York Early Music Festival invites applications from ensembles to take part in the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition. The competition (Saturday 13 July) and preliminary recitals (Thursday 11 & Friday 12 July) will take place at the National Centre for Early Music as part of the York Early Music Festival. 


The pre-competition stage is judged by audio recording.  Selected ensembles will be invited to come to the National Centre for Early Music in York from 10 - 13 July 2019. During Thursday 11 July and Friday 12 July, each ensemble will give an informal preliminary recital, introduced to the audience by performer and musicologist John Bryan. On Saturday 13 July the competition will take place, with the announcement of the winners directly after the final concert.


The competition on Saturday 13 July will be judged by an international panel of performers and promoters. This panel, as well as the audience, regularly includes representatives of the broadcasting, recording, festival and music promotion worlds who see the competition as a prime opportunity to identify and select new and promising young talent. The competition recitals will be recorded by BBC Radio 3 and highlights featured on The Early Music Show. The competition can thus be a key stage on the way to national and international recognition for young performers.  


The competition is supported by the National Centre for Early Music, BBC Radio 3, Arts Council England and Linn Records.

  • Ensembles (instrumental and/or vocal, in any combination) must have a minimum of two members.  Soloists are not eligible.  

  • There is no restriction to the maximum number in the ensemble, but competitors should be aware that future professional viability may be limited for larger groups. 

  • All ensemble members must be adults, with their average age being 32 years or under on 13 July 2019. Individuals must be aged 36 years or under.

  • Competitors must perform repertory from the period ranging from the middle ages to the nineteenth century using historically informed playing techniques, instruments and stylistic conventions

  • Applications are welcomed from ensembles of all nationalities

  • There is no restriction to the number of ensembles in which any individual can take part 

Competition Schedule
  • Closing date for applications – Friday 18 January 2019, 23:59 GMT

  • Successful finalists notified - Wednesday 6 February

  • Rehearsals at NCEM - Wednesday 10 July

  • Informal recitals - Thursday 11 and Friday 12 July

  • Competition - Saturday 13 July

How to Apply

Entries must be received no later than Friday 18 January 2019, 23:59 GMT.  The competition organisers reserve the right not to consider applications that are incomplete or received after the deadline.


Applications should be completed online.  Please ensure that you include the name of your ensemble in the title of each file you upload. Each application must include the following: 

  • A completed online application form 

  • an unedited audio recording in either digital or CD format. The recording must feature only the people who will take part in the competition.  All individual members of the ensemble must be included. The choice of timing and content of the recording is up to each ensemble but should demonstrate the group's diversity and range of repertoire.  It may include music related to your proposed competition programme, but this is not obligatory. Audio files (mp3, mp4 or wma) up to a maximum of four files, and links to audio recordings, can be uploaded via the application form. If submitting a CD, obtain proof of posting and post in time for it to arrive at the NCEM no later than Friday 18 January 2019.  

    Please take care over the quality of the recording! Many applications in recent years have suffered at this first stage because the recording was not good enough for the panel to make an adequate assessment. The most common problems have been microphones placed either too far away or too close, both of which can result in details of the quality of sound, balance and dynamic variation becoming hard to judge. If you are making the recording yourself, take some time to experiment with microphone positions until you think you have a sound that is a good representation of how you would like us to hear you, which presents your performance in a natural but clear acoustic, and which you think will tell us what we need to know about the way you perform.

  • details of your recording.You should give the date and place of the recording as well as its contents. If not everyone is playing in every piece, name the players on each track. If submitting a digital file, give the timing for the start of each track.

  • programme details for both the preliminary and competition recitals. They must include the title of each recital; full names of composers with dates; full titles of pieces; titles of movements; full names of musicians and instruments. Care should be taken to ensure that these details are accurate, as they will be printed in the festival brochure if your application is successful. Programme notes and translations of texts are not required at this stage.

  • biography - of the ensemble (not of individuals), maximum 200 words.

  • letter of recommendation from a prominent personality in musical life (such as a teacher or professional musician)

  • two recent photographs of the ensemble (not of individuals) in high-resolution jpg files  

  • proof of age of each member of the ensemble, such as a passport or ID card. The scan should include the expiry date as well as date of birth.

  • Fee of £100 per ensemble. This fee is non-refundable and must be paid on submission of the online Application Form – either by PayPal, or by credit/debit card via the guest checkout 


Application forms must be completed, and all attachments uploaded no later than Friday 18 January 2019, 23:59 GMT. All documents must be in English.

Selection Process

Initial selection process

Finalists will be selected on the basis of their audio recording. No-one will be expected to come to York at this stage. 


The initial selection panel will comprise the Artistic Advisers of the York Early Music Festival: John Bryan, Thomas Guthrie, Lindsay Kemp and Peter Seymour; and the Director of the National Centre for Early Music, Delma Tomlin. 


Successful entrants will be notified of their selection as finalists by Wednesday 6 February 2019.  


Ensembles who are not selected as finalists will receive a short paragraph of feedback written by a member of the selection panel, if previously requested on the application form.


Finalists in York - Wednesday 10 to Saturday 13 July 2019

Finalists will be invited to come to York from 10 to 13 July 2019. There will be a reception from 6pm - 7.30pm on Wednesday 10 July to welcome them to York and enable them to meet each other and the competition team.  


Limited rehearsal space at the NCEM will be available from Wednesday 10 July and rehearsal times will be allocated equally to each ensemble. Finalists will perform twice as part of York Early Music Festival - an informal preliminary recital and the competition recital. All performances will be open to the public and will take place at the National Centre for Early Music.


Preliminary recitals - Thursday 11 and Friday 12 July 2019

  • Finalists will present an informal 20-minute recital (this is playing time and does not include tuning or preparation) in front of a public audience with no judges present

  • The aim of these preliminary recitals is to give Finalists the opportunity to adapt to the performance space and get to know the audience in advance of the competition

  • The recitals will be introduced to the audience by performer and musicologist John Bryan, who will invite the musicians to explore aspects of their performance, with the aim of increasing their confidence and performance skills.


Competition Day - Saturday 13 July 2019

  • The competition will take place throughout the day. All Finalists will take part

  • Finalists will present a 20-minute programme (again, this is playing time only) in front of the panel of judges and a public audience. 

  • The programme for the competition must be different from that presented in the preliminary recital.

  • The results will be announced and prizes awarded after the final concert.  

  • All competitors will be required to stay for photographs after the prize-giving.

Representatives of international early music festivals, networks and radio stations are invited to attend the competition on Saturday 13 July. 


Please note that it is expected that all individuals will be in York from Wednesday 10 July until 7pm on Saturday 13 July 2019. 

Judging Criteria

Competitors will be assessed on the following:

  • choice of repertory - and a sustainable interesting repertory for future performances

  • application of historical style of performance

  • musicianship 

  • interpretation

  • creativity of programme planning

  • technical ability

  • presentation - stage presence, rapport with audience, professionalism 

  • quality of programme notes

  • overall contribution to the early music scene

  • eventual professional viability

  • professionalism of dealings with the Festival office

Information For Finalists

Keyboard instruments

The following keyboard instruments, provided by Andrew Wooderson and the NCEM, will be available for use by the competitors:


Large single manual harpsichord (Italian)

Tuned at A=415 Valotti

Small single manual harpsichord (Italian)

Tuned at A=440 in 1/4 comma meantone     


Double manual harpsichord (Flemish)

Tuned at A=415 Valotti


Chamber organ

Tuned at A=415 Valotti and A=440 1/4 comma meantone


Fortepiano (Viennese)

Tuned at A=430


Competitors are reminded that the amount of space and retuning time will be limited. Competitors are advised to select only one keyboard instrument for their final programme. 



Finalists will be provided with accommodation in York free of charge for

  • 4 nights (Wednesday 10 July to the morning of Sunday 14 July) for those from the UK

  • 5 nights (Tuesday 9 July to the morning of Sunday 14 July) for those from mainland Europe 

  • 6 nights (Monday 8 July to the morning of Sunday 14 July) for long-haul competitors



  • The NCEM will reimburse the cost of return economy travel tickets from your point of arrival/departure in the UK direct to York up to a maximum of £65 per person.   These travel expenses will be reimbursed by the NCEM once we have received your receipts and bank details. 

  • Each ensemble is responsible for booking their own travel  

  • Competitors are advised to book UK rail tickets 12 weeks in advance of travel when cheap tickets become available. They can be bought online at  Please note that if you opt to collect them at your station of departure, you must have with you the credit card that the tickets were booked with

  • The NCEM will pay subsistence of £20 per person per day up to a maximum of four days


Programme notes

Programme notes for both preliminary and final recitals must be supplied by Friday 26 April 2019.  They should include 

  • programme notes about the music and concept of the programme (250 words for each recital) 

  • name of the author/s

  • translations of texts if applicable


Recording and distribution

  • The organisers reserve the right to record or arrange for the recording of any of the preliminary or competition recitals, and to organise broadcasts and/or distribution (such as REMA radio) without recompense to the competitors

  • It is anticipated that the BBC will record the competition for future broadcast of the highlights

  • The NCEM will livestream the competition. The recording of the livestream will be posted on the NCEM website after the event


Other regulations 

  • There is no appeal against the decisions of the jury 

  • Participants will compete in the order given

  • Each competitor will receive a programme and a free ticket to one of the evening concerts in the York Early Music Festival

  • Tickets for the competition day - competitors will be given one week's priority booking before tickets go on general sale. They sell out quickly, so friends and family should book both tickets and accommodation early to avoid disappointment. 

  • All participants must be fully acquainted with the regulations and schedules