The Sanders Society - News

June 2023: John Sanders Memorial Competition for Young Composers 2023

The Sanders Society is delighted to announce that the John Sanders Memorial Competition for Young Composers 2023 has been won by William Harmer. His setting of Rejoice in the Lord O ye righteous for SATB choir and organ will receive its first performance at Three Choirs Festival Evensong on Monday 24th July 2023 in Gloucester Cathedral, and will be sung by the combined choirs of Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester Cathedrals.

William Harmer is a young London-based composer and pianist currently studying postgraduate composition at the Royal Academy of Music, having previously studied at Oxford University. In 2017, he won the BBC Proms Inspire Competition and was subsequently commissioned by the BBC Singers to compose Voyage of the Soul, a piece commemorating the Apollo 11 Moon Landings which was broadcast on Radio 3 in 2019. In 2020, Will’s piece for french horn Cetus was performed on BBC radio and television by Annemarie Federle as part of the BBC Young Musician Competition. Will also won the Association of English Singers & Speakers Composition Competition 2021 and participated in the 2021 Cheltenham Composers Festival Academy. Aside from composition, he has worked as a singer with Genesis Sixteen and Keble College Choir, and as a conductor and accompanist for Oxford Youth Choirs.

The Competition prize of £1000 will be presented by Bob Chilcott at The Sanders Society Lunch on 24th July, and the composition will be published by Encore Publications.

The committee was very pleased to receive a broad international entry and wishes to extend their sincere thanks to the very many young musicians who worked so hard to create such an exciting array of new choral compositions.

Our thanks must also go to the four competition judges, Dr. Christopher Robinson, Bob Chilcott, Adrian Partington and Tim Rogers for their professional scrutiny of the many entries.

June 2019: John Sanders Memorial Competition for Young Composers 2019

There were a great number of entries from all over the world for this year's competition and The Sanders Society is delighted to announce that the winner is James Speakman, Assistant Director of Music and Chapel Organist at Stowe School who will be awarded the prize of £1000 and a publishing contract with Encore Publications.

His composition "Tui sunt caeli" will be performed for the first time as an introit at Three Choirs Festival Evensong on Friday 2nd August 2019 by Gloucester Cathedral Choir under the direction of Adrian Partington.

May 2018: John Sanders Memorial Competition for Young Composers 2018

Unfortunately the Adjudicators of this year's competition were unable to select a suitable composition to receive the award. A full explanation is available from the Competition page.

May 2016: John Sanders Memorial Competition for Young Composers 2016

The Sanders Society is pleased to announce that the winner of this year's competition is Joshua Pacey, currently a Choral Scholar at Clare College Cambridge.

His delightful setting of a 13th century text Mary's Lullaby was the unanimous choice of the panel of judges comprising Dr. Christopher Robinson, Bob Chilcott, Adrian Partington and Tim Rogers, and will shortly be published by Encore Publications. The composition was selected from a wide range of international entries. Joshua will receive his prize of £1000 at the Sanders Society Lunch held on Thursday 28th July 2016, and Mary's Lullaby will be performed by the St. Cecilia Singers of Gloucester as the anthem at Choral Evensong in Gloucester Cathedral later that afternoon during this year's exciting Three Choirs Festival.

Joshua is in his final year studying music at Clare College, Cambridge. Having begun composing at an early age, he has won several competitions including the Homerton College Composition Competition 2016 & the Clare College Christmas Carol Composition Competition 2016. His work has been performed in the UK and the USA, and been broadcast on BBC Radio 3's Choral Evensong. He was a boy chorister at Winchester Cathedral, and is now senior choral scholar of the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, with whom he has performed both as a chorus member and soloist across the UK, Europe, and USA, notably in the Library of Congress, Washington DC, the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, and Westminster Abbey, with ensembles such as the LPO, the European Union Baroque Orchestra, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. In September 2016 Joshua is looking forward to beginning his studies at the Royal College of Music for a Masters in Composition for Screen.

April 2015: John Sanders Memorial Competition for Young Composers 2015

It is with great regret that the judging panel have decided that the entries were not of sufficiently high quality to merit an award this year.

June 2013: John Sanders Memorial Competition for Young Composers 2013

We are delighted to announce that from a very wide international field, William Cole of Clare College Cambridge is the winner of the John Sanders Memorial Competition for Young Composers 2013. The first performance of William Cole's prize composition, an unaccompanied setting of Let all mortal flesh keep silence, will take place in Gloucester Cathedral at the 10.15am Eucharist on Sunday 17th November 2013.

Conductor and composer William Cole was born in London in 1990. He began his musical education as a chorister at Winchester Cathedral, before gaining both academic and music scholarships to Winchester College. While at Winchester, William led performances of works by Purcell, Tchaikovsky and Wagner, as well as conducting a performance of his own orchestral work Release with the Winchester College Symphony Orchestra. After a summer as Musical Director of a production of My Fair Lady with RicNic Productions (for which he was nominated for a Curtain Call Award), William spent his gap year as Head of Strings at Woodberry Forest School, Virginia, a position which involved close work with the school’s major ensembles, as well as acting as the school’s composer-in-residence. Since taking up a place at Clare College, Cambridge to read Music with a Choral Award, William has combined singing in the world-class Chapel Choir with conducting all of the university’s major ensembles in a broad range of orchestral and contemporary repertoire, including performances of Feldman’s Rothko Chapel, an operatic double bill of Holst’s Savitri and The Wandering Scholar and symphonic works by Mendelssohn, Dvorak and Shostakovich. Future projects include a range of orchestral works, as well as Tippett’s A Child of our Time and Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen.

William is also active as a pianist, with future recitals both in Cambridge and around the UK. As a composer he has studied with Robert Saxton, Giles Swayne and Richard Causton, and has enjoyed masterclasses with composers such as Judith Weir, Julian Anderson and Robin Holloway. His music has been heard both in Cambridge and further afield, including venues in London, Basingstoke, Cornwall and in America. Winner of the 2010 Clare College Carol Composition Prize and 2011 Clare College Chamber Music Prize, William also enjoyed the premiere of his new work for choir and orchestra, I Died for Beauty, in Winchester Cathedral in November.

March 2012: New page of Research & Interviews

A number of articles and interviews are now available to the public from the new Research & Interviews page. Here, the Society is pleased to be able to make available for download an Analysis of The Reproaches (by former Gloucester Cathedral chorister, Douglas Mason), a dissertation on the life and music of John Sanders (by Anna Turmeau), and an interview with John Sanders from March 1994 (by John Brooks)

October 2011: New recording of John Sanders' work

A new CD from Douai Abbey, Catholic Collection III, featuring the Douai Abbey Singers directed by Dr John Rowntree, and Monks' Schola directed by Dom Alban Hood, has been released. It includes Dr John Sanders 'Missa Beata Maria Virgine', although it's listed on the sleeve as 'Missa Alme Pater'.

'Missa Beata Maria Virgine' was written by Dr Sanders for Douai Abbey, and published in 2003 by Banks Music Publications.

Catholic Collection III from Douai Abbey

September 2011:

The Society was determined this year that, despite the rather disappointing quality of entries for the Composition Competition, the opportunity should not be missed for maintaining its contribution to the general cathedral and college repertoire.

Accordingly the Society commissioned the very talented young composer Matthew Martin to compose a setting of the wonderful text from Revelation "And I saw a New Heaven". Matthew has created a wonderful piece of music entitled "A Song of New Jerusalem" which has already been performed by Gloucester Cathedral Choir, and which has since been published to wide acclaim by Faber.

April 23rd 2011: The John Sanders Memorial Competition for Young Composers 2011

There was a wide field of entries from as far as Taiwan, Russia, Italy and the United States, as well as from the United Kingdom. The text from the book of Revelation, "And I saw a New Heaven", was a demanding one, calling for considerable creative and inventive skill.

However, after careful and painstaking examination and discussion the judges decided that there was not a single composition which merited this valuable award.

Accordingly the judges have decided not to make the award this year.

November 3rd 2009: We are pleased to announce that The Sanders Society has achieved charitable status (Registered Charity Number 1132420). This change in status provide certain tax benefits to the Society, tax relief for subscriptions and donations (subject to members'/donors' tax status) and will also enhance the Society's reputation.

Members paying tax in the UK may wish to download the recent Newsletter from the Members area to print out and complete a Gift Aim form.

September 10th 2009: The Annual General Meeting of the Sanders Society will take place in the Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral at 5.15 pm. on Saturday 10th October 2009.

September 10th 2009: There will be a brief Special General Meeting of the Society in the Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral at 11.15 am. on Sunday 4th October 2009. The purpose of the meeting will be to ratify the amended Objects of constitution (see below). Once this is complete, the Charitable Status of The Sanders Society will be assured.

The objects of the charity are:

  1. To promote the public knowledge and appreciation of the works of Dr John Sanders by such means as are charitable.
  2. To advance the education and appreciation of music for the public benefit, in particular but not exclusively by supporting choral music for the liturgy.
  3. To advance the education of the public in the subject of the composition of church music by means of:
    1. organisation and delivery of a biennial competition for young composers; and
    2. the encouragement and development of young musicians in their study and work in maintaining and advancing the cathedral choral tradition.

For further information The Sanders Society may be contacted by email ( or by post to:

The Sanders Society,
144 Tuffley Avenue,

The Sanders Society