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Natural sciences graduate scoops St Paul's composition award

A recent graduate in natural sciences who has already penned an opera and a symphony, has triumphed in St Paul's choral composition competition.

Barnaby Martin, who studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, won the New Music for St Paul's competition with a setting of the Magnificat antiphon for Epiphany, Videntes Stellam, (When they saw the star).

Contestants were challenged to write a work, no longer than four minutes, based on a text associated with the feast of Epiphany, scored for four-part voices with or without organ accompaniment.

At the final held at St Paul's on 7 January, Barnaby's work was performed by the St Paul's Cathedral Consort alongside two other finalists' compositions, all of which were judged by a panel consisting renowned investment fund manager and composer, Anthony Bolton; the Cathedral's Director of Music, Andrew Carwood; St Paul's Precentor, Reverend Canon Michael Hampel; and Belize-born British composer, Errollyn Wallen.

Barnaby's prize is a première performance of his work, sung by the full St Paul's Cathedral Choir at the Epiphanytide Procession on Sunday 19 January. He also receives £1,000. The competition is supported by the Boltini Trust through the St Paul's Cathedral Foundation.

Barnaby said: "I am absolutely delighted to have won the New Music for St Paul’s Composition Competition. It is a great honour to have my piece, Videntes Stellam, performed by such a prestigious and renowned choir in such a magnificent setting and I am extremely grateful to the Boltini Trust for providing the means for the competition to continue inspiring young composers like myself."

Commenting on the winning entry, Timothy Wakerell, Sub-Organist of St Paul's, said: "Barnaby's setting of Videntes Stellam managed to exploit the vast acoustic of St Paul’s to best effect; the piece features brilliant vocal and organ writing in the opening pages and a melancholic conclusion which depicts the offering of the Kings’ gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

"Three very different compositions were performed and the overall standard was exceedingly high - the judges were faced with a difficult decision when it came to choosing a winning piece."

22-year-old Barnaby, who was a choral scholar at Trinity, had his music performed extensively while studying at Cambridge. His first opera, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, was performed for the first time in 2012 and in November 2013, he tasted success in the DARE New Composers Forum competition.

He is now studying composition under Kenneth Hesketh, Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music.