Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus organised the first Stella Jockel Young Composers Competition as part of Classical Sheffield Festival Weekend 2023.
The competition arose from the choir’s commitment to supporting young musicians and was funded by a generous legacy bequeathed to the Chorus by Stella Jockel, a former Sheffield teacher and vicar’s wife who sang alto with the Chorus for many years and who died in 2019.
The aim of the competition was to support the creation and performance of new choral repertoire and to encourage and
support young people from Sheffield who are starting out on a career in music composition and/or performance. To provide maximum opportunity and benefit to candidates and to remove as many barriers as possible, the competition was designed using the following principles:
- No entry fee
- No requirement to provide multiple paper copies or a recording of the composition, which would have proved costly for candidates
- Anonymised entries to ensure judging purely on the merits of the composition
- Feedback provided to everyone who sent in an entry
- First prize to include a performance of the work at a prestigious concert with a large audience in the City Hall, Sheffield
- Three financial prizes (£1,500, £1,100, and £500)
- No retention of the copyright by the Chorus once the competition was over
The competition was open to young people aged 18 to 35 who currently or used to live, study, or work in Sheffield. The requirement was for a short choral work for a large mixed symphonic choir to be sung unaccompanied in at least four parts.
The text for the 2022-23 competition was commissioned from award-winning poet Katharine Towers, who sings alto with the Chorus. Kathy won the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for The Floating Man and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize for The Remedies. Her beautiful poem ‘Sheffield Nocturne’ was the result.
Information about the competition was provided on a dedicated area of the Chorus website and in a downloadable Competition Pack. Details were sent to every conservatoire and university music department in the UK, to Sheffield Music Hub and Sheffield Music Academy and to all Sheffield secondary schools, in October 2022.
Fourteen entries were received by the deadline of 31 December 2022. The scores were anonymised to avoid bias, especially since Head Judge George Nicholson is Emeritus Professor of Composition at the University of Sheffield and was likely to know some of the candidates. He headed a panel that included the Music Directors from each of the two choirs that would sing the winning work.
Two compositions were judged to have equal merit, and they received their world premiere performances at Sheffield City Hall on the final evening of the Classical Sheffield Weekend Festival, Sunday 19 March 2023. The prizes were awarded by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Sioned-Mair Richards.
The premiere was followed by a performance of Mahler’s 2nd symphony by Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallam Sinfonia, Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and Hallam Choral Society. Conducted by George Morton and featuring acclaimed singers Anna Harvey and Ella Taylor, both from Sheffield, this brought the 10th anniversary festival to a spectacular close.
In September 2023 the competition was shortlisted for a Making Music Award in the category ‘Best project involving new music’.