THE first National Centre for Early Music Instrumental Composers Award in York has been won by Bertie Baigent and Sarah Gait in the under-18 category and Chris Roberts in the 19 to 25 age group.

The winners were announced at a finalists’ public concert on Tuesday last week at All Saints Church, North Street, York, where all seven shortlisted works were performed by the viol consort Fretwork, who present the award in partnership with the NCEM and BBC Radio 3.

The winning pieces, Baigent’s In Memoriam In Nomine, Gait’s Death-Fires and Roberts’s My O’erflowing Teares, will be premièred by Fretwork on Wednesday, December 21 at King’s Place, London. This concert will be recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast on The Early Music Show on January 15.

Cherwell School pupil Bertie Baigent, 16, from Oxford, said after last week’s event: “I’m thrilled to have won and was really pleased with the performance, which sounded so different from what I had envisaged, but better.”

Junior Royal Northern College of Music student Sarah Gait, 17, from Wigton, was a finalist in the 2010 NCEM Composers Award for vocal pieces and surpassed that achievement this year, when she and Bertie were the only two to make the under-18 final – and ended up sharing the prize.

“I’m shocked and thrilled to have won and very happy that all the work I’ve put into this piece has had such a great result,” she said. “It has been really inspiring to work with Fretwork.”

University of Leeds Stanley Burton research scholar Chris Roberts, 22, from Teesside, reflected on his triumph in the older category, in which he competed against Timothy Cooper, Michael Cutting, John Evamy and Robert Peate. “This was a great opportunity for me and it was a fantastic experience to work with such an amazing ensemble,” he said.

“I’m doing a PhD in musicology at Leeds University where I’m an active member of the early music department and play the viol myself, which I think has helped enormously in understanding the viol consort.

“I really enjoyed writing for Fretwork’s particular collection of instruments. The workshop process was very helpful; it was a bit nerve-racking hearing my piece performed, but as the day went on the piece just got better.”

In the lead-up to last week’s concert, all the finalists took part in a day-long workshop led by the composer Christopher Fox and Fretwork.

The competition was judged by Chris Wines, senior music producer for BBC Radio 3, Richard Boothby of Fretwork and Delma Tomlin, director of the NCEM, who said: “We were extremely pleased by the response we’ve had to the award and were delighted by the overall high standard and level of invention these young composers have applied to these new compositions.”

BBC Radio 3’s involvement demonstrated how important the station’s commitment was to the artists of tomorrow, commented Chris Wines. Mr Wines said this “was the most challenging test to date, and yet the wide-ranging and imaginative response to the challenge has shown remarkable resourcefulness and creativity on the part of the young musicians”.

Fretwork were honoured to take part in the award, according to Richard Boothby. “The standard of composition is very high and we’re extremely impressed by the response the composers have had to the challenge of writing for these instruments.”

The finalists each will receive a recording of their composition made on October 25 by music technology students from the Department of Electronics at the University of York.

The 2012 NCEM Composers Award for vocal compositions will be launched on January 15 and will be run in association with The Tallis Scholars.