OWAIN Park, 16, and Alexander Campkin, 25, have won the 2010 NCEM Composers Award prizes in the second year of the national competition in York.

Run by the National Centre for Early Music in partnership with BBC Radio 3 and The Tallis Scholars, the competition was divided into two categories – under 18 years and 19 to 25 years – and the winners were announced at a finalists’ concert and awards ceremony last Thursday at All Saints’ Church, North Street.

Before the concert, all seven short-listed composers took part in a day-long workshop at the National Centre for Early Music with composer Christopher Fox and the Ebor Singers, who sang the seven pieces in the evening.

The competition was judged by Peter Phillips, director of the early-music specialists The Tallis Scholars, Chris Wines, senior music producer for BBC Radio 3, and Delma Tomlin, director of the NCEM.

The winning pieces, written for four-part a cappella (unaccompanied) choir, will be premiered by The Tallis Scholars at the Chester Summer Music Festival on June 30. Highlights of this performance will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show on July 11.

Owain, from Bristol, won the under-18 prize with the aptly named Sweet Day. He is a member of the National Youth Choir, the City of Bristol Choir and the Royal School of Church Music Millennium Youth Choir and has composed pieces for plays, concerts and church.

Next year, he will attend Wells Cathedral School, combining organ playing with holding the position of Cathedral Organ Scholar, and he hopes to study music at university, ideally gaining an organ scholarship to an Oxbridge college.

He said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, from working on my piece with the Ebor Singers and Christopher Fox through to the performance for the competition itself.

“The unique format of the competition is brilliant and offers such valuable opportunities to really hear and refine your work. It’s been a wonderful day.”

Alexander Campkin, from London, won the older age category with O Magnum Mysterium. He studied music at Oxford University, where he was choral scholar, assistant organ scholar and conductor of the Oxford Chamber Choir and Arcadian Singers of Oxford University.

He has been appointed composer-in-residence in Neresheim Abbey in Germany and composer-in-residence of the Fulham Camerata.

He said: “I was thrilled to have been selected as a finalist. Having such a fine choir to work with, the luxury of time, Christopher Fox’s input and the opportunity to hear the other competitors’ works go through the same process and meet with them throughout the day has been a tremendous experience.”

This year’s competition attracted more than 70 entrants. “It’s been wonderful see the competition gather in strength not only in numbers but also in the remarkably high standards these young people are working to,” says Ms Tomlin.

“We’ve been particularly delighted by the composers’ interesting choices of text. It’s hugely heartening to witness such quality and creativity in the achievements of these young UK composers.”

Mr Phillips says: “Each year we do this the standard goes up, along with an increase in the number of entrants, and somehow the maturity of writing seems to increase too. We see this as being extremely positive as the challenge of writing for unaccompanied voices is clearly one which interests and engages young people, some as young as 14.”

All compositions from short-listed candidates were recorded by University of York music technology students and can be heard on the NCEM website. Information about the 2011 NCEM Composers Award will be available from September on ncem.co.uk, bbc.co.uk/radio3/earlymusicshow and thetallisscholars.co.uk