Helen Roe      

Winner of the 2016-17      
ACO Composition Competition      
'As you like it',      
for her Ancestral Strains      
for chamber ensemble      
ANCESTRAL STRAINS, for chamber ensemble of 8 players (horn, clarinet / bass clarinet, bassoon, piano and string quartet) was written in 2015 for the Berkeley Ensemble.

The germ of an idea for the piece took root when I came across the startling fact that not only Henry VIII and his siblings, but all of his six wives were descendants of a common ancestor: Edward I. This set off a fruitful train of thought about inherited traits, dominant and recessive genes, how personality develops over a shorter or longer life-span…

The piece lasts just under 12 minutes. The first movement sets up a rich network of connections spreading out from a tiny germinal idea. The second - much shorter - movement acts as a coda to the first, taking up some of its more elusive motifs and briefly playing with them, before finally allowing them to drop into silence. 

The British composer Helen Roe  was born in 1955. While at school in Durham she had violin and viola lessons with Roger Best, the principal violist  of the Northern Sinfonia. She studied composition with David Lumsdaine and Peter Wiegold, and read music at Jesus College, Oxford, going on to take a further degree in composition.

After a three-year appointment as Fellow in Creative Arts at Wolfson College, Oxford, she took a number of part-time teaching posts, including one as a composition teacher at King’s College, London, and one as a postgraduate tutor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, before becoming a full-time teacher of Music and French at Bruern Abbey School, Oxfordshire.

Her first broadcast piece was Ash Wednesday (1975), a 20-minute work for piano, which was played at the BBC Young Composers’ Forum in 1976; since then, several of her larger pieces have been heard on Radio 3. Some have been published, and her setting of Verlaine’s Pourquoi?  appears on the CD New French Song.

While her catalogue includes works for  solo instruments, ensembles and orchestra, as well as several dramatic vocal works, as a string player she particularly enjoys writing chamber music; during her 40-year career she has had major pieces commissioned, performed and recorded  by many fine players - notably the Nash Ensemble, Lontano, Gemini, the Allegri String Quartet, the viola duo Elisabeth Perry and Alexander Balanescu, the Oxford Company of Musicians and Jane Manning and her Minstrels. In September 2015, the Berkeley Ensemble played sketches of Ancestral Strains at a workshop hosted by PRS for Music, giving the first performance of the finished piece in Luton in March 2017. 

Her music has also been broadcast on Australian and New Zealand radio, BBC Radio 4, Danish television and Channel 4. Awards include the SPNM prize for a test piece for the Carl Flesch International Violin Competition (1982), the Harriet Cohen Memorial Trust Award (1984), and the Gemini Fellowship for composers (1992).

Married, with three grown-up sons, she has recently given up teaching in order to return to full-time composition . She and her husband live in Launton, Oxfordshire.

A biography of Helen Roe appears in Sophie Fuller's Pandora Guide to Women Composers, Britain and the US, published by Harper Collins.

Albert Pace:
Recipient of the Mullord Award
for his  String Quartet no. 2 (“Haunted by B.”)
The composer has always been fascinated by Beethoven’s string quartets, and particular events from different quartets stick into his memory. This quartet was inspired by some of these events and motifs, as well as by the fact that some of these were found to be related to each other. The piece consists of “four microludes and a fantasy”. The term “microlude”, borrowed from Kurtag, was preferred to “bagatelle”, because the latter term conveys an idea of levity. The “fantasy” is longer than the four microludes.

The first microlude begins with an obsessive repetition of an anguished motif from the slow movement of Beethoven’s op. 18/1. It is then followed by a section based on the dotted rhythm of the scherzo of op. 127, and later by material taken from op. 130 and other quartets.

Movements II and III take up the same op. 127 motif, together with other motifs, particularly a lighter version of the opening motif of the whole quartet. The fourth movement revolves around a continuous repetition of a motif from the last movement of op. 131, with the intervals expanding at different rates in the different instrument.

The final fantasy reverts to the op. 127 dotted rhythm, with a main section that is inspired by the Grosse Fuge, with much material from other quartets. At three strategic points during the movement, the music turns to a straightforward D flat major, with phrases taken from op. 74, 130 and 59/1 respectively. The last time is followed by a questioning ending, highlighting the prominence of the interval of the minor second.

Albert Pace was born in Ħamrun, Malta, in 1958. Pace studied composition with the Maltese composer Charles Camilleri, both privately and at the University of Malta, where he graduated in Music Studies in 1994, with a dissertation entitled ‘Texture in late Twentieth Century Music’.  In 2007 Pace was the first one who was awarded Doctor of Music in Composition from the same university. Her music has also been broadcast on Australian Her music has also been broadcast on Australian

Pace’s compositions include Tidwir for piano (1991), Lu-Cam... for flute and piano (1993), Kyrie Eleison for string ensemble (1995), ... for the millennium... for clarinet and piano (1999), as well as other instrumental, chamber and orchestral works. In 1998, Pace was awarded an M. Mus. degree in Composition with distinction by the University of Edinburgh. His final submission was Overlapping Backgrounds for solo piano, a challenging complex work, about 20 minutes long, performed by Scottish pianist Murray McLachlan in Edinburgh in February 2001. Tidwir and Kyrie Eleison have been recorded on CD.

The works submitted for his D.Mus. portfolio are: Trio for clarinet, violin and piano (2003), Un reste de suite for harp (2004 – partly performed by the German harpist Florence Sitruk), the clarinet quartet Repliements et depliements (2005), Flute Concerto (2006), and Psalms for Today (2007).

Pace was the first prize winner of the 2007 APS Bank Music competition. His entry was the highly acclaimed Għanjiet ta' bniedem solitarju (Songs of a Solitary Man), which sets to music seven poems by the Maltese poet Rużar Briffa. This was premiered in 2009 and recorded on CD. Other compositions of his have been performed in Malta (including the 2015 orchestral piece In Amore illo ardeas, as well as his very recent Concertino Grosso for Maltese traditional instruments and orchestra), London, Wales and Germany. His major unperformed works include a Piano Concerto (1994 – revised 2016), a Clarinet Concerto (2016) and the music-scenic representation of Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone (2012).

At present Pace is a Visiting Senior Lecturer in Music at University of Malta. He formed part of several adjudicating panels in several local and international competitions.

2016-2016 adjudicators at work
at the Incorporated Society of Musicians:

Silvina Milstein, Richard Stoker and Geoffrey Alvarez
Honourable mentions

Haris Kittos (Greece) for his piece 'Athroo',
    Stephen de Filippo (Australia) for his piece 'Static Anxiety',
    Joao Oliveira (Portugal) for his piece 'Titanium',
    Edmund Hunt (UK) for his piece 'The Deirdre Prophecy'
    Peter Knell (USA) for his piece 'Three California Landscapes'
    Angela Slater (UK) for her piece 'Veiling of the Sun'

As in previous years, entries arrived from many countries; whilst the USA an the UK were represented strongly, there was a healthy number from other regions including Canada, Argentina, Russia, China, South Korea, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Serbia, Finland, Bulgaria, Austria, France and Germany.