Orchestral work Competition. CANCELLED

Dear Forumites,

Ray and myself regret to inform you that this competition is as it says in the header, cancelled.

We still think it was a worthy adventure because the winner could well have benefitted from this, but lack of interest has dictated otherwise.

Our thanks go to HS and Socrates for their willing participation and to all who supported the idea in this and other threads.

I'd like to add a special thanks and show of gratitude to Ray for agreeing to be a part of this.


Time to get back to what now seems like the breezy job of composing.

Dear Forumites

I am writing to see if anybody would be interested in entering a competition to select a piece of concert music written by one of you to be programmed by myself and mastered by Ray. 

I have at my disposal high end orchestral samples that can be used to show the winner how their score would sound in a more realistic way. The samples are not perfect nor a replacement for real players of course, but the difference between what I can offer and whatever notation software is used for rendering is very marked, so much so that when the winning composer hears his/her piece, they may well get a nice shock! The fact that Ray has kindly offered his considerable skills in mastering for whatever comes out of my studio, means that the winner will have a full quality professional recording of their piece. 

I know some here will have the same pro samples as me and I respectfully ask them not to apply as I would like to limit this to those who can only use notation software for playback. 

I was thinking of setting this up pretty much the way Gav has set up competitions in the past
( and I thank Gav for his advice in this matter) with me choosing one out of the best 3 pieces voted for by the forum members to work on.
All this would be anonymous of course, but once the winning piece was announced online, I will have detailed discussions with that composer regarding performance details and interpretation. 


The music should be a concert work of between 2- 6 minutes for small, up to large orchestra. For clarification, a full orchestra can comprise up to (but not essential!) triple wind (auxiliaries are allowed) full brass up to 6 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone and 1 tuba, percussion a4 if required (all mallets and non pitched perc available) 2 harps and full strings. Chamber orchestra is a paired down orchestra and personnel numbers can be left to the composer but there must be a minimum of around 20 players although if strings are used, then the composer must specify how many in each section. Please note that divisi in strings is also possible, with a limit of a3 for each section. 

No choir or avant-garde techniques should be used because they are not very convincing at present with samples. Any style/period of music is permitted and pieces will NOT be judged on this. The piece can be anything from an overture to a symphonic poem in any mood and on any subject if you need one to write with, but it must be a concert orchestral piece.

What I will be looking for whilst judging, apart from a good piece of music, is clarity of intent in the score because I will have to in effect perform it, this means as detailed a score as possible regarding articulations and dynamics. If I feel there is a problem with the scoring in terms of balance or performance on an instrument, I will gladly liaise with the composer in order to find a solution they are happy with. 

You can submit more than one work if you wish, but not with the same alias and you can submit a work previously posted on this forum. If you are interested please let me know in this thread. 
  Entrants should then submit mp3 and full score for each piece they enter and forum members will then be asked to vote for their three favourite pieces, the winner will be chosen from the top three. If the interest is there, I will sort out the next anonymous posting phase using Gavs’ advice and set-up procedures.

Deadline for entrants to register - 15th September

Deadline for entrants submission - 30th January

Here is a well known piece programmed by me in order to give you an idea of the quality of the samples I will use on the winning piece. There are 2 files, one is live, the other isn't. I didn't try too hard to create an exact replica of the live recording and it is possible to tell the difference, but they are pretty close. Also this file has no mastering applied to it, which will be done by Ray on the winning piece. Hopefully this will entice a few more entrants.

Any questions, please ask here and I shall endeavour to answer, as an added bonus, it will also bump the thread. 




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  • This would make sense.  I would agree with you if it were not for the message I got from Mike, which I hope he minds not the disclosing of.  He invited me to come and participate in this contest, and I have to assume he is well aware of what you mentioned, given that he has posted in the threads where I have given that good news.

    And thank you, I appreciate it :-) 

    Dave Dexter said:

    I don't mean to police, but if there's an honour system prioritising composers restricted to notation software playback, it should perhaps also exclude those who've had their work performed by an actual orchestra (and, if I recall correctly, will have it performed again this November)?

    Nice work on those achievements btw!

    Daniel Zarb-Cousin said:

    I'll enter.  It will most likely be a piece I've posted on this forum already.  

  • @Dave,

     Daniel is eligible  because he only has notation software playback to work with. That is the main thrust of the comp, I trust he has no need to enter his winning piece but will enter one he has only heard with his playback.

    Glad you are in Daniel, along with Socrates and HS, that makes 3 entrants,,,way hey.

    Bob P has had a thought that I myself did consider, but will now see through. Over the next few days, I will programme a part of a very well known piece of music that shows off the sections individually and together for all to hear so they can assess whether or not they want to enter, so watch this space.

    Bob, no need for midi files as I like to programme often without quantisation for a more musical feel, so starting from scratch and just reading from a score suits me best.

  • Of course not mate, a point worth raising actually because it has clarified the rules a little more. There'd be no point in submitting a piece already performed live. This comp will hopefully be educational musically for the winner in that it'll get their music very close to the real thing. How real it'll sound can be judged when I post my programming of part of a well known piece, along with the actual recording used as a reference, hopefully in the next few days.

  • shameful bump no1...

  • Very nice & impressive Mike!
    It can be exciting to strive for those sounds as you hear what you write very clearly.
    Purcell and Britten would appreciate it too, I think. ;-)
    We may be early yet, and people will respond, there must be a lot of ready or half-ready pieces there to work on and submit, in anyone's outstanding work selves and it is going to be good fun!

  • Thanks Dave and Socrates.
    The ambience is VSL's roomtone- a sample of an empty concert hall.
  • Nice mockup!  As I'm trying to work on creating better mockups, I'm wondering if you could share your process a bit for how you created it?   Certainly you've got great samples, but am wondering how much of the realism comes from the samples vs.  the time spent programming all the microscopic CC details in the DAW for dynamics and articulation?  Also, wondering if you started from imported Midi, or played the parts in from a Midi keyboard, or entered each note manually?

  • yes, time spent and learning curve was always one of my big questions regarding VSL, but as Mike said, it did not take very long for this piece, which as "an introduction/guide to the orchestra" I imagine it can be demanding. I suppose it often is a matter of choosing the right sample from a lot of alternatives for the particular sound and technique/effect you have in mind and Sibelius usually will obey to what is notated… but correct me if I am completely wrong.

  • Very nice mockup indeed.  I could tell almost immediately the difference between the mockup and the real recording, but mostly because of the mechanical character of the former (which I'm sure you can easily fix, given enough time, but I understand that's not the purpose here). In terms of the timbres of the sampled instruments, however, I'm very impressed.  Looking forward to seeing what my fellow composers come up with for this competition.  (And hoping I'll manage to crank out a piece in time for the deadline. :-D)

  • @eboats
    The realism comes first from the sample quality, followed closely by careful cc and articulation work. Socrates is correct in that knowing which articulations provided by a sample set will work best and are the most appropriate in a given situation, is an essential skill to develop. I read from the full score and play the parts in.
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