University of Sussex student wins BBC Radio 3 Carol Competition

Jessie Reeves

A trainee music teacher from the University of Sussex has won the BBC Radio 3 Breakfast Carol Competition 2016.

Jessie Reeves’ composition will be now be played throughout the Christmas period on Radio 3, after she beat hundreds of musicians from across the UK to be crowned the winner of the competition live on air this morning (Thursday 22 December).

Radio 3 challenged non-professional composers to create music for a modern version of a medieval English poem: ‘Alleluia! A new work is come on hand’.

Jessie, 24, who began studying for the University’s one-year PGCE in Secondary Music this September, has already had her piece played several times on BBC Radio 3 since making the shortlist and won the competition thanks to a public vote.

The University of Sussex student, who is currently on placement at Coloma Convent Girls School in Croydon, said: “I’m delighted to have won – I really wanted to create a song that sticks in people's minds and is really Christmassy. I quite like music that’s a bit slushy and twee – and it very much suits Christmas; people like twee at Christmas.”

The University of Sussex’s Vice-Chancellor, Adam Tickell, said: “This is a tremendous achievement and such a beautiful carol. Jessie’s creativity and love of singing shine through in her original setting of these medieval words.

"I’d like to pass on my congratulations on behalf of everyone at the University of Sussex – thank you Jessie for getting us all in the festive spirit, we’re so proud of you. Your school pupils are lucky to be taught by a teacher of such musical ability.”

Duncan Mackrill, Jessie’s tutor at the University of Sussex, said: "We are thrilled Jessie has won! We cover approaches to composition in the course but only in terms of teaching in the classroom - Jessie’s done this on her own. Everyone at the University of Sussex has been behind her. It’s such a memorable carol!"

Originally inspired to write carols by an annual school competition (which she won many times), Jessie has written a new one every year since she was 11. But her real passion is singing, and this year she joined the London-based choir, the Cantus Ensemble, as an alto.

The judges who shortlisted the hundreds of applications down to the final six for the BBC competition included Judith Weir, Master of the Queen’s Music and David Hill, Chief Conductor of the BBC Singers. David Hill said on Radio 3: “We’ve got a very worthy winner. Jessie’s produced something that’s a wonderful melody.”


By: Lynsey Ford
Last updated: Thursday, 22 December 2016