Meet the RPS Young Classical Writers 2021

21 May 2021

Who said young people have no interest in classical music these days? Fresh evidence to the contrary has emerged in abundance, with over 90 entries to the RPS's first-ever Young Classical Writers Prize.

We were pleased to introduce the RPS Young Classical Writers Prize earlier this year, made possible with funds from the estate of the late classical music writer Gerald Larner who wrote extensively for The Times and The Guardian and created one of the definitive biographies on Ravel.

Like us, Gerald would have been enthused by the extraordinary volume, range and quality of applications received for the prize, from entrants across the UK aged 16 to 25. With this year’s guest panellists – writer and presenter Katy Hamilton, and former BBC Music Magazine Editor Oliver Condy – we were so impressed not only by the quality and the imagination of the writing, but the range of works that young people wanted to tell us about, comprising a significant proportion of female, ethnically diverse, forgotten and contemporary composers.

Such was the overall quality, the panel wanted to encourage all entrants to keep writing, and has specially created a set of tips and insights to help all applicants – and indeed all young people writing about music - with their next steps.

In addition to selecting three prize-winners, the panel not only chose to present a joint-third prize, but also picked three further entries for special commendation for you to enjoy:

First Prize - £1000 and the chance to write for a major classical music organisation later this year – goes to Mark Rogers, a 22-year-old undergraduate pianist at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland who wrote about Barber’s song cycle Knoxville: Summer of 1915. Second Prize - £600 – goes to 16-year-old Lola Frisby Williams from Devon who wrote about Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Clarinet Quintet. Third prize - £400 – goes jointly to 25-year-old composer Thomas Gibbs who wrote about Ernest Bloch’s little-known Symphony for Trombone and Orchestra, and another 24-year-old entrant who has asked to be billed anonymously given her moving and candid account of Renaissance composer William Cornysh’s Magnificat and its profound role in her life.

Also specially commended were 22-year-old graduate Lillian Crawford writing about Lili Boulanger’s Les sirènes; 21-year-old student Frederick Lloyd writing about Hans Abrahamsen’s recent song-cycle let me tell you; and 17-year-old Christopher Churcher from Cheshire writing about Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

All seven are captivating invitations to dive into music you may know or never have heard before. You can read each of them linked here:

First Prize:

Mark Rogers – That Time of Evening
on Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915

Second Prize:

Lola Frisby Williams – A Piece for an Alien World
on Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Clarinet Quintet 

Joint Third Prize:

Thomas Gibbs – Sounding Together
on Ernest Bloch’s Symphony for Trombone and Orchestra

Anonymous – For William, whenever we may find him
on William Corynsh’s Magnificat 

Specially commended:

Lillian Crawford – Give in to the sweetness of Lili Boulanger’s Les sirènes

Frederick Lloyd – The New Beauty of Hans Abrahamsen’s let me tell you

Christopher Churcher – One Thousand and One Nights
on Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade

We hope you are as inspired by their writing as we have been.

If you’re a young person with a passion for classical music, you may like to enter yourself when we re-open applications later this year. This year’s terms remain on our website here to give you a flavour of what’s required. Follow our social media @RoyalPhilSoc towards the end of 2021 for further details and – until then – do keep writing about the music you love!