Musical postcards from Jonny Greenwood, Anna Clyne, James Macmillan, and Belle Chen send message of hope to BBC Radio 3 audiences

The station announces further details for Postcards from Composers initiative, featuring 30-second commissions for solo instrumentalists by twenty composers, as recorded by BBC Orchestras musicians.

Published: 25 April 2020
With Postcards from Composers, we are showcasing and supporting the breadth and creativity of the contemporary British composing scene, at the same time giving our audiences a short daily moment of hope, as news comes in and lots of people in lockdown turn to classical music in search of relief.
— Alan Davey

Part of the BBC cross-platform virtual arts festival Culture in Quarantine, providing cultural content to audiences in their homes at a time of lockdown, Radio 3 has asked twenty composers to respond to the current world-wide health crisis, and to the changes and worries resulting from it, with short musical messages of hope. The station has commissioned the artists to write 30-second pieces for solo instrumentalists.

The initiative highlights BBC Radio 3’s continuing support for British contemporary composers - especially in these uncertain times. It also provides a snapshot of the current UK scene, including a wide variety of genres and approaches, featuring established artists and emerging talents, such as celebrated Radiohead guitarist-turned-composer Jonny Greenwood, Grammy-nominated Anna Clyne, composer, conductor and jazz pianist Raymond Yiu, Brian Eno-protégée Belle Chen, former BBC Philharmonic composer and conductor James Macmillan, Daniel Kidane - whose compositions are inspired by traditional repertoire as much as by grime, and Bulgarian-born/London-based rising star Dobrinka Tabakova among others. Also involved are two BBC Young Composer alumni: Isabel Wood and Morgan Overton.

A sign of the time, the Postcards from Composers will be recorded by BBC Orchestras instrumentalists in audio or audio-visual form, following appropriate social distancing guidelines, and will be then broadcast across the station’s schedule in a variety of programmes, from Monday 27 April 2020.

Alan Davey, Controller, BBC Radio 3 says: “With Postcards from Composers, we are showcasing and supporting the breadth and creativity of the contemporary British composing scene, at the same time giving our audiences a short daily moment of hope, as news comes in and lots of people in lockdown turn to classical music in search of relief.”

Petroc Trelawny, Presenter of BBC Radio 3 Breakfast says: “'I'm really excited about introducing these new works to Breakfast listeners. It is brilliant that, in these strange, challenging times, Radio 3 continues to support composers and musicians. This proves lockdown need be no barrier to creativity - and I can't wait to hear what the composers we are working with have produced'.”

During the first week, as part of the Breakfast programme, BBC Radio 3 will premiere:

Monday 27 April - Belle Chen: postcard for marimba
Tuesday 28 April - Raymond Yiu: postcard for French horn
Wednesday 29 April - Anna Clyne: postcard for cor anglais
Thursday 30 April - Jonny Greenwood: postcard for cello
Friday 1 May - Kuljit Bhamra: postcard for tabla

The compositions will then be included in Afternoon In Concert and broadcast at the end of BBC Radio 3 In Concert.

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BBC Young Composer launches 30 Second Composition Challenge

Linked to Radio 3’s Postcards from Composers, BBC Young Composer is also set to challenge 12-18 year-olds across the UK to create their own short new compositions.

The 30 Second Composition Challenge encourages young people to get creative and write new 30 second compositions written for single instrument or voice. Each month will see examples of recently submitted pieces selected, performed and recorded by musicians from the BBC’s Orchestras and Choirs and shared across social media and on Radio 3’s New Music Show. More details will be available on the BBC Young Composer website from Monday.

The campaign will encourage young composers to develop a larger piece of work to submit to the 2020 BBC Young Composer competition.

Deadline extended for 2020 BBC Young Composer competition

The annual BBC Young Composer competition encourages musically-minded students aged 12-18 of all technical abilities, backgrounds, and musical influences to get creative and submit an original composition and recording. This year, the competition deadline will be extended and submission guidelines relaxed to ensure greater accessibility at a time when many young people are without the usual support of their school network. Full details will be available on the BBC Young Composer website from Monday.

Many of today’s leading composers are counted in the outstanding list of BBC Young Composer alumni, including Shiva Feshareki, Kate Whitley, Alissa Firsova, Mark Simpson, Tom Harrold, and Duncan Ward. BBC Young Composer remains committed to assisting its alumni in launching their careers through its Ambassador scheme, connecting composers to commissioning opportunities at the BBC. Recent alumni, including Grace-Evangeline Mason, Alex Woolf, Alexia Sloane and Sarah Jenkins, have been commissioned by BBC Radio 3, BBC Concert Orchestra and BBC Proms.

Winners will be given the incredible opportunity to participate in a tailored development programme, working with a mentor composer on a project with the BBC Concert Orchestra which will be performed and broadcast in a special young composers’ concert at the 2021 BBC Proms.