The Grand Final of the Commonwealth International Composition Award took place this week in Overseas House. Notables rubbed shoulders with humble composers at this friendly event, which showcased ten compositions by school age finalists from all over the Commonwealth, played live in London, with video links. All over ? Yes, from Trinidad to New Zealand. The mind boggled.
Responsible for the whole idea, and its impeccable execution, was Alison Cox. When not teaching 24 hours a day at the Purcell School, in her ‘spare time’ (an Einstein-type concept surely) Alison runs a music organisation called The Commonwealth Resounds and is often found doing even more teaching in far-flung spots, such as recently, Antigua. She collaborated for this event with ABRSM, such a lively institution these days, and an icon of worldwide connectivity. And, in a splendid touch, the ten worldwide finalists had been mentored by advanced composition students at RNCM.
A distinguished jury declared the winner to be New Zealander Xiaole Zhan, and indeed this work, with its whispered fragmented text, was written with sophistication, by far the closest to the lingua franca of contemporary music. Being me, I most enjoyed the music which struggled to link wildly disparate elements together; a work for instance by Brianna Georges from Antigua which emphatically placed a steel pan amongst the ensemble of august classical instruments.