City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra announces the composers of 20 new commissions


Sounds New 1.

We are delighted to announce the 20 composers that have been commissioned as part of our Sounds New initiative which will see their works premiered by the Orchestra at Symphony Hall, Birmingham on Sunday 29 January 2023 in a showcase of new music.

As part of the CBSO’s centenary in 2020, the Orchestra continued its commitment to championing the music of living composers with its most ambitious commissioning programme to date. 40 Centenary Commissions will have been performed over four seasons; 20 of these were major works from composers across the globe, the last of which will be premiered in the 22-23 season including World Premieres by Brett Dean, Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, Freya Waley-Cohen and Dani Howard and the UK Premiere of Thomas Larcher’s Third Symphony.

In Sounds New the Orchestra shines a spotlight on 20 diverse, creative voices from across the country, who will each write 4-minute works for full orchestra. These short works will be given their World Premieres in a celebration of new music by the CBSO, conducted by Clark Rundell.

The composers are: Anna Appleby, Kristina Arakelyan, Tyriq Baker, Stephane Crayton, Nathan James Dearden, Benjamin Graves, Millicent B James, Joel Järventausta, Chloe Knibbs, Ryan Latimer, Florence Anna Maunders, Ben Nobuto, Laurence Osborn, Rakhi Singh, Angela Elizabeth Slater, Aileen Sweeney, Liam Taylor-West, Héloïse Werner, Bethan Morgan-Williams and Yfat Soul Zisso. You can read their biographies below.

 Stephen Maddock, Chief Executive of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, said: 

‘I’m hugely excited by this daring initiative and can’t wait to hear what this brilliantly creative group of people have composed for us. Anyone who thinks that the orchestra is a museum needs to get themselves to Symphony Hall in January.’

The 20 commissions were made possible by support from The John Feeney Charitable Trust, which has supported new music for the CBSO since 1955.  

Tickets for the event are available here:


Meet the composers

Anna Appleby.

ANNA APPLEBY

Born in Newcastle, Anna Appleby is a Manchester-based composer. Her music often wrestles with socio-political and spiritual themes. She has written numerous orchestral, operatic, chamber, choral, vocal, electronic and dance works for a wide variety of professional and community ensembles. She has a particular interest in writing for the stage and has drawn inspiration from choreographers in the way she works, building her pieces on the strengths and personalities of each ensemble she writes for. Collaboration is at the heart of her creative practice, and she is always keen to meet artists and ensembles who enjoy open conversation and practical research.

Anna often works with the arts in a community setting. She was Manchester composer in residence with Streetwise Opera (2016/17), for whom she has composed again since, and her work with them featured in US documentary 'Turning Point' in Autumn 2017. She was the artist in residence with Quay Voices (2016/17), with whom she worked collaboratively to create a two-movement piece involving lyrics written by the choir.


Kristina A.

KRISTINA ARAKELYAN

Kristina Arakelyan is an award-winning composer and pianist based in London.Having trained at the Royal Academy of Music and Oxford University, Kristina has recently been described by the press as a 'rising star' (BBC Music Magazine, 2021) and 'one to watch' (Scala Radio, 2022).

Kristina's current projects include recordings on the NMC, Signum Records and Sony Music labels, collaborations with the BBC Singers, BBC Concert Orchestra, Pembroke College Choir (Cambridge University), the National Youth Choir of GB, the National Children's Orchestra of GB, Grimeborn Opera Festival, underscoring 'The Dance of Death' (Arcola Theatre), set music for the piano syllabus of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music; publication deals with Stainer and Bell, Oxford University Press and Selah Publishing (Canada).

Kristina's notable awards include first prizes in the BBC Proms Young Composers’ Competition, the National Centre for Early Music Composers' Award, Royal Northern Sinfonia Composers' Competition.


Tyriq.

TYRIQ BAKER

Tyriq Baker is a musician, multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, songwriter and producer born, raised and based in Birmingham. He plays Piano, Clarinet, Bassoon, among others, and composes for a wide variety of genres, including classical, jazz, hip-hop, electronic genres, contemporary music, film music, among many others, where he goes under the name 'bake_kidd_' online.

He graduated from the University of Huddersfield in 2021 with a First Class BMus Music degree, and has gone on to be intimately involved with the arts scene in Birmingham. He recently worked with composer of the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games on a music internship, as well as working with the REP Theatre with home-grown plays such as Grimeboy, and was in two Shakespeare productions at the Theatre - Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where he performed in a band playing music in a 90s adaption of the play for the former, and composed music and played the character Oberon for the latter. He is also involved in several community music projects across Birmingham, has recently scored for three independent films outside of Birmingham, and completed his own audio film, titled 'Rootswork', which he directed, wrote the script, composed and edited from his room.

This has not been the first time he has worked with the CBSO. He is a former Youth Ambassador of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and with the other Youth Ambassadors, put together a concert entitled ‘CBSO: A vision for the Future’ in January 2020, as well as being involved and performing in their Project Remix in 2018. He hopes that this will be the first of many times to work with the orchestra of his hometown.


Stephane.

STEPHANE CRAYTON

Stephane Crayton lives in Cambridge, UK. He researches new aesthetics, focussing on the relationship between expression and conceptions of order, the subject of his PhD. He also writes about eighteenth-century visual culture (Hogarth). Stephane supervises various undergraduate courses at Cambridge, and teaches at the Royal Academy of Music, junior department.

His work has been called ‘subtle and delicate’, ‘sensual and fluid…a sensibility that is refined, curious and original’. In kreng, composed for the Ligeti Quartet, Stephane took Beethoven’s notorious Heiliger Dankgesang and disassembled it into a collection of thousands of notes, only to put them back together in a different order. Threads, an immersive opera (rites), deconstructed the concept of the stage; and in Image, a work for chamber ensemble and photographer, an exhibition space was transformed into a giant dark room which the audience could inhabit.

Stephane is currently working with Dante’s Commedia towards various projects featuring violins and recitations.


Nathan.

NATHAN JAMES DEARDEN

Nathan James Dearden is an award-winning music creator, whose work has been described as “hauntingly beautiful” (Media Wales), and performed and featured by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Tippett Quartet, National Youth Orchestra of Wales, Grand Band, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, Fidelio Trio, and Hebrides Ensemble.

His music regularly features in concerts across the UK and overseas, including at the Cheltenham Music Festival, Dartington International Festival, CROSSROADS International New Music Festival and Vale of Glamorgan Festival. His music has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, Resonance FM, RTÉ lyric FM, S4C and Soho Radio, whilst also released on NMC Recordings and Delphian. ,br>
Nathan is also a sought-after conductor, arts advisor, event curator and educator, holding arts advisory roles with several international organisations such as Royal Holloway University of London, National Youth Arts Wales, and MusicFest Aberystwyth.


Benjamin.

BENJAMIN GRAVES

Benjamin Graves studied clarinet at the Birmingham Conservatoire under Timothy Lines. He soon took to composing, completing his PhD in composition under Richard Causton at the University of Cambridge in July 2020.

He has won various awards and bursaries and his compositions have been heard in venues in Seattle and Boston, USA; Royaumont and Aix-en-Provence, France; Darmstadt and Freiburg, Germany; Basel, Switzerland; and Aldeburgh, Birmingham, Cambridge, Durham, Oxford; and London’s Air Studios, Barbican, LSO St. Luke’s, the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, The Place, Southbank Centre, St John’s Smith Square, and the Wigmore Hall. Broadcasts include BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Scotland, Soho Classical and Resonance 104.4 FM. Festival premieres include the Aberdeen Sound, City of London, Celtic Connection and Aldeburgh festivals.

Notable ensemble commissions and performances include BCMG, Ensemble Recherche, Hermes Experiment, The Riot Ensemble, and members of the BBC Symphony and London Symphony Orchestras, and orchestral works for the London Symphony and Royal Scottish National Orchestras. Benjamin is currently a PADI Master Scuba Diver, landscape gardener and an undergraduate supervisor in composition and orchestration at the University of Cambridge.


Millicent.

MILLICENT B JAMES

Millicent B James is a freelance composer whose music intertwines colourful elements of gospel, jazz, soul, soundtrack, contemporary classical, ambient and afro futurism to create an amalgamation of sonorities. Her musical output is multi-faceted as a cellist and vocalist, and she continues to compose and perform her own works.

Millicent has always been interested in her Jamaican family heritage, her origins, African Mythology as well as other cultures. Moyo, Vol. 1 (2020) & Moyo, Vol. 2 (2021) are EPs based on these interests. Millicent graduated in 2021 with a first-class degree in Composition at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and was awarded the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Composition Prize. She has worked with the Chineke! Orchestra as Events Assistant (founded by Chi-chi Nwanoku CBE) and has been commissioned to compose a piece for the Commonwealth Games, taking place in Birmingham 2022.

Millicent enjoys collaborative work and writing for media projects. She has recently worked closely with animators such as Ilaina Lowe and Alice Harper on a music video featured on her second EP, Moyo, Vol. 2. She has also worked with video game developers, ensembles/chamber groups, jazz bands, dancers and musicians.


Joel.

JOEL JÄRVENTAUSTA

Joel Järventausta is a Finnish composer based in Finland and the United Kingdom. He has recently submitted his PhD in Composition at King’s College London, where he studied with Sir Prof. George Benjamin and Prof. Silvina Milstein, supported by the Arts & Humanities Scholarship. Most recently he finished a choral work for Helsinki Chamber Choir and an orchestral work for Jyväskylä Sinfonia, and is currently writing a piano trio for Kamarikesä-festival.

In 2022, London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth premiered his work Sunfall at the Barbican and took the work on tour to Konzerthaus Dortmund, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and Musikkens Hus Aalborg. Recent commissions include a song cycle Autumn Songs for Maria Turunen and Armaan Madar; a solo piano work Snowscapes for Allison Wang; a chamber work Pilgrim for Philharmonia Orchestra supported by Royal Philharmonic Society and commercially released by NMC Recordings in 2022; a quintet Songs of Empty Landscapes for Uusinta Ensemble; and a string quartet On Blue for Kreutzer Quartet.

His works have been performed in various venues and festivals in UK, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, Spain, Bulgaria, Canada and the USA. He holds a Masters in Composition with 1st class Distinction from the Royal College of Music, where he was a fully supported Scholar.


Chloe.

CHLOE KNIBBS

Chloe Knibbs is a composer and sound artist motivated by lyricism and vulnerability, whose work seeks to hold space to explore and reframe societal issues. Informed by feminism and interdisciplinary approaches, her work encompasses opera, theatre, choral and chamber works, installations and songwriting. Her music also draws on life experiences and has been described as “quietly effective with every note made to count” and as having an “unmistakable ring of authenticity” (Musical Opinion). 

Chloe’s music confronts the absence and portrayal of women composers in classical music. Her practice utilises a collage-like approach that juxtaposes historical and contemporary sources to consider the representation of women composers, with a specific focus on the 19th century. Her choral work Clara explores Clara Schumann’s ambivalence about her and was created on Making Music’s Adopt A-Composer Scheme and later broadcast on BBC Radio 3.  

Her series of works Ruins uses the metaphor of ruins and erosion to consider the tropes around women composers, legacy-building and sonic disintegration, and exists as an electroacoustic work (supported by Jerwood Arts Bursary and Sound and Music’s Francis Chagrin Award) and an online interactive sound art installation made in collaboration with designer Denitsa Toneva.


Ryan L.

RYAN LATIMER

Ryan Latimer is a composer whose music has been described as “anarchic and cartoonishly fun” (BBC R3), “deliciously playful” (Classical Music Magazine) and “irresistible in its tongue-in-cheek irreverence” (ISCM). His work has been performed internationally by ensembles including the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, China National Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra and London Sinfonietta.

In 2021, his debut album was be released worldwide on NMC Recordings. “Allusive, sparkling and emphatically rhythmic” (The Guardian), it reached #2 in the UK Official Charts and received 5 stars from BBC Music Magazine. He is a regular collaborator with the contemporary dance group, Cohan Collective, and has worked closely with New York-based choreographer Jacqueline Bulnes.

Many of his solo and chamber works have also featured at international festivals, including Darmstädter Ferienkurse, Gaudeamus Musiekweek, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, ISCM World Music Days and Aldebrugh Festival. Ryan is a Lecturer in Music at the University of Birmingham.


Florence.

FLORENCE ANNA MAUNDERS

Florence Anna Maunders started to compose music when she was a teenager, and her early tape based pieces from this time reveal an early fascination with the unusual juxtapositions of sounds and collisions of styles which have been a hallmark of her music-making ever since. This is perhaps a reflection of the music which interested and excited her from a very young age – medieval dance music, prog-rock, electronic minimalism, bebop jazz, Eastern folk music, the music of Stravinsky and Messiaen, and the grand orchestral tradition of the European concert hall.

Flori started out young, as a chorister, clarinettist and saxophone player, but following an undergraduate degree at the Royal Northern College of Music, she's enjoyed a mixed and international career as a jazz pianist, orchestral percussionist, vocalist arranger, electronic music producer and teacher.

Since 2018 she's returned to composition as a main artistic focus, winning a series of awards and competitions, and with her music performed across the UK, Europe, the USA and the rest of the world in performances and collaborations with leading ensembles, orchestras and soloists.


Bethan.

BETHAN MORGAN-WILLIAMS

Bethan Morgan-Williams is a composer who writes quirky, rhythmically-intricate music. Described as “marvellously oblique and obscure” [5against4] while being “rooted in something ancient and folky” [The Telegraph], Bethan’s music finds motivation in the apogee of musical performance. With composer-performer collaborations a key part of Bethan’s practice, each piece is written in accordance with the person(s) involved.

Bethan is currently based in mid-Wales, having studied predominantly with Gary Carpenter at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, and Diderik Wagenaar at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague.


Ben.

BEN NOBUTO

Ben Nobuto is a British/Japanese composer from Kent. With a style described as ‘postmodern’ (Nonclassical) and ‘utterly contemporary’ (Manchester Collective), his music explores themes of attention and fragmentation, often drawing from internet culture and popular idioms in a playful, ironic and surreal manner.

His works have been commissioned by ensembles such as Manchester Collective, Manchester Camerata, Ligeti Quartet, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, and have featured on BBC Radio 6, Times Radio and Resonance FM among others. He is currently working towards a debut album with the support of Sound and Music’s ‘New Voices’ scheme, which is set to be released in mid-2023.


Laurence.

LAURENCE OSBORN

Laurence Osborn’s music has been commissioned or programmed by the London Sym-phony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, Britten Sinfonia, The Riot Ensemble, Manchester Collective and Ensemble 360, and programmed throughout the UK, at The Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Royal Opera House, The Wigmore Hall, and Kings Place, and at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (where he was an International Showcase Artist), and Music in the Round Festival. His music has also been programmed in Europe, at Festi-val Présences (Paris), Alteoper Frankfurt, and November Music Festival (Den Bosch). Laurence's music has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and Deutschlandfunk Kultur, and released on Resonus Classics, and Coviello Classics.

Laurence studied composition with Martin Suckling and Martyn Harry at Oxford University, Kenneth Hesketh at the Royal College of Music, and Julian Philips at Guildhall. He then studied with Julian Anderson privately, before studying for a Composition PhD at Kings College London with Sir George Benjamin, supported by an LAHP Scholarship. He won the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize in 2017.


Rahki.

RAKHI SINGH

Rakhi Singh is a violinist, collaborator, composer and music director based between Manchester and London.

Having performed with or led ensembles such as Immix Ensemble, RLPO, Sinfonia Cymru and LCO she co-founded Manchester Collective in 2016, taking on a music direction and leader role, shaping their seasons and helping to bring through commissions with ground-breaking artists such as Moor Mother and Lyra Pramuk, and leading the Collective’s debut proms performance in 2021.

Rakhi is a keen collaborator, with recent collaborative commissions featuring her own compositions from the Royal Opera House and the PRS New Music Biennial alongside Vessel, NYX Electronic Drone Choir, Mimi Daulton, Joe Morgan and Blackhaine. As a touring violinist, she has most recently toured Philip Glass’ Tao of Glass and Hiromi’s Piano Quintet around Europe.

Rakhi released her debut EP of her own solo works ‘Quarry’ on Bedroom Community in 2021, followed by her first run of solo performances across Europe.


Angela.

ANGELA ELIZABETH SLATER

Angela Slater is a UK-based composer and Illuminate Women’s Music Director. She has an interest in musically mapping different aspects of the natural world into the fabric of her music.

Recent significant achievements include becoming a Royal Philharmonic Society Composer for 2021-22, 2020-22 Tanglewood Composition-Fellow, and a 2017-18 Britten-Pears Young Artist working with Oliver Knussen, Colin Matthews and Michael Gandolfi. Angela was the 2019 Mendelssohn Scholar resulting in many US performances, including the world premiere of Roil in Stillness by the New England Philharmonic.

In 2021 she wrote two works for Royal Scottish National Orchestra and six solo works for the Connected skies project funded by Arts Council England. In 2022 Angela is developing an accordion concerto with accordionist Kamila Olas and composing works for Ensemble360 (RPS programme) and a new viola concerto for Richard Waters with the London Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the LPO Young Composers programme.


Aileen.

AILEEN SWEENEY

Aileen Sweeney is a Scottish composer, accordionist and arranger based in Glasgow. In 2021, Aileen's piece 'Above the Stars' performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra won the award for 'Large Scale New Work' sponsored by PRS at The Scottish Awards for New Music.

Aileen co-hosts the Ear to the Ground podcast with Ben Eames, talking to Scottish/Scottish based composers about their work and promoting their music in partnership with New Music Scotland. In 2021, the podcast won the RCS Making it Happen Award at The Scottish Awards for New Music.

Aileen graduated from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2017 with a Bachelor of Music Degree with First Class Honours and subsequently a Master of Music Degree in 2021 with scholarships awarded by The Dewar Arts Award, The Cross Trust, The Countess of Munster Musical Trust and The North Lanarkshire Musical Trust.


Heloise.

HÉLOÏSE WERNER

Héloïse Werner was born in Paris and was a member of the ‘Maîtrise de Radio France’ for six years. Recipient of the Michael Cuddigan Trust Award 2018 and Linda Hirst Contemporary Vocal Prize 2017, French-born and London-based soprano and composer Héloïse Werner was one of the four shortlisted nominees in the Young Artist category of the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards 2017 and one of BBC Radio 3’s 31 under 31 Young Stars 2020.

Héloïse’s debut album ‘Phrases’ is out now on Delphian Records – it is one of Gramophone Editor’s Choices (“extraordinary range, tone and vocal abilities…composer of subtle imagination”), Presto Classical Editor’s Choices (“absolute tour de force”) and described by Apple Music as “a staggering debut from an imaginative and original voice”.

As a composer, Héloïse has written for musicians including violist Lawrence Power, bassoonist Amy Harman, pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen, mezzo-soprano Marielou Jacquard, pianist Kunal Lahiry, violinist Fenella Humphreys, mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, The Gesualdo Six, The Bach Choir, CoMA, mezzo-soprano Grace Durham and Miller-Porfiris Duo. Upcoming 2022/23 commissions include new works for Radio France and Wigmore Hall.


Liam.

LIAM TAYLOR-WEST

Liam Taylor-West is a composer and creator of audio visual artworks.

He was the recipient of the 2018 Ivors Composer Award in the Community or Educational Project category for The Umbrella and has had his music performed by ensembles such as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, National Open Youth Orchestra and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Liam’s composition Backdrops is used to underscore the BBC Radio 3 show Night Tacks, and his orchestral piece A Slow Breath appears as part of the BBC Sounds podcast The Music and Meditation Podcast. Liam is completing a Doctoral Degree in Composition at the Royal College of Music in London, supported by an RCM Studentship, where he has studied with William Mival, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Nico Muhly amongst others. He is an advocate of the use of creative technology in composition and performance, and is a Resident at Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio, in Bristol.


Yfat.

YFAT SOUL ZISSO

Ever since commencing on her music studies at the relatively late age of 15, Soul has been dedicated to her dream of becoming a composer. She graduated from Cardiff University, studying with Arlene Sierra and Robert Fokkens, before commencing on a Masters and later a PhD in composition at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire under the supervision of Joe Cutler and Howard Skempton.

Her music, which has been described as "curiously original" (Wales Online) and having "real character and sensitivity" (Wales Arts Review), has been performed by the likes of BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BCMG, and Birmingham Opera Company around the world and in festivals such as the Cheltenham Music Festival, Occupy the Pianos, and the Birmingham Weekender festival. She was a Nonclassical Associate Composer for 2019-2021.

Her interests range from the use of quarter-tonal sound worlds and textures to the exploration of various extended techniques such as breathing. In addition to composing, Soul is also a singer, specialising in contemporary repertoire.