of the Year (2020) and he recently won the UK Piano Open – International Piano Competition. 

Some special mentions

A further six junior entries received commendations: Woody Collins (Wells Cathedral School), James Cowen (Leicester Cathedral), Nicholas Howard (The Chorister School, Durham), Harry Jordan (Wells Cathedral School), Arush Panwalkar (formerly a quirister at Winchester College and Pilgrims’ School pupil, now at Magdalen College School, Oxford) and Eleanor Rosser who started at Chetham’s School of Music this term.

Our Senior Winners

Jacob first started his musical career and education as a chorister at Jesus College, Cambridge. He continues: “It was during this complete immersion in choral music that I started writing music, and soon-after went on to study composition and violin at Aldeburgh Young Musicians in Suffolk, then moving to Chetham’s for 6th Form. I currently study composition with Dr Jeremy Pike and Ian Stephens while also taking A-levels in Music, Music Technology and English.

In August this year 2021 I will be taking up the bass choral scholarship at Hereford Cathedral while also continuing my role as a typesetter and engraver at Olsen Verlag, an independent music publishing company based in Ely, Cambridge, where I began working earlier this year.”

Jacob was encouraged to enter the competition by his teachers at Chethams – we are sure they will be as pleased as we are and will be following his progress in the years to come!

Senior Commendations

Congratulations to Fergus Guiver (St Asaph Cathedral) and Emma Paterson (Guildford Cathedral), both commended in the Senior Section. Fergus sings in the St Asaph Cathedral choir and choirmaster Paul Booth suggested choristers might like to have a go. 

Fergus tells CSA: “Singing in the St. Asaph Cathedral choir and the experiences I have had here have certainly impacted my compositional ability and approach. I have found that the Cathedral staff invest in the members of the choir and opportunities such as this are promoted to the choir for this reason.

I am currently studying for my A levels at Ysgol Eirias in Colwyn Bay and I study English literature, history and music. Although I enjoy English literature and history, music is certainly my favourite subject and this carries through to my love of singing in the Cathedral choir.

A significant reason for me entering the competition would certainly be its value in regard to writing a personal statement or displaying a level of competency for music. I would suggest to anyone considering entering the competition in the following years to do so as the opportunity it provides is valuable.” 

Emma has loved music from a young age and became a chorister at Guildford Cathedral when she was nine and now has a RSCM Gold Medal. She started improvisation on the piano at home, and has furthered her composition skills whilst studying for GCSE Music at Tormead School. She entered the competition as, despite having composed extensively in private, she has never had the confidence to show her compositions publicly, and was intrigued as to whether anyone would enjoy them. Lockdown also gave Emma lots of spare time which she was happy to fill by composing.

As well as singing and composing, Emma plays the piano (distinction grade 8), organ, ‘cello and harp. She loves ballet, and reading and is hoping to study A Level music, and to become a choral or organ scholar at university.