Preston school teacher wins BBC Radio 3 Breakfast Carol Competition 2020

A Preston school teacher has been crowned the winner of the BBC Radio 3 Breakfast Carol Competition.

By Sean Gleaves
Saturday, 19th December 2020, 1:06 pm
Updated Saturday, 19th December 2020, 1:10 pm

James Walton, a Religious Education teacher at Preston’s Corpus Christi Catholic High School, was announced as the winner of the BBC Radio 3 Breakfast Show Carol Competition on December 18.

The father-of-five's carol triumphed following a public vote for the favourite among six shortlisted compositions, all creating their own melody to the words of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem, Christmas Carol, which have been played on BBC Radio 3 since December 10.

Pembroke College Cambridge Director of Music and organist Anna Lapwood was one of the seven judges in charge of shortlisting the carol entries.

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The father-of-five's carol triumphed following a public vote for the favourite among six shortlisted compositions.

She said: "It was so fascinating seeing how all the entrants responded to the carol competition this year, requiring them to write just a melody that embodied Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem, and it certainly wasn't an easy job choosing between them.

"It's always a joy to see how different musicians respond differently to a given text, and it was a particular delight to see such diversity of musical style among all the entries.

"I really hope this year's competition might have inspired some more people to try creating their own Christmas melody - and who knows, maybe next year we'll be listening to their carol on BBC Radio 3."

James, was introduced to classical music by his parents: his mother was a piano teacher and his father was an amateur singer.

His love for music is wide-ranging: from Bach to Schubert, Palestrina, and Tallis, to jazz, with the 34-year-old harbouring a special interest in Bill Evans and his contemporaries.

An advocate of exposing children to classical music from a very young age, James is a father of five himself, and the family gathers around the piano to sing together every day.

Launched in September, the BBC Radio Three Breakfast Carol Competition received more than three times the number of entries than previous years in a wider range of styles than ever before.

Amateur composers, regardless of their musical background, were encouraged to participate and submit entries in any musical style. It was easier to enter too, with recordings of the melody being accepted for the first time, as well as notated scores.

The winning composition was performed by the BBC Singers, with pianist Richard Pearce, and directed by Bob Chilcott.

The composition will also be played throughout Christmas Day on the station.

The six shortlisted carols are available to listen to on the BBC Radio 3 website:

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