OPUS2018 - annual competition for unpublished composers


BRITTEN SINFONIA has a history of innovation and excellence. Renowned for adventurous programming and a dynamic new approach to performing, over our twenty-five year history we have aimed to expand the horizons of what an orchestra ‘could’ or ‘should’ be and of how people engage with us and our music-making. Britten Sinfonia is a major supporter of new composition and has commissioned over 250 pieces of new music. In 2013, the OPUS composition competition was launched to further this vision with the goal of discovering an exciting new compositional voice.

Now entering its seventh year, OPUS winners are among the best up-and-coming compositional talents in the UK however, we want to push the boundaries further, widen the parameters, challenge ourselves and our audience and discover new musical terrain and all the creative potential therein.

Traditionally we issue a brief, welcoming applications from any unpublished composer, no matter what their age, experience or level of study is. We then shortlist five composers, offering them a workshop on their piece, performed by members of Britten Sinfonia and judged by Britten Sinfonia players, staff and a special guest judge. In 2018 we welcomed Sir James MacMillan as our guest judge, with Britten Sinfonia’s Leader, Jacqueline Shave, and Chief Executive and Artistic Director, David Butcher, completing the panel. For the first time in the competition’s history we opened up this process to the public, inviting an audience to observe the workshops and follow online scores during the day. The overall winner is offered a full commission, a fee, and the opportunity to have their piece performed by Britten Sinfonia in the award-winning At Lunch series, with a London premiere and further performances in Cambridge and Norwich. They also receive a professional recording of their piece. In 2019 we introduced the first ever Audience Prize, enabling the audience to chose their favourite piece and award a cash prize to the winner.

In 2019 we developed our first Young OPUS event, offering secondary school pupils the opportunity to write a folk-inspired string quartet and receive a day of mentoring from Sir James MacMillan. We are currently developing these events in different locations across the east of England as well as offering specialised sessions giving an introduction to both composition and conducting for young girls.

In 2020 we will run the competition, but plans are also underway to programme a full day of events in a composition symposium. This would offer a wider audience the opportunity to learn from experts in the industry, meet publishers, agents and programmers, and observe the shortlisted OPUS workshops.

More details will be announced soon.

From the archive: