Composing inspiration from a young award winner
Interview with David Ingham, winner of the ABRSM-sponsored Commonwealth International Composition Award (CICA). The award promotes composition around the world and gives young composers the skills they need to further their careers. It was founded by Alison Cox, chair of trustees of The Commonwealth Resounds. We are proud to sponsor CICA.
Hi David! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m David Ingham, I’m 15 years old, and I live in Swansea. I play the flute and the harp. I’ve always had an interest in composition, but it wasn’t until lockdown last year that I really gave it a go. I’ve never had a composition teacher, but my harp teacher, Nia Jenkins, was very supportive and gave me feedback on some of my compositions. The piece that placed me in the top 10 in the Commonwealth International Composition Award was only my second or third serious composition, so I was rather surprised!
How did you find out about the Commonwealth International Composition Award?
I found out about the Commonwealth International Composition Award online, and decided, as I’d been writing some pieces for fun, that it wouldn’t hurt to enter. It was a total shock that I even placed in the top 10, never mind winning! As part of the award, I won a cash prize, composition lessons, and a commission. I’m free to choose what I’d like to compose, and for which instruments, so I’m excited to start this process!
Tell us about the pieces you submitted for the Commonwealth Composition award.
The first piece I submitted for the award was for the harp and teaspoon. Although I don’t really like this piece, and can’t even play it myself, I think it stood out because of its inventiveness and originality. In this piece, and in all my compositions, I try to experiment with sound, my goal being to create what hasn’t been created before. The Top 10 young composers were then asked to compose a short piece for the Dionysus Ensemble based on a poem from a selection. We were also given a composition mentor from the RNCM. This piece would then go on to be recorded and judged in an audience vote, by a panel of young composers, and by the judges. On hearing the news, I was ecstatic, especially considering the quality of the other young composers’ entries.
How has your life changed since receiving the award, has it opened up any opportunities?
Since receiving the award, I have been inspired to continue my composition journey, and am excited to see where it will take me. Lockdown and all my new-found free time turned out very beneficial in the end, and I hope I’ll be able to maintain time for composition as life returns to normal.
What was the experience like for you?
The CICA experience was brilliant. I got an amazing opportunity to work with an experienced composer, write for an ensemble, and have my piece recorded. Now, more amazing composition opportunities have arisen, and I doubt any of it would’ve been possible without the CICA. I would recommend that everyone with an interest in composition enter the competition, even if you don’t think you stand a chance. As did I, you might surprise yourself.
What advice would you give next year’s applicants?
My advice for next year’s applicants is to be original. Don’t feel constrained by rhythm or harmony, but create something new and innovative. More importantly, enjoy the process, even if you have to start again from scratch (which I admit I did a few times).
Tell us a little about your piece, can we listen to it?
The poem I chose was ‘This is a Poem About the Ants’ by Nicholas Laughlin (from Trinidad). I wanted to convey certain words and ideas through the music.
Also the ants here are different,
they make nests high in the trees,
adorn them with flowers, adorn them with small birds
snared in webs of silk, iridescent and anxious,
the ants are fervent collectors of honey,
they keep their treasury high in the trees,
a fortune in honey,
so when it rains, the rain falls golden and sweet,
And then hummingbirds take refuge in their burrows.
Only the spiders dare parley with the ants.
Do not believe there is sugar in the sky.