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Radio 3 Carol Competition 2020

And the winner is… James Walton

Back in September, Radio 3 challenged listeners to come up with a cracking new tune for the words of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem, Christmas Carol. The competition was judged blind by an expert panel of judges, who whittled over a thousand entries down to a shortlist of just six.

All week, you’ve been listening to the carols and voting for your favourites. We asked you to choose the carol that you think has the most catchy, singable melody - the earworm that will keep you humming all the way through the festive period. And now the results are in! Congratulations to James, whose setting of Christmas Carol will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Christmas Day 2020.

Thank you to everyone who entered the competition - particularly the remaining five shortlisted composers, whose entries can be heard below. Thank you also to our panel of judges and arranger Clare Wheeler - and the BBC Singers, pianist Richard Pearce and conductor Owain Park, who recorded and performed all six shortlisted carols in this year's competition.

A very merry Christmas from all at BBC Radio 3!

2020's winning carol

4. James Walton: Christmas Carol (arr. Clare Wheeler)

James is the winner of the Radio 3 Carol Competition 2020.

Listen to the other shortlisted carols from the 2020 competition

1. Gareth Price: Christmas Carol (arr. Clare Wheeler)

Gareth is one of six finalists in the Radio 3 Carol Competition 2020.

2. Jonathan Ticher: Christmas Carol (arr. Clare Wheeler)

Jonathan is one of six finalists in the Radio 3 Carol Competition 2020.

3. Tim Tricker: Christmas Carol (arr. Clare Wheeler)

Tim is one of six finalists in the Radio 3 Carol Competition 2020.

5. Chris Westbrook: Christmas Carol (arr. Clare Wheeler)

Chris is one of six finalists in the Radio 3 Carol Competition 2020.

6. Lance Whitehead: Christmas Carol (arr. Clare Wheeler)

Lance is one of six finalists in the Radio 3 Carol Competition 2020.

Clockwise from top left: Clare Teal, Bryn Terfel, Karen Gibson, Bob Chilcott, Ken Burton, Anna Lapwood, Andrew Nethsingha, Clare Wheeler

Christmas Carol by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

We asked you to create a melody that would work for all four verses.

Ring out, ye bells!
All Nature swells
With gladness at the wondrous story,—
The world was lorn,
But Christ is born
To change our sadness into glory.

Sing, earthlings, sing!
To-night a King
Hath come from heaven's high throne to bless us.
The outstretched hand
O'er all the land
Is raised in pity to caress us.

Come at his call;
Be joyful all;
Away with mourning and with sadness!
The heavenly choir
With holy fire
Their voices raise in songs of gladness.

No, be not still,
But with a will
Strike all your harps and set them ringing;
On hill and heath
Let every breath
Throw all its power into singing!

Learn more about Paul Laurence Dunbar's life and work at the Poetry Foundation website.

Get some inspiration from a reading of the poem

Ken Nwosu reads Christmas Carol, by Paul Laurence Dunbar

We're inviting budding composers to write a tune for these verses from Dunbar's poem.

Things to note

  • The Radio 3 Carol Competition 2020 was open to non-professional composers in the UK. Anyone could enter, no matter what their level of experience. You didn’t need to have had any special musical training or need to know how to read or write music.

  • This year entrants could submit either a written score or a voice recording/video. If you submitted a recording, please bear in mind that the only people who heard it were our producers.

  • Unlike previous years, in 2020 we asked entrants to compose a melody line only. The melody had to be the same for every verse, so entrants only needed to submit one verse. If you submitted a carol with harmonies and/or accompaniments, or with different tunes for different verses, these elements were not taken into consideration by the judges.

Competition rules and privacy

Terms and conditions of entry

Click here to read the competition T&Cs, including details on what our judges are looking for

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