Emerging Professional Artist programmes

The National Youth Choir exists to provide exciting and inclusive creative opportunities for all young people. 

As part of this remit, our Emerging Professional Artists programme, supports young singers, composers and conductors as they emerge into the professional world. It aims to address inequalities in the music industry by creating professional development pathways for those who are under-represented in choral music. Participants in our Emerging Professional Artists programmes work closely with the National Youth Choir (18-25 years) and our other choirs.

headshot of Will Harmer, a white man with short brown hair wearing a stripey tshirt

Image credit: Belinda Lawley

It can be hard as a composer to find your style, your ‘niche’. Today there is every kind of music available at the tap of a screen, so I often get overwhelmed by choice. A question I’ve been asking myself a lot recently is, ‘how do I express something musically that is personal to me?'

I’m pleased to say the Young Composers scheme has helped me to find more of that personal sound in my music. I got a lot of help in honing my sound from various conversations with choir members, leaders, and other composers, whether in workshop sessions or at lunchtime in the canteen! On National Youth Choir courses, you can’t help but be swept up in the joy of music-making and collaboration, and it was fitting that our album is themed around ‘celebration’, as for me, a key part of celebration is connection and togetherness between people. I hope that my two pieces for the National Youth Choir, Fireworks and Three Madrigals, will reflect that idea of celebration to everyone listening! 

Group of 8 singers and Ben Parry recording in a barn-style recording studio with exposed beams Will Harmer sits at the recording console

The recording sessions

The recording session at the Royal Academy of Music last September was intense and hugely rewarding, and the National Youth Choir (18-25 Years) put so much into performing our music. My piece Fireworks has a lot of intricate textures and quite tricky harmonic twists, which the singers captured so effectively in the relatively short time we had! 

It was another special day at School Farm Studios for the recording of our vocal ensemble pieces with Ben Parry and the National Youth Choir Fellowship Ensemble. What an amazing space to work in! I loved the feeling of being in the hotseat in the recording booth, seeing and hearing the whole ensemble working to bring my composition to life. Josh Quinlan was a star in the recording booth on both sessions, always cutting in with the words of wisdom that the group needed.

A few things to listen out for in my two pieces:


  • Chemical elements and colours whispered in the opening section
  • The musical Catherine wheels ‘turning round and round’
  • Whistling sounds - National Youth Choir (18-25 Years) absolutely nailed these!

Three Madrigals

  • All the voices coming together in unison at ‘make creation smile’ and ‘receive the morning dew’ in the first madrigal
  • Ailsa’s beautiful soprano solo in ‘Sweet Eyes’
  • The dancing ‘shepherds in a ring’ towards the end of ‘Sing We at Pleasure’ – dancing in 7/8 time (probably quite impractical!)

Last thing to say is how proud I am of everyone involved, particularly the singers and staff from National Youth Choirs, and my fellow composers Emily, Millicent and Alex! I think this Young Composers 5 album is a fitting celebration of a wonderful year together!

'Young Composers 5' album from the National Youth Choir and NMC Recordings is available to stream or buy now

listen now