Young Composers

The next blog in our Young Composers series, this time by Tom Metcalf. Tom picks up where NYCGB Fellow Jason Ching left off and takes us through late Summer and early Autumn as a Young Composer.

Read on for an honest, thoughtful, and entertaining account of the penultimate quarter of the Young Composers scheme.

This blog reflects on what has been my favourite part of the Young Composers Scheme, but which unfortunately coincided with one of the more stressful periods of my life which involved moving (twice!) and beginning a new job in Edinburgh. The energy that I was lacking was made up for in the enthusiasm and positivity of NYCGB members and staff, and these events provided welcome respite to the chaos of September and early October.

I pick up where Jason’s blog left off: the Discovery Weekend. This was a wonderful couple of days seeing our work come to fruition through rehearsal and recording. It is also a testament to the choir and its new members (who had only recently joined) that each work was performed with real sensitivity and skill – showing an acute awareness of the expressive challenges that each (very different) piece demanded – an excerpt from the score of my piece LIVING SENSE DATUM is below. The concentration and energy maintained throughout the recording session was admirable, and for me it provided new insight into the practicalities and logistics of recording new music in a studio setting. I’m really looking forward to hearing the final product soon!

A few weeks later, whilst trying to juggle the myriad of personal, creative and logistical demands that my upcoming move entailed, the Composers’ Retreat at Britten Pears Arts allowed me to breathe: to forget my current stresses, and immerse myself in the stunning surroundings and calmness of Aldeburgh. It was a chance to reconnect with the other composers, and discuss our thoughts and ambitions for our Fellowship pieces which we were imminently writing. The tour of The Red House and subsequent talk at the Archives provided a rich illustration of the challenges and practicalities of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears outside of their musical pursuits, which served as a potent reminder of the humanness of musicians who are so often put on an unattainable pedestal. Despite the tribulations of hiding a deep, loving and (for a long time) illegal relationship, and Britten’s subsequent health decline, it was always reassuring to see that the music, performances, and artistic endeavours kept coming, which for me at this period of my life was a calming and important realisation. That week saw me travel from Chester to Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Aldeburgh, and Cambridge – and despite being a short visit, the Composers’ Retreat provided the mental space for me to be able to cope with these continuing challenges and attain clarity on the piece for the Fellowship.


Following the Retreat, NYCGB paired each of us with a composer known for their choral writing. These mentoring sessions were set up as the Fellowship pieces were coming to fruition.  I was lucky enough to be mentored by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, and we discussed both pieces I’d written for NYCGB, but also more generally about the challenges composers face, particularly when working with(in) academic institutions: how the ‘image’ of the composer in a contemporary society is a confusing and complex one fraught with ambiguity. This was a rewarding discussion that provided further thoughts on my career trajectory and work.