SMA Composing Competition: winner announced

After a full day of listening, deliberation and discussion the Schools Music Association (SMA) (part of the ISM) is delighted to award Sarah Baker, an ISM member of long-standing from Kings Heath, Birmingham, a prize of £1000 for her work ‘The Backwater Pirate and His Hairy Chest’, a brand new work for KS2 children.

About the award

The Steering Group of the Schools Music Association (SMA) (part of the ISM) decided to offer a prize of £1000 for a brand new work for KS2 children. The prize was to be split 50:50 between the writers and the school or organisation for which they work. The work, if deemed suitable for publication, would be taken up by Lindsay Music. This work had to incorporate a minimum of five songs with linking narrative or script, and be capable of being performed either as a concert cantata or a fully staged and costumed presentation.

With the deadline of 31 March 2017 having been reached, the judging panel was summoned to meet on Friday 19 May at the ISM Boardroom. The judges comprised Jay Deeble, Chairman of the SMA Steering Group, Susan Cox, Director of Inspiring Music (the Music Hub for Bedfordshire), Mary Edwards, music educator formerly involved with children of all ages through her work with the Avon Music Service and Douglas Coombes, composer, conductor and adjudicator under the Chairmanship of ISM Corporate Member Carole Lindsay-Douglas, music publisher.

Making full use of the audio-visual facilities of the ISM Boardroom, the panel listened to and examined all the material submitted. The standard of presentation of all the entries was excellent and this was greatly appreciated by the panel. Of paramount importance was the appeal of the storyline to the KS2 age-group and the suitability of the lyrics and their musical setting, particularly in respect of the vocal tessitura. The panel felt it vital to avoid music that encouraged little other than chest voice. Also of importance was the flexibility of the work to incorporate large numbers of boys and girls, if necessary, with relatively straightforward scenery and costume demands. The judges were delighted that all submissions, anonymously entered, allowed opportunities for solo singing. Another consideration, as teachers at Primary level are often generalists, not music specialists, was the need for the music to be accessible; it needed to be tuneful and memorable and offer variety for ease of learning.

After a full day of listening, deliberation and discussion the judges reached a unanimous decision. Hearty congratulations go to Sarah who works for the Vocal Department of Services For Education Music Services in Birmingham. She receives £500 herself, and the remaining £500 goes to her employers, who will be match-funding and ring-fencing the total for vocal work in the schools within Birmingham. This will ensure that the greatest possible number of children will benefit from this award.

A deserving winner, Sarah Baker’s work met all the aspirations of the judging panel, and also offered added touches of humour that the panel felt, both the children performing it and adults in the audience would enjoy. Sarah also included helpful production notes within her script. In due course, the work will become widely available in published form through the Lindsay Music catalogue.