News

Callum Au winner of Brussels Jazz Orchestra Competition

Sebastian writes: 

Callum Au receiving the Award. Photo credit: Koen Maes/ BJO

Yesterday, 12 January 2020, Callum Au became the eighth winner of the the BJO ICC (Brussels Jazz Orchestra International Composition Contest) Award at Flagey Studios in Brussels, during the Brussels Jazz Festival.

The  Award consists of  a cash prize of €2000 and a professional audio and video recording of his work, performed by BJO.

The international jury consisted of Pierre Bertrand (FR), Florian Ross (DE), Vellu Halkosalmi (FI) and  Philippe Coffyn (Chair) seen in the photo here awarding the prize to Callum.

 

Dick Hovenga from the Written in Music website was at the final and has published this report (translation from the Dutch by Sebastian):

On the first Sunday afternoon of the Brussels Jazz Festival (12 January 2020), UK composer/arranger Callum Au won the International Composition Contest Award, in competition with three other finalists. He received the award for his remarkable composition “The Weaver”.

Out of a huge list of submissions (around 185 entries), the international jury eventually selected four composers/arrangers to write pieces for the concert finale to the competition. Rainer Tempel and Ralf Hesse from Germany, Christopher Zuar from the US and Callum Au from the UK. Each received the assignment to compose a piece of about 9 minutes in length, to be written in a specific style (from mid tempo/up tempo to waltz or ballad).

As the performances progressed, it became clear that the level was again high this year and that the candidates were well-matched. The compositions flowed and the Brussels Jazz Orchestra offered each of the candidates’ pieces a superb rendition. It gradually became clear that the final verdict would be between two contenders: Callum Au and Ralf Hesse.

In Hesse’s case it was because he had written a beautifully fluent up-tempo composition which had an exemplary performance from the BJO, with plenty of punchiness and vitality. Anticipation for Au’s ballad had already built up in the spoken interchange between Au and the presenter. As he explained the story behind the composition, it was already clear that the piece would be very evocative.

The story behind “The Weaver” is about a (female) weaver who sees the love of her life disappear to the other side of the world and starts weaving in a big frame and will only stop when he returns. The family is convinced it will take too long, and want to marry her off. Fortunately, her lover returns several years later, just before the marriage is due to take place. The fact that such a resonant story had been told before the piece was played helped to ensure that the listener was on tenterhooks.

The composition is beautifully constructed and has many different and clearly recognizable themes. Within its nine minutes you are drawn into the narrative. The opulent opening theme is the linking thread. It eventually comes back in an apotheosis to bring about the happy ending.

Au is a very interesting composer who is building a substantial profile in the UK…and now in the Low Countries too. Just 29 years old and also a trombonist, this prize marks an important new step in his career as a composer/arranger.

LINKS: Brussels Jazz Orchestra

Full biography of Callum Au

Callum Au’s (new!) website

Interview with Callum Au from 2012

Interview with Callum Au from 2015

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