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Music students commissioned to write new music for Classic FM’s 25th Birthday

Alex Woolf, Margherita Taylor and Alexia Sloane (Classic FM)
04 May 2017

Photo shows, from left to right: Alex Woolf, Margherita Taylor, Alexia Sloane.

Hills Road Sixth Form College’s Music department are celebrating as two of their Music students (out of the seven nationally exceptional young composers) have been selected by Classic FM and the Royal Philharmonic Society to write a new piece of classical music to celebrate Classic FM’s 25th birthday. They are current student, Alexia Sloane and former student Alex Woolf.

The Classic FM 25th birthday commissions in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) have been created to champion Britain’s outstanding young musical talent. They are part of a year of celebrations for the UK’s most popular classical music station.

From almost 200 applications, 16-year old Alexia Sloane and 21-year old Alex Woolf from Cambridge have been commissioned to write a three-minute piece of music each. Alexia will compose a chamber piece, while Alex will write for the flute and piano. His piece will be performed by the world-renowned flute player Sir James Galway. Both their works will be recorded and broadcast on-air to Classic FM’s 5.4 million listeners across the UK.

Alexia is a synaesthetic blind First Study Composer at the Royal College of Music Junior Department and Second Study Recorder, alongside working on her A levels at Hills Road Sixth Form College. She was an Aldeburgh Young Musician in 2015/2016 and is one of six composers with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain – making her the first blind composer and musician to be accepted on both schemes. In 2016, she was the first female young composer to win The Cambridge Young Composer of the Year Competition with her piece Passiflora. Alexia started composing when she was 12 years old and loves to write for unusual combinations of instruments, using her synaesthesia as a source of inspiration. Her ambition is to study Music at Cambridge and complete a postgraduate degree in Composition at a Conservatoire. She would like to become a professional composer or pursue a career in musicology.

Alex has already composed music for a wide range of artists and ensembles, including the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and his work has been performed across the UK, as well as in Holland, Italy, Germany, France, China and the United States. He studied A levels at Hills Road Sixth Form College and went on to read Music at St John’s College in Cambridge, graduating in 2016 with a triple First and he is now studying at the Royal Academy of Music. He was commissioned to write Three Tempestuous Tunes for acclaimed tenor Nicky Spence’s debut album, recorded with pianist Malcolm Martineau. These songs received their US premiere in California in March 2015. Alex is currently a member of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Panufnik Composers Scheme, writing music for the LSO to be premiered next year.

Any person born on or after Classic FM’s first broadcast on 7th September 1992 could apply to Classic FM’s 25th Birthday Commissions. When the station launched, its aim was to make classical music relevant to everyone, and this mission remains at the core of Classic FM today.

Entrants needed to demonstrate an ability to write accessible classical music, for varying sizes of ensemble, ranging from full orchestra, brass and choral ensembles, to flute and piano. Each work was then reviewed by a panel of distinguished judges including Debbie Wiseman, Errollyn Wallen, Paul Mealor and Stephen McNeff. From there, seven individuals have been appointed as Classic FM’s 25th Birthday Composers.

Alexia Sloane said: “Classic FM was probably among my very earliest introductions to classical music and one of my first sources of inspiration for wanting to pursue the subject in the first place.”

“I think that music is a great way of bringing people together and I suppose this is one of my main aims as an artist. Opportunities to reach such audiences, particularly as a young 16-year old composer not yet established in the industry, are very rare, as is the chance to write for incredible and most inspiring musicians such as those associated with the RPS.”

“I feel extremely fortunate and privileged to have been granted this amazingly wonderful and unique opportunity.”

Alex Woolf said: “I’m incredibly excited to be writing a 25th birthday commission for Classic FM. Sir James Galway is a dream performer to have the opportunity to compose for, and as Classic FM has been a permanent fixture of my musical upbringing, it’s a real privilege to contribute to their birthday celebrations in this way!”

Rosemary Johnson, executive director of the Royal Philharmonic Society, said: “How exciting it is to give these very young creative people such an interesting challenge and the opportunity to write for such big audiences. They have all demonstrated how up for it they are!”

Sam Jackson, Classic FM’s managing editor said: “Over 350,000 Classic FM listeners are younger than the station itself – and in this, our 25th birthday year, we’re so excited to be showcasing the music of these seven brilliant composers to our wider audience of 5.4 million people. The Royal Philharmonic Society very much shares Classic FM’s mission of bringing classical music to as many people as possible, and their support of new music is second to none. Together, we’re looking forward to seeing how these young musicians rise to the challenge of composing for Classic FM!”

For full details of The Classic FM 25th Birthday Commissions in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Society, visit