Competition for composers

Composers need to submit works of between five and 15 minutes.

Thursday August 31 is the closing date for the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) Alexander Award for South African Composers.

The competition is open to all South African composers, including permanent residents, not older than 35 (born after August 31, 1988). Entry is free and the short list will be announced by the end of November.

A concert of the short-listed works will be presented in March next year. The commissioned work of the competition’s first winner, Conrad Asman, will also be performed at the concert.

German philanthropist Alexander Valentin is sponsoring the overall winners cash prize of R50 000 and a new commission for R15 000, while the CPO is offering the position of composer-in-residence for one year as an opportunity to have at least one more piece performed.

An exchange with the Junge Norddeutsche Philharmonie (jnp) in Germany will also enable the winning piece to be performed internationally at a concert in Germany, while the winner of a competition organised by the jnp will have his or her work performed in Cape Town by the CPO.

Previous winners of first prize in the competition will not be eligible to enter. Only those composers resident in SA will be brought to Cape Town for the finalists’ concert.

Valentin, who is already sponsoring an exchange of young music students with the jnp, says he is committed to the CPO’s ideals of developing young musicians in South Africa.

“I am in the fortunate position of being able to assist, especially at a time when corporate and government funding is being reduced. I believe that nurturing the soul is important for mental wellbeing.”

Louis Heyneman, CEO of the CPO, says without sponsors such as Valentin, the competition which proved so successful in developing skills and recognising talent in the local creative music industry, would have proved more difficult to mount again.

“The first competition showed how young composers appreciate the rare chance to work with a committed orchestra and a good conductor to allow them to realise their dream of having new works performed,” he said.

“What’s more, the fact that the competition is filmed, streamed and remains on YouTube allows the composers to promote their works nationally and internationally.”

The competition calls for a short work of between five and 15 minutes.

Heyneman says instrumentation can encompass far more than traditional symphony orchestra. “Instrumentation for works can include strings, triple woodwinds, brass and percussion, piano, harp, celeste, traditional African instruments, and electronic instruments.”

Orchestrations for more than 55 players will not be considered. Works for solo instruments or voice will not be accepted.

Five finalists will be chosen by a jury of composers, conductors and musicologists whose names will be announced later. The jury’s decision will be final.

Entries must be sent to