Composing Competition Finalists

Freddy Wickham

Freddy Wickham

Freddy Wickham is a keen musician and composer in his last year of secondary school. Aside from composition work at school, he has studied composition with Thea Musgrave at Dartington Summer School. This is his first piece to be performed publicly outside of the context of this schooling. He is hoping to read Music at Oxford.

A keen performer, Freddy sings in the Rodolfus Choir, and has performed in several amateur opera productions, including La Traviata directed by Sir Jonathan Miller. He is also very interested in jazz, and enjoys playing jazz piano especially.

100 Years On

100 Years On is a melancholy reflection on the centenary of the start of the First World War. The sighing violin lines which open the piece set the tone for the rest of it, and this soft, sad theme is developed into a loud finale, mourning for the dead. This is interspursed by the eerily upbeat middle section, reflecting the encouragement and enthusiasm with which men from both sides marched to their deaths. However the ominous minor key and unsettling 5/4 time of the unsettling middle section remind us that many losses would be incurred – certainly not ‘all over by Christmas’.

Leo Geyer

Leo Geyer

Leo Geyer is a 22-year-old London born composer and conductor. He studied on the prestigious Joint Course at Manchester University and the Royal Northern College of Music, graduating with The Soroptimists International of Manchester Award for Composers/Conductors. Leo also attended the Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts to study conducting with Prof. Uroš Lajovic. Leo now studies composition privately with Robert Saxton.

Leo has been awarded various accolades for composition including the RNCM Gold Medal Award, CMU New Ensemble Call for Works and the Philip Bates Prize. His music has been performed by ensembles including Psappha Ensemble, Opera North and the Manchester Camerata. Leo’s work has been performed in the US, Austria and across the UK, including at the 20x12 Olympic New Music Weekend, Aldeburgh Festival and live on BBC Radio 3. Recent composition projects include a work for the BBC Singers, an aria for Opera North and a dance piece for Rambert Dance Company.

Leo currently works at The Royal Opera House as cover conductor for The Royal Ballet and also holds conducting positions with The Settle Orchestra and Khymerikal (contemporary chamber ensemble). He is also the Artistic Director and co-founder of Constella Ballet & Orchestra, whose performances have received critical acclaim including the production of Leo’s opera The Mermaid of Zennor, which was hailed by the Times as “imaginative and beautifully shaped”.


In Homeopathy Materia Medica is the encyclopaedia of remedies. It specifies in detail the symptoms, conditions and personalities of each remedy, which when matched with the individual, promotes healing. This piece uses twelve widely used homeopathic remedies and translates their properties into musical characters which are assigned to an instrument of the orchestra. The musical material used to define these remedies fuses with the central motif, just as the remedies themselves are used to combine with the body’s immune system.

Below lists the instruments with their paired remedy in order of hearing.

  • Oboe - Belladonna
  • Viola - Arsenicum
  • Violin I - Pulsatilla
  • Clarinet - Phosphorus
  • Timpani - Hepar Sulph
  • Horn - Arnica
  • Cello - Aconite
  • Bassoon - Nux Vomica
  • Violin II - Sulphur
  • Trumpet - Silica
  • Flute - Hypericum
  • Double Bass – Gelsenium

Materia Medica was first performed by Constella Orchestra conducted by Leo Geyer on the 14th of April 2011 at St. Margret’s Church (SE London).

Sebastian Skelly

Seb Skelly

Sebastian Skelly is 19 years old, currently in his second year of a degree course in Creative Music Technology at the University of Surrey. His main instrument is trumpet which he studied at the Junior Royal Academy of Music to Diploma level. He also plays piano and has a keen interest in developing as a jazz pianist. He began composing pieces when he was 10 and is keen to work as a composer professionally once he graduates. The composers he is most inspired by are Ravel, Vaughan Williams and Shostakovich from whose works he has learnt a great deal about orchestration, particularly so Ravel. He is also much influenced by the work of film composers like Thomas Newman and Howard Shore and is just as inspired by some of the great jazz giants like Miles Davis and Bill Evans. He also enjoys Rock, Ska and various Electronic musics.

His approach to composition is driven by melody and motif. The harmonies are often impressionistic and jazz-inspired and his rhythms are, in some ways, from minimalist influences. He has more recently begun experimenting with writing jazz and ambient electronic music, influenced in part by his studies at Surrey. He is a frequent performer, playing trumpet as a member of a symphony orchestra, a brass quintet, the University of Surrey Big Band and, in concerts around the southwest, with his pop-ska band, Bare Jams.

Night Flight

Listen to Night Flight by Seb Skelly

For me, the title almost always comes last. However, in this case, I consciously set out to write a piece that conveyed a sense of liquidity and smoothness or something gliding along at a fast pace, perhaps a Barn Owl flying low over a field at night. The idea for Night Flight was to write a piece that achieved a sense of lightness and perpetual motion by expanding my use of flourishes and runs in the winds and strings. The piece is based around a small number of distinct motifs as well as the interplay between the different ways one can hear a bar of six quaver beats - as two group of three or three groups of two.

Most of the motifs are derived from the main melody, which is played first by the oboes. It is light and dancing and represents the freedom of flight, set against the dark of night that is conveyed by the minor and modal accompaniment. The piece opens with a sense of brooding urgency that hardly ever abates. There are just a few moments of calm when the pulse disappears completely. Otherwise the piece is a gradual climb towards a series of false summits, each one more intense and drawn out than the last, until it reaches the final section which builds over the same chord using rhythms that become ever more intensely juxtaposed.

George Owen

George Owen

George Owen was born in Poole in 1995. At the age of 5 he began cello lessons with Hungarian count Josef Koos, ex-Principal Cellist of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, earning a place in the National Children's Orchestra a few years later. George moved to Wells Cathedral School in 2008, supported by the DfE's Music and Dance Scheme, and began composing when Paul Whitmarsh joined the school in 2010. He has had a piece performed in every Composers Concert bar one, as well as having a piece performed by the school's New Music Ensemble in Wells Cathedral for New Music Wells Week. His compositions have been workshopped twice by the school's Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Adey.

In March 2013 George was one of seven composers to have their symphonic works workshopped by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (led by Maxime Tortelier) and James MacMillan as part of their Call For Scores. In 2014 Purbeck Arts Week commissioned George to write a 15-minute piece for the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Strings. The piece was premiered on June 6th, at St. Mary's Church, Swanage.

George is now in his first year at the University of Bristol, studying music.

Approaching Bristol

Approaching Bristol is a re-orchestration of the last movement of a 14-minute symphonic work written for an Extended Project Qualification in Year 12. The whole work, A Transect Through Somerset, depicted a number of landscapes that lie on a straight line, starting at the possible site of a Roman hill fort by George's home and ending up in Bristol docks, having passed through Glastonbury Tor.

The last movement begins flying over Chew Valley Lake, a large reservoir built by the Victorians to supply Bristol with water. The wind can pick up a quick breeze even on a seemingly still day, and this is portrayed by the rustling strings at the beginning. The traveller that is approaching Bristol catches sight of the great city a number of times, heralded by full-orchestral tuttis. The hills undulate and the traveller loses sight of Bristol momentarily. Finally, they arrive in the bustling docks, a whirlwind of excitement, and the city motif is heard for the last time.