OPUS2018 - annual competition for unpublished composers


Submissions are now closed for OPUS2018. Thank you to everyone who took the time to apply.

Robert Singer has been selected as the winner of OPUS2018. Read more here.

Britten Sinfonia has a history of innovation and excellence. Renowned for adventurous programming and a dynamic new approach to performing, over our twenty-five year history we have aimed to expand the horizons of what an orchestra ‘could’ or ‘should’ be and of how people engage with us and our music-making. In 2013, the OPUS composition competition was launched to further this vision with the goal of discovering an exciting new compositional voice.

Now entering its sixth year, OPUS winners are among the best up-and-coming compositional talents in the UK however, we want to push the boundaries further, widen the parameters, challenge ourselves and our audience and discover new musical terrain and all the creative potential therein.

With this in mind, OPUS2018 presents a new challenge to composers, retaining the core values true to both the competition and Britten Sinfonia as an organisation and evolving the competition and the At Lunch programmes in which the winning commission is couched.

OPUS2018 combines folk singer and BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2018, Hannah Rarity, with a piano quintet of Britten Sinfonia’s musicians to form the ensemble for which the OPUS competition winner will be invited to write. Working with emerging talent from a non-classical field and including the use of text for the first time introduces a new and exciting edge to OPUS: allowing us to continue the search for a unique, new compositional voice, challenging shortlisted composers to expand their existing musical knowledge, opening the competition to a potential new and alternative range of entrants and audiences alike.

Five shortlisted composers will be invited to a public workshop day, during which they will receive:
– Mentoring from Sir James MacMillan
– The chance to work closely with Hannah Rarity and Britten Sinfonia musicians Jacqueline Shave, Miranda Dale, Clare Finnimore, Caroline Dearnley and Huw Watkins to develop their compositional techniques
– A performance of their sketch to an audience and panel of judges (featuring Sir James MacMillan, Jacqueline Shave and Huw Watkins) at Saffron Hall

The winning composer will also receive:
– At least three performances of their work in our At Lunch concert series (at London’s Wigmore Hall, West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge and Norwich St Andrew’s Hall)
– A professional standard recording of their piece
– A commission fee

Composers wishing to apply should read the submission brief and FAQs carefully. Applicants must be resident in the UK from the point of application until at least March 2019, when the premiere of the piece will take place in a UK tour. 

How to Apply
To apply you should prepare the following submission materials and submit these via our online application form. Please note that applications have now closed.

1. A score of one existing piece representative of your work:
– For any instrumental chamber ensemble (3-10 players)
– Ideally notated using notation software such as Sibelius or Finale, although scans of handwritten scores will also be accepted. Please do not submit notation software files – only PDFs.
– Your name should NOT appear anywhere on the score.*

2. A one minute sketch responding to the project brief:
– Scored for female folk singer (range G3 to D5), piano and string quartet
– Song text of your choice
– Influenced by folk from any culture

3. A concept proposal for this new piece:
– An explanation of your response to the brief
– How you would develop the sketch into a full piece
– How it would complement the other pieces in our At Lunch concert: Hirta by MacMillan and Farewell to Stromness by Maxwell Davies

4. You must submit a recording of at least one of these works.
– The recording does not have to be of professional quality.
– Recordings of computer-generated audio realisations are acceptable.
– Your name should not appear on the recording (this includes the tags).*

*When we receive your application, we will assign it a number. Only the scores and recordings will be passed on to our judging panel; they will have no information about you personally, and you will therefore be judged on the quality of your music alone.

Deadline for submissions: 19 October 2018, 5pm


Submission Format
Each score must be submitted as a single PDF file per piece. You can make PDF files from notation software using free PDF ‘printers’ such as doPDF, CutePDF and PrimoPDF.

Sound files must be submitted as .mp3, .mp4 or .mid files. Please do not submit larger files such as .wav. Files can be converted with free software such as Audacity, Windows Media Player and iTunes, or using online converters such as http://audio.online-convert.com/convert-to-mp3

All materials may be submitted on the online application form (please note that applications have now closed).

Useful documents
Project brief
Frequently Asked Questions

OPUS2018 timeline:

Deadline for OPUS2018 open call for scores Friday 19th October 2018
5 applicants shortlisted October 2018
Expansion and re-working of ‘sketch’ by shortlisted composers Nov 2018 – Jan 2019
Shortlisted composers’ pieces workshopped 13 Jan 2019, Saffron Hall
Winner selected At workshop above
Composition editing/re-drafting period Jan – March 2019
Deadline for final draft 8 March 2019
World premiere tour of new work 22 – 27 March 2019


With thanks to The Fenton Arts Trust for their support of OPUS2018.

From the archive: