Opus Composition Schemes - Britten Sinfonia - Creative Learning


After 6 successful years of developing new compositional voices in our OPUS composition competition, exciting changes are happening in 2021. Introducing our two new schemes:

Opus 1 and Magnum Opus

Opus 1 will continue the work of OPUS, fostering talented composers whose voices aren’t being heard elsewhere, and is open to applicants of any age and experience.

The composers will work with a small ensemble of Britten Sinfonia musicians to develop a 3-5 minute work, with the guidance of established composers and will receive a high-quality recording of their completed piece.

Opus 1 will give composers two opportunities to develop new ideas and workshop their piece with the ensemble and composer mentors before it is recorded at the end of the process.

Magnum Opus offers a year-long professional development opportunity to pre- or early-career composers, allowing them to work with members of the orchestra and wider organisation in a holistic way over a season of Britten Sinfonia’s work.

Our new ‘Associate Composers’ will compose for small ensembles, developing three significant compositions across the year, and will receive mentoring from Britten Sinfonia staff across a range of other disciplines including marketing, fundraising, and programming, as well as advice and guidance on their work from our composer mentors. Their year with the ensemble will culminate in a world premiere performance in one of Britten Sinfonia’s regular venues.

Information about how to apply will be released soon.

OPUS: a brief history

Britten Sinfonia has a history of innovation and excellence. Renowned for adventurous programming and a dynamic approach to performing, over our 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 200 pieces of new music. In 2013, we launched OPUS to further this vision with the goal of discovering an exciting new compositional voice. Throughout the competition’s history, we have sought applications from any unpublished composer, regardless of their age, experience or level of study.

Winners of the OPUS competition have been among the best up-and-coming compositional talents in the UK. The competition has always tried to widen the parameters, and we’ve challenged ourselves and our audience to discover new musical terrain and all the creative potential therein.

Those shortlisted have had the opportunity to write for a small ensemble of Britten Sinfonia players and receive guidance on their work from a guest composer; in 2018, we were delighted to be joined by Sir James MacMillan, who selected the chosen composers and mentored them through the OPUS process. This included a day of workshops with our players – an opportunity to hear their music live, perhaps for the first time – and, for the winner of the competition, a commission to be premiered in Britten Sinfonia’s award-winning At Lunch series in London and performed across the East of England.

In later competitions, the workshop day has also been open to the public: an opportunity to observe rehearsals and workshops, and follow online scores during the day. This allowed us to introduce an Audience Prize, voted for at the end of the workshops, which awarded an additional prize to the audience’s favourite piece, alongside the competition’s main reward.

We developed our 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.

From the archive: