The custom of singing Christmas carols brings joy to the holiday season unlike any other tradition. And every December VocalEssence and the American Composers Forum celebrate this tradition in their own unique way: championing today’s composers, exploring new works, and rediscovering lesser-known works of the past. This year marks the 21st year of the Welcome Christmas Carol Contest as VocalEssence and the American Composers Forum provide composers with the opportunity to compose a modern-day carol.
Open to composers of all ages, this year’s contest requires writing a carol for SATB chorus and oboe. Each year, the contest has produced wonderful new settings of familiar texts and carols based on existing poems and original texts, each year with a different instrument.
The two winners will each receive a prize of $1,000. The winning carols will be premiered at the December 1, 7, 8, and 9, 2018 Welcome Christmas concerts featuring the VocalEssence Chorus & Ensemble Singers. The performances will be recorded for national broadcast in 2019 via American Public Media. The winners are invited to attend the rehearsals and performances at their own expense, and will have the opportunity for radio interviews as well as other media coverage and promotion.
Under the artistic direction of founder Philip Brunelle, VocalEssence is a champion of choral music: performing past and present repertoire for voices, commissioning new works from today’s composers, and celebrating the human experience through concerts and community engagement. VocalEssence has been recognized by ASCAP with five awards for its adventurous programming of contemporary music and has been honored with the Margaret Hillis Achievement Award for Choral Excellence. The VocalEssence Ensemble Singers are the 32-voice professional chorus of VocalEssence and the core of its 125-voice Chorus.
2018 Contest Guidelines
- World premiere: No prior performance of submitted work.
- Original carol: No arrangements or new settings of existing tunes.
- Eligibility: Composers of all ages whose permanent residence is North America.
- Form: Carol (defined as a strophic song, which may or may not have refrains, that is associated with Christmas).
- Voicing: SATB chorus with oboe (no additional accompanying instruments allowed).
- Duration: 3-4 minutes. Compositions longer than 4 minutes in length will not be reviewed.
- Text: Sacred or secular, medieval to present, appropriate for concert setting; Christmas or seasonal winter themes accepted. Proof of public domain or author’s written permission for use of text is required.
Who May Apply
- Composers of all ages; experience writing for voice and/or choirs is beneficial.
- Applicants do not need to be members of ACF to apply.
- Signed and completed application form
- One full score including duration
- One copy of the oboe part
- A biography not to exceed one page
- Program notes not to exceed one page (optional)
- Document giving permission or status for use of text
- Optional: If you would like your materials returned, please enclose a check (payable to American Composers Forum) in the amount of $5.00 to cover return postage. Please do not include stamps or SASEs.
- Please DO NOT SEND RECORDINGS.
Postmarked on or before Friday, June 15, 2018. Submissions sent by fax or email will not be accepted.
Applications and scores will be screened for completeness by ACF staff. Final selection and programming decisions will be made by VocalEssence Artistic Director Philip Brunelle and Associate Conductor G. Phillip Shoultz, III. Note: American Composers Forum and VocalEssence reserve the right not to make an award.
Composers will be notified by late July 2018.
- 2016: Caols with vibraphone accompaniment: Lee Blaske (Excelsior, MN) , Sean Sweeden (Kansas City, MO)
- 2015: Carols with trumpet accompaniment: Josh Bauder (Crystal, MN), Laura Caviani (Minneapolis, MN)
- 2014: Carols with fiddle in the Nordic tradition: Justin Merritt (Northfield, MN), Rachel DeVore Fogarty (Long Island City, NY)
- 2013: Carols with piano accompaniment: Dale Trumbore (Los Angeles, CA), William V. Malpede (West Hollywood, CA)
- 2012: Carols with flute accompaniment: David Biedenbender (Ann Arbor, MI), Sheena Phillips (Trenton, NJ)
- 2011: Carols with English horn accompaniment: James Kallembach (Chicago, IL), Robert Sieving (Minnetonka, MN)
- 2010: Carols with handbell accompaniment: J. David Moore (St. Paul, MN), Mark Shepperd (Woodbury, MN)
- 2009: Carols with viola accompaniment: Michael J. Glasgow (Raleigh, NC), Robert Sieving (Minnetonka, MN)
- 2008: Carols with French horn accompaniment: Scott Ethier (Astoria, NY), Peter Hilliard (Roslyn, PA)
- 2007: Carols with celesta accompaniment: Matthew Brown (Los Angeles, CA), Stephen Main (San Francisco, CA)
- 2006: Carols with solo acoustic guitar: Diego Luzuriaga (Ardmore, Pa.), John Rommereim (Grinnell, Iowa)
- 2005: Carols with solo cello: Paul Gibson (Downey, Calif.), Jocelyn Hagen (Minneapolis, Minn.)
- 2004: Carols with solo recorder: Keith Bradshaw (Lexington, Va.), James Sclater (Clinton, Miss.)
- 2003: Carols with solo instrumental accompaniment: Thomas Fielding (Bloomington, Ind.), Alan Higbee (Beechwood, Ohio) Read and listen to the National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday coverage of the 2003 Carol Contest.
- 2002: Carols with percussion accompaniment: Mary Lynn Place Badarak, Paul Lohman
- 2001: Carols with string orchestra accompaniment: Clive Muncaster, Sergey Khvoshchinsky
- 2000: Carols with harp accompaniment: Brian Holmes, Emily Maxson Porter
- 1999: Carols with audience participation: Robert A.M. Ross, Jonathan Santore
- 1998: Carols for a cappella chorus: Joan Griffith, Richard Voorhaar