Skip to main content

PhD student wins Alumni Composition Competition

13 January 2020

Profile photo of Lucy McPhee

PhD student Lucy McPhee (BMus 2016, MA 2017, PhD 2018-) has been selected as the winner of the Alumni Composition Competition 2019.

Now in its second year, the competition invites all alumni and graduates of the School of Music to submit an original composition for performance by one of the School’s ensembles. This year, compositions were invited for the Symphonic Winds ensemble.

The winning piece, Point of View, is based on the Welsh folklore tale of Blodeuwedd from the Mabinogion. A sister piece to Lucy McPhee’s composition Blodeuwedd, it tells the story from the character’s perspective.

Speaking about the piece, Lucy said “The story of Blodeuwedd is of a woman created by two magicians to be a wife for the Prince, Lleu Llaw Gyffes. Unhappy with her fate, Blodeuwedd has an affair with her husband’s friend, Gronw, and the two conspire to murder the Prince.

“Struck by a spear by Gronw, Prince Lleu transforms into an eagle and flies away. He is tracked by the magicians and nursed back to health before reclaiming his lands from Gronw and Blodeuwedd. As punishment, Blodeuwedd is caught by Gwydion the magician and is turned into an owl.

“I originally wrote Blodeuwedd for the Berkeley Ensemble as part of the inaugural CoDI CHAMBER scheme set up by Ty Cerdd. For this new piece I wanted to look at the story from Blodeuwedd’s perspective, exploring moments in her life from creation, falling in love with Gronw, killing Lleu and being forced apart from Gronw.”

“My PhD is based on the representation of female characters, focussing on the characters within Welsh folklore the Mabinogion and looking at the similarities and differences to the female characters within the Bible. I am also looking at the traditional female archetypes women are given, and how these related to feminism.

“I am over the moon that my piece has been selected as the winner of the competition and I can’t wait to start working with the Symphonic Winds to start bringing my piece to life. The ensemble was a huge part of my university experience, and it is exciting to be returning in this new capacity.”

Lucy studied for her undergraduate and master’s degrees at the School of Music and is now in her second year of her PhD at the School. She is already an accomplished composer, having taken part in several residencies and composer studios including the Psappha Young Composers Scheme 2017 and BBC National Orchestra of Wales Composition:Wales 2018.

She has recently finished a percussion commission for USA-based percussionist Kyle Lutes, titled Kokumthena.

Judge Dr Robert Fokkens said: “The adjudicators were very pleased to receive some excellent submissions from our alumni this year, and even more delighted to have a clear winner in Lucy McPhee’s “Point of View”. Lucy is not only an alumna with strong connections with the Symphonic Winds, but also a current PhD student.

“It is particularly exciting that she will be working with her peers and colleagues on this project, using her 'insider’s' understanding of both the medium in general and the strengths of Cardiff University’s ensemble in particular to make sure they get the best performance of her piece possible.”

Lucy’s winning composition will be played by the Symphonic Winds ensemble at a concert in the Hoddinott Hall at the Wales Millennium Centre on 26 March 2020.

This year’s competition will invite compositions for the Chamber Choir. Entries will open later this year.

Share this story

The School provides a stimulating and supportive environment for musical scholarship, composition and performance.