NCEM Young Composers Awards 2021 Logo




Young composers from across the UK are invited to compose a new work for the vibrant young recorder quartet Palisander, utilising their versatility and remarkable playing skills.

It is intended that a shortlist of entries will be presented by Palisander in a workshop led by composer Christopher Fox at the National Centre for Early Music, York on Thursday 13 May 2021. At 7.00pm that evening Palisander will perform each of the pieces. After the concert the winners will be announced, one for each of the two age categories. The judges are: Palisander; Les Pratt, Producer BBC Radio 3; and Delma Tomlin, Director of the National Centre for Early Music.

The winning work(s) will be premiered by Palisander in a public concert at St John’s Smith Square, London on Thursday 20 May 2021 as part of the London Festival of Baroque Music. The concert will be recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.



The brief

Instrumentation: Recorder quartet

Composers are invited to create a new work for recorder quartet based on dance-forms.

You can choose whatever dance-form you like across all eras and cultures, from the bransle and the galliard to the Charleston and the tango. You will be writing for instruments from the Baroque era, but you should not feel limited to dance-forms of that period.

The work may be a single movement based on a single dance-form, or a continuous movement that combines different dance-forms, or a suite made up of two, three or four short movements. Whichever option you choose, your work should last at least 3 minutes but no more than 4 minutes. 


Award Rules

Entry is open to all UK residents aged up to 25 at the time entry closes on 19 March 2021.

There are two categories for the awards as follows:

  • 18 years and under on the date of submission (born on or after 20/03/2002)

  • 19 – 25 years on the date of submission (born between 20/03/1995 and 19/03/2002)

Applicants and winners of past awards are eligible to enter the 2021 award.

Employees and close family members of the BBC, BBC Group Companies, the NCEM and Palisander, and persons connected to the award and their close relatives are not eligible to enter. Proof of age, identity and eligibility may be requested.

The composition should be scored for recorder quartet.

The composition should be between 3- and 4-minutes’ duration.

How to enter

Composers interested in entering the award should register their interest by 5.00pm on Friday 19 February 2021, via the Registration form at Late registrations cannot be accepted.

Following registration, a pdf file of your named score should be submitted via the online application form no later than 12 noon on Friday 19 March 2021. Entries received after the deadline will not be considered. The title of the pdf file should include your name and the title of your piece in this format: surname.initial_title of composition.


Your score should be in A4 format and ideally produced using computerised publishing software.  The pdf file name should include your full name and the title of your piece.

Entrants aged under 18 must have the consent of a parent or guardian for their entries to be valid.

Judging criteria

The shortlisted entrants will be judged on the following criteria:

  • skill of compositional techniques

  • innovation of composition fused with an awareness of effective writing for recorder quartet


Selection process

A shortlist of up to 8 entrants will be chosen by a judging panel consisting of a member of the National Centre for Early Music, the BBC, Palisander and a professional composer. All entrants will be informed by 5.00pm on Friday 9 April 2021 whether their pieces have been shortlisted. The judging panel is unable to provide feedback.

All shortlisted entrants will be expected to attend a full day workshop and evening performance at the NCEM scheduled for Thursday 13 May 2021. The workshop will be led by composer Christopher Fox and Palisander.


At 7.00pm on Thursday 13 May 2021 the shortlisted pieces will be performed in the presence of the panel of judges and an invited audience. The performance will be livestreamed on the internet. The winning piece(s) will be announced that evening.  


Should it not be possible for this event to go ahead as planned due to government Covid-19 restrictions, a suitable alternative will be offered by the NCEM/partners.

Should a shortlisted entrant not be available after reasonable attempts to contact him/her, the NCEM reserves the right to select another entrant to attend the workshop or – where applicable – to be awarded the prize.


The NCEM’s selection of the winners is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Accommodation will be provided by the NCEM for the workshop and performance, and reasonable transport costs reimbursed, for the shortlisted entrants and for one parent/guardian of those under the age of 18. 

The Prize

The winning piece(s) will be performed by Palisander in a public concert at St John’s Smith Square, London on Thursday 20 May 2021 as part of the London Festival of Baroque Music.  BBC Radio 3 will record the concert for future broadcast. Should the prize not be able to be delivered in the form stated above and/ or at the date stated above NCEM/partners reserve the right to award a suitable alternative. 

There will be no cash equivalent and the prize cannot be transferred.

Each winner will be awarded tickets to the concert for themselves and up to two members of their family/friends. Their names and educational institutions (if appropriate) will be listed in the programme.


Reasonable transport and accommodation costs for the concert will be reimbursed by the NCEM to the winners and up to two members of their family/friends.

Copyright and permissions

By submitting your composition, you grant to the BBC, NCEM and Palisander, free of charge, permission to use the material in any way they want (including modifying and adapting it for operational and editorial reasons) for services in any media worldwide (including on the sites accessed by international users).

In order that the BBC can use your composition you must confirm that your composition is:

  1. your own original work

  2. has not previously been performed or published

  3. does not infringe any UK laws

  4. you have the right to give the BBC permission to use it for the purposes specified above

Copyright in your composition will remain with you after the premiere and the aforementioned permission is non-exclusive. You can continue to use the material in any way you wish, and you can also permit others to use the material. 

Any competitor under the age of 18 who attends a workshop or public performance must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The shortlisted entrants must be prepared to work with the NCEM and its partners to raise the profile for the award. This will include consent to be photographed and filmed during the process, and to supply information for press materials and conduct radio and television interviews if requested. The publicity materials gathered will be used by the NCEM and its partners on their websites and in general publicity material. It is understood that the NCEM and its partners have the right to perform, record and broadcast the winning piece(s) subject to the usual Performing Rights contractual arrangements.

The shortlisted entrants may be filmed and/or interviewed and will be required to assign to the BBC/NCEM/Palisander, the copyright and other rights for all purposes (including use in all media now known or which may hereafter become known) in their contribution for broadcast for the full period of copyright and any extensions, revivals or renewals thereof.

The shortlisted entrants will grant the BBC/NCEM/Palisander, the unlimited right to edit, copy, add to, take from, adapt or translate their contributions for broadcast or performance. The entrants also waive irrevocably any “moral rights” they may have under the laws of any jurisdiction.

The shortlisted entrants will grant the NCEM/Palisander, the right to perform the piece after the premiere.

Contributions cover all contributions made by the shortlisted entrants in connection with the production of any BBC programme including, but not limited to, their performance (including rehearsals) and spoken, written and artistic materials (including audio and video recordings thereof).

The NCEM reserves the right to:

  1. cancel or adapt the award

  2. vary or change the prizes

  3. disqualify any entrant who breaches the rules or who commits a fraud, at any stage, if in their opinion it is deemed necessary or if circumstances arise outside its control.

In so far as it applies, the programme accords with the BBC's Code of Conduct for Competitions and Voting, details of which can be found on the BBC's Standards and Guidelines website:

The promoter of the award is the National Centre for Early Music and is subject to the law of England and Wales.

Entrants will be deemed to have accepted these rules and agree to be bound by them by entering the award.

The NCEM Young Composers Award is intended as an educational project and preference will be given to those who have not yet embarked on a professional career.

Privacy Notice

The personal data you provide will be processed by the NCEM in accordance with the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018, for the purposes of administering the award.

For further information about how NCEM processes your personal information including your rights under data protection law, please see the NCEM’s Privacy Policy.


The personal data of all entrants will be passed to the BBC if requested for the purposes of judging the award and recording of the winners’ scores. After the award, the BBC will destroy all personal data except that of the winners, which will be retained for a period of 2 years for regulatory purposes and kept in the programme records. 


When your personal information is passed to the BBC, the BBC is a separate controller of your personal information. That means the BBC is responsible for your personal information when it is passed to the BBC. The BBC has a legitimate interest to process your personal information for the purpose of administering the competition. We have considered the impact of our processing on you and we are satisfied that the personal information that is provided to the BBC is limited and is necessary to review the applications and conduct the competition.


For further information about how the BBC processes your personal information,  your rights under data protection law and the contact details of the BBC’s Data Protection Officer, please see the BBC’s Privacy Policy at