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presented in association with
BBC Radio 3 and The Tallis Scholars




Young composers from across the UK are invited to compose a new work for a cappella (unaccompanied) group, which utilises the remarkable singing skills of The Tallis Scholars.


A shortlist of entries will be presented by the York based Ex Corde vocal group in a workshop led by composer Christopher Fox at the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), York on Thursday 16 May 2024. At 7.00pm on the same day, Ex Corde will perform each of the pieces in the presence of a panel of judges: Peter Phillips, Director of The Tallis Scholars; Les Pratt, Producer BBC Radio 3; Delma Tomlin, Director of the National Centre for Early Music. Two winners will be announced, one for each of the two age categories.


The winning work(s) will be premiered by The Tallis Scholars in a public performance at Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden, Sunday 20 October 2024. This concert will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.


It is recommended that all interested candidates listen to recordings of The Tallis Scholars.


Register Your Interest

The BBC is not responsible for the management or content of this or any other third party website. 

The brief


A Polyphonic Motet

Instrumentation: SSATB (no divisi)


Composers are invited to create a polyphonic work for voices, setting the text Mirabile mysterium (A wondrous mystery) by Jacob Gallus (1550-1591), either in the original Latin or in the English translation.

Mirabile mysterium declaratur hodie,

innovantur naturae; Deus homo factus est;

id quod fuit, permansit,

et quod non erat, assumpsit,

non commixtionem passus neque divisionem.


A wondrous mystery is declared today,

an innovation is made upon nature; God is made man;

that which he was, he remains,

and that which he was not, he takes on,

suffering neither commixture nor division.


Works selected for the NCEM workshop will be rehearsed and performed by Ex Corde, with two works selected for a subsequent performance by The Tallis Scholars in a concert that will take ‘wondrous mystery’ as its theme. The ‘Mirabile mysterium’ text is quite short, so it offers lots of possibilities for melismatic writing, focusing extended passages of music on the sounds of particular words. Gallus’s text describes the mysterious juxtaposition between change and permanence and this ‘mystery’ may be one that you want to explore. Above all we want to encourage you to create music that responds to the imagery of the words and, like the polyphonic vocal music of the European Renaissance, that has a sense of melodic direction.

The work will last between 3 and 4 minutes. 

Award rules


Entry is open to all UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man residents aged up to 25 at the time entry closes on 15 March 2024.


There are two categories for the awards as follows:

  • 18 years and under on the closing date (born on or after 16/03/2005)

  • 19 – 25 years on the closing date (born between 16/03/1998 and 15/03/2005)


Applicants and winners of past awards are eligible to enter the 2024 award.


Employees and close family members of the BBC, BBC Group Companies, the NCEM and The Tallis Scholars, 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 must be unaccompanied.


The composition should be scored for SSATB. No other divisions of voices or parts are permitted.

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

How to enter

Composers interested in entering the award must register their interest by completing the online form by 12 noon on Friday 16 February 2024. Please ensure that you register in good time as late registrations cannot be accepted. Proof of submission is not proof of receipt. Only one entry per person is permitted. If you submit more than one entry, only the first entry received will be considered.

Following registration, you will receive a link to the online application form. The completed application form, along with your uploaded score, should be submitted online no later than 12 noon on Friday 15 March 2024. Allow plenty of time for this in case of technical hitches. Entries received after the deadline will not be considered.


Your score should have your name on it and should be in A4 format, ideally produced using computerised publishing software, and submitted as a pdf file. Name the file in the format: your surname.initial_title of your piece. For example: Spafford.O_Bog Bodies.


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

Judging criteria


Shortlisted entrants will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Skilful use of compositional techniques.

  • Imaginative composition fused with an awareness of effective writing for vocal ensemble.

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, The Tallis Scholars and a professional composer. All entrants will be notified no later than 5.00pm on Friday 12 April 2024 whether their pieces have been shortlisted.

The judging panel is unable to provide feedback.


Shortlisted entrants will be expected to attend a full day workshop at the NCEM on Thursday 16 May 2024 led by composer Christopher Fox, where they will hear their pieces presented by Ex Corde.


At 7.00pm on the same day, Thursday 16 May 2024, the shortlisted pieces will be performed  at the NCEM in the presence of the panel of judges and an invited audience. The winning piece(s) will be announced after the concert.  The performance will be livestreamed on the internet.


Should a shortlisted entrant not be available after reasonable attempts to contact them, 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.


The NCEM will provide accommodation for the workshop and performance, and will reimburse reasonable transport costs, for the shortlisted entrants and for one parent/guardian of those under the age of 18. 

The prize


The prize offered is a performance by The Tallis Scholars of the winning compositions in a public concert at Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden on Sunday 20 October 2024. This concert will be recorded for future broadcast by BBC Radio 3.


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 receive a complimentary set of tickets to this 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 this concert will be reimbursed by the NCEM to the winners and up to two members of their family/friends.

Entrants are reminded that their participation in BBC competitions (including winning or receiving a highly commended awards) cannot be used in commercial advertising or promotions, to attract external funding, to lobby or campaign, or to attract donations.


Copyright and permissions


By submitting your composition, you grant to the BBC, NCEM and The Tallis Scholars, 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:

  1. your composition is your own original work

  2. it has not previously been performed or published

  3. it does not infringe any UK laws

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


Entrants (and their parent and/or guardian where applicable) warrant that their entry is original, entirely their own work and do not infringe copyright or other third party rights. Artificial Intelligence generated compositions will not be accepted. Joint entries are not permitted. The NCEM and BBC reserve the right to contact entrants to verify this. The NCEM and BBC accepts no liability if entrants ignore these rules and entrants agree to fully indemnify the NCEM and the BBC against any claims by any third party arising from any breach of these rules.

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 entrant 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, the BBC 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 the BBC 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/The Tallis Scholars, 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/The Tallis Scholars, 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/The Tallis Scholars, 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 (including their parent and/or guardian where applicable) 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.

The NCEM reserves the right to cancel the award or amend any of these rules at any stage if deemed necessary in its opinion or if circumstances arise outside of its control. Any such changes will be duly communicated to the extent permitted by law, the NCEM and the BBC will not be liable for any loss or damage (whether such damage or losses were foreseen, foreseeable, known or otherwise) including financial, reputational loss or disappointment.

Privacy notice


The personal data you provide will be processed by the NCEM in accordance with the 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 at PRIVACY NOTICE – NCEM.


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 award. 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 award.


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

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