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Composition Competition Winner Featured

Alison Willis Alison Willis

We are delighted to announce that the winner of the joint Derby Cathedral and Friends of Cathedral Music Composition Competition is Alison Willis. Alison’s work will be premiered by Derby Cathedral Choir on Sunday 13 June 2021 as part of the Friends of Cathedral Music’s National Gathering in Derby that weekend. The work will also be published by Encore Publications.

Director of Music, Alexander Binns, says, ‘We wanted to celebrate the National Gathering in Derby so we decided to run a composition competition for a new setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, a setting with our name on it – The Derby Service. Alison’s setting was one of the most original entries with many interesting ideas. She combines new textures with beautifully shaped melodies. It’ll be an exciting piece both to sing and to reflect to.’ Christopher Gower says, ‘There is a freshness about it, colour and lyricism. I am looking forward to hearing it.’ Edmund Hunt says, ‘Alison’s use of colourful, varied harmony brings out the drama and expressivity of the texts. Lyrical lines and varied choral textures show a clear aptitude for vocal writing. The setting is imaginative and challenging, yet entirely practical for the context in which it will be performed.’

Alison says, ‘I am absolutely thrilled that the adjudicators chose my Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis as the new Derby Service and very much look forward to hearing it at the FCM Gathering next year. I hope this setting captures the bright joy of the Magnificat and the serenity of the Nunc Dimittis, one of my favourite texts to set! My thanks to Derby Cathedral Choir and Friends of Cathedral Music for creating this opportunity.’


Competitors were required to compose a new setting for choir and organ of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, a text which is sung almost daily in choral services at Derby Cathedral and in cathedrals and churches across the UK. A total of 123 composers submitted entries from countries which include the UK, USA, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Greece, Norway, Canada, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Romania. Alison’s work was chosen by a panel of adjudicators which consisted of Alexander Binns (Director of Music at Derby Cathedral), Edmund Hunt (Lay Clerk at Derby Cathedral and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in composition at Birmingham Conservatoire) and Christopher Gower (former Director of Music at Peterborough Cathedral and Grants Officer and Trustee to the Friends of Cathedral Music).

Alison (b. 1971) is an award winning composer whose works have been performed and broadcast internationally. She studied composition with Alan Bullard (Colchester) and George Benjamin (RCM). Her works are made available by Composers Edition, OUP and Selah. Her music has been described as, "Intensely moving", "Beautiful yet pragmatic" and "Saying what you have to say and then stopping". Recent performances include The Gesualdo Six, BBC Singers, Juice Vocal Ensemble and Blossom Street. For more information or to listen to Alison’s music please visit or Alison’s YouTube channel, Alison Willis Composer.

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