Southampton lutenist helps launch early music award

A University of Southampton musician is helping stage national awards celebrating composition and early music.

Elizabeth Kenny, one of Europe’s leading lutenists and Head of Early Music at Southampton, along with her ensemble Theatre of the Ayre, are partnering with The National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) and BBC Radio 3 to present the 2016 NCEM Young Composers Award.

The award, launched on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show, is open to young composers resident in the UK up to the age of 25 (divided into two age categories: 18 years and under and 19 to 25 years). Composers are invited to write a new work for the lute and either a male (tenor) or female (mezzo-soprano) singer. They must set to music one of four selected poems by William Shakespeare and Carol Ann Duffy.

Elizabeth Kenny says: “We are thrilled that the NCEM have decided to work with lute and voice for the NCEM Young Composers Award in 2016. Theatre of the Ayre likes nothing better than tussling with words and music, and how they work together in this most intimate and dramatic of forms.”

Shortlisted composers will be invited to a day-long workshop with Theatre of the Ayre, working with Elizabeth Kenny and with two highly regarded singers – mezzo soprano Clare Wilkinson and tenor Nicholas Mulroy. The winning pieces will be performed by Theatre of the Ayre and recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

Elizabeth comments: “We are looking forward to exploring what the entrants come up with and collaborating with them in rehearsal. New young voices writing songs for voice and lute will extend our imagination and challenge us to find new sounds and colours to express the texts. The conversation between old and new is a vital source of creativity in terms of where historical instruments go next, and we are privileged to be a part of it.”

Delma Tomlin, Director of the NCEM said: “We are delighted to present this unique opportunity for young composers, singers, guitarists and lutenists to create a contemporary response to one of the most intimate musical forms of the Renaissance, the lute song.

“As the National Centre for Early Music, we are particularly keen to ensure that the award offers young composers the opportunity to have their works rehearsed and performed to an extremely high standard and for the winning pieces to receive national recognition.”

Les Pratt, Senior Producer BBC Radio 3 said: “BBC Radio 3 has always been committed to encouraging young talents across the arts, from singers and instrumental performers to writers and composers. Radio 3 is proud to continue its partnership with the National Centre for Early Music for its Young Composers Award 2016. It will be a fascinating process to work in lute song, which brings its own unique set of challenges for young composers, but I’m sure the standard of submissions will be of its usual impressive quality.”

Applicants must register their interest in the award by 5.00pm on Friday 19 February 2016 by emailing the National Centre for Early Music at

Completed scores must be received no later than 5.00pm on Friday 18 March 2016.

The Award will be judged at the National Centre for Early Music in York on Thursday 12 May 2016. During the day a shortlist of entries will be presented by Theatre of the Ayre in a workshop led by composer Christopher Fox. At 7.30pm the Theatre of the Ayre will perform each of the pieces in the presence of a panel of judges, after which the two winners will be announced, one for each of the two age categories.

Terms and conditions and details of how to take part in the NCEM Young Composers Award 2016 are posted at:
For further information email: