Competition success for Wolverhampton's David Hughes

A new Christmas carol composed by a Wolverhampton-based member of Birmingham Bach Choir came very close to winning the BBC Radio 3 Breakfast Carol Competition for the second year running.

David Hughes at his Wolverhampton home
David Hughes at his Wolverhampton home

David Hughes, 63, who lives in Compton, was named as a runner up in the competition with his composition set to the Carol Ann Duffy poem The Bee Carol to equal a similar achievement in 2017.

“I was thrilled to reach the final of the BBC Carol Competition for the second year running," he said. "It was a wonderful experience to visit the BBC’s Maida Vale studios to hear the BBC Singers recording and performing my carol.

"It was also a delight to meet the Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weir, and conductor and composer Bob Chilcott, who were both judges of the competition. It was also quite an experience to be interviewed live on Radio 3 by presenter Petroc Trelawny, and awesome to hear my carol being played on Radio 3 every day in the run up to Christmas.

"Also, of course, both my setting of The Bee Carol, and my carol Sir Christemas, which reached the final the previous year, are still available to listen to on the Radio 3 website."

David studied music at Wolverhampton Grammar School, before becoming a corporate lawyer in London, Birmingham and finally back in Wolverhampton as a consultant with FBC Manby Bowdler.

David, left, singing with the Birmingham Bach Choir

He was also pleased that his 2017 effort Sir Christemas was still getting airplay close to home where his family and friends can hear it.

"I was also delighted that the Birmingham Bach Choir performed my setting of Sir Christemas in their service of Nine Lessons and Carols at St Alban’s Church, Highgate," he added. "I am very grateful to conductor Paul Spicer for including it and for directing the choir’s performance so wonderfully.”

The prestigious BBC Radio 3 competition this year challenged amateur composers to create new music for The Bee Carol, a poem by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

More than 400 entries were received with the final six chosen by judges including Master of The Queen's Music and former CBSO resident composer Judith Weir, and esteemed choral composer and conductor Bob Chilcott. Finalists were announced on the Breakfast Show on December 12, where The BBC Singers performed each competing composition in full.

Commenting on his setting of The Bee Carol, David added: "I wanted to create an intimate feel to the carol, reflecting the mood of the poem, and so chose to set it for an unaccompanied choir in the manner of a lullaby. I tried to avoid imitating any bee sounds, but could not resist a play on the word 'cluster' - and its musical meaning - in the last line."

Now retired from the law profession, David sings with Birmingham Bach Choir, who he first joined in 1986. He also plays jazz piano in local swing band Big Bi Swingtet, and arranges their versions of jazz standards from the Great American Songbook.

They play at The Trumpet pub in Bilston on the last Thursday of each month - and the next gig there is on January 31.

David added: "The Trumpet is an amazing pub which has live jazz every night of the week throughout the year - have a look at their website."

To hear David's entry to the 2018 BBC Radio 3 Carol Competition, plus the other finalists, go to www.bbc.co.uk/radio3

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