Plucked from Nowhere:
Composition Competition for a Work
The Álvarez Chamber Orchestra is pleased
“The Song of Britomartis”
Molly Kien the winning entry of the 2009 composition
competition Plucked from Nowhere. The music heard accompanying this page can
also be played by clicking
here. Molly Kien
originates from Milwaukee in the USA and currently lives and works in
Stockholm. She receives a prize of £1,000 and her work will be
performed by the Álvarez Chamber Orchestra at its forthcoming season, also
from Nowhere”, the first concert of the festival scheduled for
November 13th, 2010 at LSO St Luke's.
Other works in the season will
include pieces by members of the reading panel, and
three world premieres all written especially for the ÁCO: Harp Concerto by
Bogusław Schaeffer, Spiders' Web by Paul
Patterson, commissioned with funds from the PRS for Music Foundation, and
the Triple Goddess by Geoffrey Álvarez.
separate prize of
Sibelius 6 music notation software, which has
been donated by Avid, was awarded to Jee Soo Shin for her quirky miniature
“Ha-rpy”. Jee Soo Shin is from Seoul but is currently studying at the
University of Southampton and also teaches at the University of Oxford.
The competition was open to
composers of any age and nationality. There was no specification as to the
length or nature of the work, or the number of works submitted.
competition attracted a wide range of entries across all age groups from 16 to
78 from many countries including the UK, Germany, Russia and South Africa. Dr
Geoffrey Álvarez, Artistic Director and Conductor of the ÁCO, expressed
satisfaction with the outcome, “The reading panel was encouraged by the
number of scores we received, especially from abroad, with professional,
semi-professional and amateur entrants submitting works spanning a huge
stylistic range from lyrical modality to free atonality. All our entrants will
receive feedback on their entries based on the judges’ comments.” Due to the
success of the competition the ÁCO plans to make this an annual event in their
On 19th March, 2010, in the Schott Recital
Room, London, acclaimed film and opera director Tony Palmer presented American composer Molly Kien
with the Plucked from Nowhere Award.
was born in 1979 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in
composition from Indiana University where she studied with Sven-David Sandström.
This led to further studies at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, where
she received a Master’s Degree in spring 2009. She has written for groups such
as Nordic Fusion 6, the Swedish Radio Choir and Musica Vitae String orchestra.
This autumn (2009) she is working with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.
Song of Britomartis” was written for Laura Stephenson, principal harpist with
Stockholm’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Swedish new music chamber
ensemble, KammerensembleN: they can be heard on the excerpt posted on this
webpage. The piece was inspired by a rug outside the
auditorium of the Stockholm Concert Hall designed by Swedish artist Isaac Grünewald
which draws in turn from the rich wellsprings of matrilineal Minoan mythology,
in particular the
Goddess Britomartis. The goddess is sometimes portrayed as a mermaid who appears
in “The Song of Britomartis” as the harp, glimpsed tantalisingly fleetingly in
isolated diatonic white notes at first before gradually establishing herself as
the principal character of the work with a cadenza of glissandi of glistening,
iridescent scales coloured with flattened G’s and A’s.
The Sibelius 6 Prize
same occasion, Daniel Spreadbury,
Head of Research and Development of Sibelius Software, Avid,
shown on the left, presented Jee Soo Shin with a full, boxed, professional copy of Sibelius 6,
on the right with composer Stephen Montague at the prize-giving.
Soo Shin was born in 1981 in Seoul. During her studies in composition with
Chungiek Chang at Seoul National University, many of her works were
performed in South Korea. Her studies concluded at the University Mozarteum
in Salzburg winning the Bernhard-Paumgartner Medal for the best graduate of
the year. Her work has been presented at Darmstadt Ferienkurse and by groups
such as Ensemble ACROBAT, and vocal ensemble EXAUDI. She currently studies
composition with Michael Finnissy at the University of Southampton and
teaches at the University of Oxford. The title
“Ha-rpy” playfully takes the note H on a journey from piccolo via the violins to
conclude on the harp. What happens at the same time on the other instruments is
motivically jittery, quirky and characterful; a miniature Paul Klee.
|The reading panel consisted of – from left to
right in the photograph below - composer Diana Burrell, formerly Director of the Spitalfields Festival, now holding a Fellowship at the Royal Academy;
composer Paul Patterson, recently awarded the highest Polish award, the Gold
Medal, for his work promoting Polish music, currently Manson Professor of
Composition at the Royal Academy of Music and composer in residence with the National Youth
Orchestra of Great Britain; Geoffrey Álvarez, composer and conductor of the
Álvarez Chamber Orchestra; Simon Campion, music publisher; Elżbieta Baklarz,
virtuoso harpist with the Polish Orkestra Sinfonietta Cracovia and International Liaison Officer
for the ÁCO; and Roxanna Panufnik, a composer with a thorough working knowledge
of the harp.
All the composers who entered the competition were invited to
come to the award
ceremony, and among those who responded were two significant composers with
flourishing careers. Alastair Greig, currently Senior Lecturer at
here, wrote after he
had attended the presentation:
open nature of your event and the fact that you invited a number of
competitors to attend the event was a welcome surprise. If only other
competitions could be organised in a similar, civilised way, it would make
for a much more productive and encouraging community spirit all round...
Nancy Van de Vate, a well established and respected American composer living
in Austria, another of our most distinguished finalists, was unable to
attend the ceremony as she was recording in Vienna at the time where she
also teaches at the Institute for European Studies. She wrote of the
The Plucked from
Nowhere competition and all the events and publicity surrounding it were
by far the most tastefully and professionally implemented of any
competition I have ever experienced. They would be an excellent model
for other such events--so please keep up the good work!
To find out more
about this important artist, click
Details of the next ÁCO
prize, Free Style, are available
The Álvarez Chamber Orchestra is committed to the performance and creation of contemporary
music of imagination and substance; it brings together musicians who share this
passion and have the technique and enthusiasm to realise it. By employing artists principally from
the United Kingdom, but augmented with guests from both Europe and further afield of the highest calibre, a cultural dialogue is engendered
which lends a unique voice to this Pan-Global Ensemble.
In the 2008 season celebrating the music of England and Poland, Elżbieta Baklarz
returned to work with The Álvarez Chamber Orchestra, bringing musicians from the Sinfonietta Cracovia, already heard to great acclaim
at the launch of the season at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in January.
Chamber Orchestra is a Registered Charity No. 1120668 and a
Limited by Guarantee No. 6227728. Registered in England and Wales.
Office: 5 Rensburg Road London E17 7HL
Telephone: +44 208 521 7642
Trustees: Timothy Brailsford, Phillip Costen, Trevor Huntley
Adviser: Simon Campion
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Photography: Phillip Costen and Ken Bailey
Logo design: Geoffrey Alvarez and Ken Bailey