Tenso Young Composers Award 2017 – Lillie Harris

It is with great pleasure that the jury decided to award the prize commission to Lillie Harris. Using three short German poems, she brought the most muscle and power to the workshop, using a variety of musical gestures and ideas. She made a very good effort to let her music respond to the text, even if it did not always come off. Tenso feels that, with future coaching, she will definitely have it in her to produce choral pieces that work both musically and textually. We hope that this award will encourage her to further develop her skills as a composer – helped by the coaching offered by Tenso – and look forward to her new work.

The sixth edition of the workshop, which was organized for the first time in 2010, initially chose five composers from more than 30 applicants from all over Europe. During two sessions in Amsterdam in November 2016, the workshop leaders worked with the young composers and heard their scores (short pieces or sketches) performed by Ensemble Aedes (FR). After evaluating the material they brought and the way they worked with the choir, three finalists where chosen to participate in the second round in Mechelen in May 2017: Sarah Lianne Lewis, Lillie Harris and Miguel Bastos.

As in previous years, the workshop coaches concluded that there is still much to be learned for all three composers, especially with regard to vocal music. Similar problems keep recurring: technical issues, such as inconsistency in vowel changes and problems with the voice registers. The music that the participants brought to the workshop tended to be quite academic – which is fine in the framework of a workshop, where we encourage the participants to bring sketches and to try out different things. But, we do sometimes miss the larger musical gesture and the feeling for the extra-musical content that comes with the choice of text. We want to urge these young composers to extend their musical voice and ideas to the larger story they want to tell in their music.

The workshop that took place during Tenso Days Mechelen 2017 was coached by composer/conductor James Wood, composer Leo Samama, and chamber choir Helsingin kamarikuoro. Composer Hanspeter Kyburz acted as additional jury member. Tenso would especially like to thank the singers of the choir – not only for producing very good performances of the pieces within limited time, but also for interacting intensively with the composers with questions and well-reasoned comments, which will undoubtedly contribute to their development in vocal writing.