RPS / Wigmore Hall Apprentice Composer Scheme

As part of its commitment to supporting the professional development of emerging musicians, Wigmore Hall is delighted to lead the Apprentice Composer scheme in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS).

The scheme provides a composer in the early stages of their professional career a range of opportunities to support their development, including:

  • Mentorship from Wigmore Hall’s Composer in Residence, Helen Grime
  • Opportunities to learn from and work alongside other leading composers
  •  A commission for a new work, to be performed in concert at Wigmore Hall
  • Opportunities to attend rehearsals and performances as part of the Wigmore Hall Contemporary Music Series
  • Opportunities to take part in and observe Wigmore Hall Learning workshops and events

As part of our 2017/18 season, 18 year-old Freya Ireland became the very first RPS / Wigmore Hall Apprentice Composer, and this year we were delighted to appoint Edmund Hunt as Apprentice Composer 2017/18.

Applications for the 2018/19 post will open later in the year – watch this space for more information!

As part of its commitment to supporting the professional development of emerging musicians, Wigmore Hall is delighted to lead the Apprentice Composer scheme in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS).

Edmund Hunt, Apprentice Composer 2017/18

Read Edmund's blog about his experience of being the RPS / Wigmore Hall Apprentice Composer:

1. Singing With Friends

‘References to dementia are often associated with loss and limitation … Yet Singing with Friends is far from sad; it is one of the most uplifting singing experiences that I have ever witnessed.’

As part of my role as Apprentice Composer at Wigmore Hall, I have had the opportunity to become involved in its diverse programme of learning, outreach and community activities. One of these activities is ‘Singing with Friends’, which I have attended over several weeks. ‘Singing with Friends’ is a weekly, informal singing session, which includes repertoire of many different styles from across the ages. Under the enthusiastic direction of choir leader Isabelle Adams, repertoire is learned and developed from week to week. Yet although the choir has already given some performances (in venues including the Wigmore Hall and Buckingham Palace), rehearsals are not solely focused on preparing for the next concert. As such, each session begins and ends with tea and coffee, giving participants the opportunity to chat and to catch up on the week’s events. As part of my role as Apprentice Composer at Wigmore Hall, I have had the opportunity to become involved in its diverse programme of learning, outreach and community activities. One of these activities is ‘Singing with Friends’, which I have attended over several weeks. ‘Singing with Friends’ is a weekly, informal singing session, which includes repertoire of many different styles from across the ages. Under the enthusiastic direction of choir leader Isabelle Adams, repertoire is learned and developed from week to week. Yet although the choir has already given some performances (in venues including the Wigmore Hall and Buckingham Palace), rehearsals are not solely focused on preparing for the next concert. As such, each session begins and ends with tea and coffee, giving participants the opportunity to chat and to catch up on the week’s events. 

At this point, I should perhaps mention that Singing with Friends differs in one crucial respect from other choirs in which I have sung. Singing with Friends was established specifically for people living with dementia, their carers and their families. References to dementia are often associated with loss and limitation; the illness is undoubtedly a cause of great sadness for all who are affected by it. Yet Singing with Friends is far from sad; it is one of the most uplifting singing experiences that I have ever witnessed. During the course of a rehearsal, there is a palpable feeling of energy and happiness as the singers engage with the music that they are rehearsing. There is also a sense that music facilitates communication, expression and group cohesion in ways that might otherwise be less accessible for people with dementia. As someone who has sung in choirs for many years, I understand how the act of singing with others causes you to focus your attention on your own voice and on the voices of those around you. Over time, you develop an unconscious affinity with the breathing, phrasing and timbre of those who stand next to you. This is a profound form of communication, which clearly enriches all who take part.

Singing with Friends is just one of the many activities that I have seen in and around Wigmore Hall. As the Apprentice Composer, it has been invaluable for me to meet workshop leaders, accompanists, performers, members of the administrative team and people from partner organisations that work with Wigmore Hall to deliver different projects. Being a composer can sometimes seem like an isolated and at times precarious position; it is invaluable to see the ways in which other musicians have built from a diverse portfolio of creative practice. Over the coming weeks, I look forward learning more about the work of Wigmore Hall.

2. Diphonon Duo

As the Apprentice Composer at Wigmore Hall, I have the exciting opportunity to write a new piece for Diphonon Duo. The duo is formed of Michael Iskas (viola) and Iñigo Mikeleiz Berrade (accordion). As there is relatively little music written specifically for this combination, it has felt as though I have begun the composition process with an unusually blank canvas. Nonetheless, the combination of accordion plus a stringed instrument does carry many associations; images of folk musicians, cafes and buskers perhaps spring to mind. Although my composition does not draw deliberately on these musical traditions, my piece is fundamentally determined by the particular sound of the accordion and viola. In order to understand the sound world of these instruments, the composition process began with meeting Michael and Iñigo, asking them to play through a few rough sketches, and hearing them perform.As the Apprentice Composer at Wigmore Hall, I have the exciting opportunity to write a new piece for Diphonon Duo. The duo is formed of Michael Iskas (viola) and Iñigo Mikeleiz Berrade (accordion). As there is relatively little music written specifically for this combination, it has felt as though I have begun the composition process with an unusually blank canvas. Nonetheless, the combination of accordion plus a stringed instrument does carry many associations; images of folk musicians, cafes and buskers perhaps spring to mind. Although my composition does not draw deliberately on these musical traditions, my piece is fundamentally determined by the particular sound of the accordion and viola. In order to understand the sound world of these instruments, the composition process began with meeting Michael and Iñigo, asking them to play through a few rough sketches, and hearing them perform.

The first time I heard Diphonon Duo perform in concert was at the William Morris Society in Hammersmith. The concert was titled ‘Music for Thought’. Like Singing with Friends, in which I have participated for several weeks, the concert was part of Wigmore Hall’s Music for Life programme, which brings together professional musicians, care staff and people living with dementia. Although the concert at the William Morris Society was the first time that I had observed this particular event, Michael and Iñigo had met the participants in previous sessions and had developed an evident rapport with them. The concert programme included arrangements of pieces by Bach, Purcell and Britten, and a recently composed work inspired by Flamenco. Afterwards, audience members were keen to ask questions and to share their memories and observations in relation to the music that they had heard; this was testimony to the profound way in which participants had engaged with Diphonon Duo’s performance.

Not long after hearing Diphonon Duo perform at the William Morris Society, I heard Michael give a solo performance at the Cardinal Hume Centre Singing Group, as part of Wigmore Hall’s community programme. The Cardinal Hume Centre helps families and young people to overcome poverty and homelessness. The Singing Group is a weekly lunchtime event for clients, volunteers and colleagues from the Centre, enabling them to sing together and to build friendships and self confidence. On my visit to the Singing Group, the session began with a chance for each of the participants to introduce themselves, followed by a full vocal warm up. Later in the session, the group rehearsed a song that had been composed by the participants over several weeks. It was great to experience the enjoyment and happiness of music-making that was so firmly grounded in the moment; there was a real sense that the act of singing together transcended other worries and uncertainties. When the time came for Michael’s performance, he played a set of traditional Greek tunes. I was particularly interested in Michael’s use of microtonal intervals; notes that exist in between the conventional set of twelve notes used in most Western classical music. Although my piece does not include any traditional Greek melodies, Michael’s solo performance gave me many ideas which have found their way into my music.

Each time I have heard Michael and Iñigo perform, my attention has been drawn to particular sonorities and textures, all of which have shaped my approach to writing for Diphonon Duo. As I complete the piece, I have inevitably modified some of my ideas in response to feedback from my mentor, Helen Grime, and from the performers. Such feedback is vital in ensuring that my ideas are realised in an effective and practical manner. The final stages of the composition process are often rather stressful; the mind becomes full of accumulated musical material which must somehow be held in balance. Each compositional decision opens up new pathways while also closing off alternative directions that the piece might otherwise take. I am very fortunate to have the support of Diphonon Duo and my mentor, Helen Grime, as I come to the end of the composition process. All that remains is to finish the piece!

RPS logo

Summer 2019 Wigmore Series

Priority Booking for concerts and Learning events from April to May 2019 is now open.

Supporting our 2018/19 Season

Find out more about how you can help us

Annual Fund Appeal - Help us raise £100,000 for 2018/19

Please help ensure that our programme can remain as vibrant and engaging as ever.