Call for applications

Application deadline extended to Friday 29 October at 5pm.

The annual Henfrey Prize for Composition supports the creation outstanding new chamber/acoustic music and is open to students and recent graduates from the University of Oxford with a prize of £1,000.

Up to four composers will be selected to take part in this year’s competition. These composers will attend an initial online workshop with Boxwood & Brass in late November to become familiar with the performers and instrumentation. Competition participants will have six weeks to write a new 7-10 minute work for Boxwood & Brass’s period instrument quartet (2 clarinets, horn and bassoon). Individual part-writing sessions with the quartet will take place at the end of January and revisions to scores and parts will be due by mid-February. The compositions will then be workshopped in person in mid-March, receiving feedback from Mark Simpson and the musicians. Following the workshop, composers will be given time to revise their compositions before the final submission in early April.

In Trinity Term, all four pieces will be premiered by Boxwood & Brass and the prize-winner will be selected at the end of the concert by Mark Simpson. All composers will receive archival-grade recordings of their compositions to use for their professional development.


  • 26 November 2021 (TBC) – initial online workshop with musicians
    • (Monday 10 January 2022 – scores and parts due)
  • 21-24 January 2022 – individual instrumental workshops with musicians
    • (Friday 11 February 2022 – revised scores/parts due)
  • Thursday 10 March 2022 – composition workshop at St Catherine’s College
    • (Friday 1 April 2022 – revised scores/parts due)
  • Friday 20 May 2022 – performance at St Catherine’s College, winner announced


This competition is open to any current University of Oxford student (undergraduate and postgraduate in any course of study) AND those who have completed their courses after May 2019.

Application Process

The following application materials should be submitted to Alison Bell at by the (new) deadline of Friday 29 October 2021, at 5pm:

  • One existing or new score for chamber ensemble of no more than 11 musicians and lasting between 5-7 minutes, or an excerpt of the same duration. This should be in the form of a PDF.
  • A programme note about the composition (do not include information here about performers, commissioners, or premieres).
  • An audio recording or midi mock-up of the composition.
  • A CV of no more than 2 pages.
  • A 350-word statement about why you are interested in composing for Boxwood & Brass.

Applications will be reviewed by Laura Tunbridge, Professor of Music and Henfrey Fellow and Tutor at St Catherine’s College, a member of Boxwood & Brass and Dr Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey, Director of Performance at St Catherine’s College. Up to four participants will be selected to take part in the competition. The selection process is necessarily subjective, and all aspects of an applicant’s materials will be taken into consideration including any personal or demographic details applicants wish to share. Selection criteria will include:

  • creative engagement with this unique opportunity
  • presentation of musical and artistic ideas
  • previous compositional experience.

The Henfrey Prize for Composition is an inclusive competition. Please contact us before the application deadline if you require access support or accommodations. If you have any questions, please email Alison Bell at

Boxwood & Brass

Four members of the band stand with their insterumentsOver the last few years, a wide variety of musical ensembles has worked with the chosen finalists to workshop and perform their new musical scores. This year it will be a wind quartet from the specialist period-instrument ensemble, Boxwood & Brass. Founded in 2013, Boxwood & Brass brings together the emerging generation of British period wind-instrument players to advocate for neglected wind chamber music and harmoniemusik of the Classical and early-Romantic periods. Members of the group work regularly with top orchestras from across Europe.

Their repertoire ranges from the military band music of England, through the virtuosic Parisian salon repertoire, to the vast libraries of music created for the harmonie ensembles of the Central European nobility, as well as their own specially-created arrangements. Praised for ‘spectacular playing’ (Early Music Today) and ‘button-bright performances’ (Gramophone), the ensemble’s programmes regularly include modern premieres and new arrangements made for the group in the best historical traditions.

Mark Simpson

Mark Simpson has now established himself as a major new voice on the international stage, hailed as a ‘revelation’ (Bachtrack) and ‘standout’ (the Guardian). As a performer and composer, he is committed to new music and his compositions have been performed at the BBC Proms, Salzburg and Edinburgh International Festivals, Royal Festival Hall, Wigmore Hall and Barbican Centre London, amongst others.

As a composer Simpson’s most recent composition was his Cello Concerto (2018), premiered by Leonard Elschenbroich with the BBC Philharmonic and Clemens Schuldt, which was rapturously received: ‘Immediately compelling’ (the Guardian); ‘irresistible’ (The Times). His orchestral work, The Immortal (2015), an oratorio for baritone, chorus and symphony orchestra, was premiered by the BBC Philharmonic and Juanjo Mena at the Manchester International Festival, with support from Sky Arts Futures Fund and IdeasTap. In July 2016 The Immortal won the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Classical Music. Other orchestral works include Israfel (2014), premiered by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Litton, sparks (2012), commissioned for the Last Night of the BBC Proms and A mirror-fragment… (2008), written for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Previous composing highlights include the premiere of Simpson’s first opera, Pleasure, with a libretto by Melanie Challenger, commissioned by Opera North, the Royal Opera and Aldeburgh Music with performances in Leeds, Liverpool, Aldeburgh and London. Simpson also premiered a new trio for clarinet, piano and viola with Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Antoine Tamestit, commissioned by the Salzburg and Edinburgh International Festivals. He also gave the online premiere of Darkness Moves for solo clarinet, commissioned by the Borletti-Buitoni Trust.

Born in Liverpool in 1988, Simpson became the first ever winner of both the BBC Young Musician of the Year and BBC Proms/Guardian Young Composer of the Year competitions in 2006. He went on to read Music at St Catherine’s College, graduating with first class honours, and studied composition with Julian Anderson at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama before being selected for representation by the Young Classical Artists Trust. Simpson was a BBC New Generation Artist from 2012-2014. He received a Borletti-Butoni Trust Fellowship in 2014 and the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Award in 2010, and is a Visiting Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Read Mark’s full biography.