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Rules of Engagement


York Early Music Festival invites applications from ensembles to take part in the 2024 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition. The competition and informal recitals will take place at the National Centre for Early Music as part of the York Early Music Festival.

The pre-competition stage is judged by video recording.  Selected ensembles will be invited to come to the National Centre for Early Music in York from 10 - 13 July 2024.  Wednesday 10 July will be devoted to rehearsals.  On Thursday 11 and Friday 12 July each ensemble will give an informal recital, introduced to the audience by director and keyboard player Steven Devine.  On Saturday 13 July the competition will take place, and the winners will be announced directly after the final concert.

The competition on Saturday 13 July will be judged by an international panel of performers and promoters – see here. This panel, as well as the audience, regularly includes representatives of the broadcasting, recording, festival and music promotion worlds who see the competition as a prime opportunity to identify and select new and promising young talent. The competition recitals will be recorded by BBC Radio 3, and highlights will be featured on The Early Music Show. The competition can thus be a key stage on the way to national and international recognition for young performers.

The competition is supported by the National Centre for Early Music, BBC Radio 3, Arts Council England and Linn Records.


  • a CD recording professionally produced by Linn Records, to be recorded in York with Linn’s chief producer, Philip Hobbs. Travel and accommodation will be provided.

  • £1,000 cash prize

  • a paid concert as part of the 2025 York Early Music Festival

Friends of York Early Music Festival Prize

A cash prize of £500 awarded by the Friends of the York Early Music Festival to their chosen ensemble.

Cambridge Early Music Prize

A paid concert in Cambridge to take place within three years of the competition date, awarded by a member/s of Cambridge Early Music's Board of Trustees or staff to their chosen ensemble.  The concert will be subject to the availability of the artists on the dates offered, and subject to negotiation of fees.  If any member of the winning ensemble has attended one of Cambridge Early Music’s Summer Schools as a full-time participant, a further award of £500 will be made to the chosen ensemble.



Prize for the Most Promising Young Artist/s

£1,000 to be awarded by the jury either to the most promising individual instrumentalist or to the most promising ensemble, specialising in baroque repertoire.  To be eligible for this prize, an individual must be both an EU or UK national and an orchestral instrumentalist; an ensemble must consist of at least 50% EU or UK nationals and 50% instrumentalists. This prize is endowed by the EUBO Development Trust.


Please note that a condition of acceptance of any of these prizes is that the winners include mention of the competition and the relevant prize in their biographies and website for a minimum period of 5 years from the date of the competition.


  • Ensembles (instrumental and/or vocal, in any combination) must have a minimum of three members.  Soloists are not eligible.  

  • There is no restriction to the maximum number in the ensemble, but competitors should be aware that future professional viability may be limited for larger groups.

  • All ensemble members must be adults, with individuals  aged 36 years or under on 13 July 2024. The average age of the ensemble should be 32 years or under by 13 July 2024. Any calculated averages that are less than 33 (eg. 32.3 years, or 32.8 years) are acceptable.

  • Competitors must perform repertory from the period ranging from the middle ages to the nineteenth century using historically informed playing techniques, instruments and stylistic conventions.

  • Applications are welcomed from ensembles of all nationalities.

  • There is no restriction to the number of ensembles in which any individual can take part.


Closing date for applications

Monday 15 January 2024, 23:59 GMT

Successful entrants notified 

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Rehearsals and reception  

Wednesday 10 July 2024

Informal recitals

Thursday 11 and Friday 12 July 2024


Saturday 13 July 2024


Entries must be received no later than Monday 15 January 2024, 23:59 GMT  


Applications should be completed online here. You are advised to allow plenty of time for this in case of technical hitches. The competition organisers reserve the right not to consider entries that are incomplete or received after the deadline.

Application documents must be in English, and in Microsoft Word or equivalent format - except the Letter of recommendation which should be a pdf file. Please ensure that you include the name of your ensemble in each file name, like this – ‘name of ensemble_ name of document’, for example: ‘Protean Quartet_programmes’.​​

Your application is accepted on receipt of the completed online application form, all required documents (uploaded to the application form), video recording (link to an uploaded video accessible on youtube or other sharing platform), and payment of the fee.

Each application must include the following:

  • Unedited video recording/s. The video/s must feature only the people who will take part in the competition.  All individual members of the ensemble must be included. The choice of timing and content of the recording is up to each ensemble but should demonstrate the group's diversity and range of repertoire.  You may include music related to your proposed competition programme, but this is not obligatory.


We are not expecting high quality video, multi-angles and so on, but please take care over the quality of the sound recording. Common problems are microphones placed either too far away or too close, both of which can result in details of the quality of sound, balance and dynamic variation becoming hard to judge. If you are making the recording yourself, take some time to experiment with microphone positions until you think you have a sound that is a good representation of how you would like us to hear you, which presents your performance in a natural but clear acoustic, and which you think will tell us what we need to know about the way you perform.


Upload the following documents to the application form:

  • details of your recording. Give the date and place of the recording as well as its contents. If not everyone is playing in every piece, name the players on each track. Give the timing for the start of each track.

  • programme details for both the informal and competition recitals. You should include the title of each recital; full names and dates of composers; full titles of pieces; titles of movements; full names of musicians and instruments. Take care to ensure that these details are accurate, as they will be printed in the festival brochure if your application is successful. Programme notes and translations of texts are not required at this stage. 

  • biography of the ensemble (not of individuals), maximum 200 words

  • letter of recommendation from a prominent personality in musical life, such as a teacher or professional musician, submitted as a pdf file.

  • two recent photographs of the ensemble (not of individuals) in high-resolution jpg files, minimum size 500px wide at 72 ppi.

  • proof of age of each member of the ensemble, such as a passport or ID card. The scan must include the expiry date as well as your date of birth. 

  • fee of £100 per ensemble. The fee must be paid on submission of the online Application Form through the NCEM website. You can pay either by credit/debit card via the guest checkout, or by Paypal. This fee is non-refundable except in the event of cancellation by the organiser before the shortlisting date.


By submitting the Application Form, you accept and agree to be bound by the Rules of the competition.

Application forms with all required attachments, submission of the video/s and payment of the fee, must be received no later than Monday 15 January 2024, 23:59 GMT. 

how to apply


Initial selection process

Finalists will be selected on the basis of their video recording. No-one will be expected to come to York at this stage.

The selection panel will comprise the Artistic Advisers of the York Early Music Festival: John Bryan, Helen Charlston, Lindsay Kemp and Peter Seymour; and the Director of the National Centre for Early Music, Delma Tomlin.

Successful entrants will be notified of their selection as finalists by Wednesday 21 February 2024.   

Ensembles who are not selected will receive a short paragraph of feedback written by a member of the selection panel, if requested on the application form. 

Finalists in York - Wednesday 10 to Saturday 13 July 2024

Finalists are expected to be in York from 10 to 13 July 2024.

Rehearsal space at the University of York, and limited rehearsal space at the NCEM, will be available from Wednesday 10 July. Rehearsal times will be allocated equally to each ensemble. Finalists will perform twice as part of York Early Music Festival - one informal recital and the competition recital. All performances will be open to the public and will take place at the National Centre for Early Music.

There will be a reception at 6pm on Wednesday 10 July to welcome finalists to York and to enable them to meet each other and the competition team.   

Informal recitals - Thursday 11 and Friday 12 July 2024

  • Finalists will present one informal recital lasting 20 – 25 minutes (this is playing time and does not include tuning or preparation) in front of a public audience.

  • The informal recitals will not form part of the judging process and no judges will be present. The aim is to give finalists the opportunity to adapt to the performance space and get to know the audience in advance of the competition.

  • The recitals will be introduced to the audience by director and keyboard player Steven Devine, who will invite each ensemble to join him in a brief conversation immediately following their performance, to explore aspects of their approach to their chosen repertory, with the aim of helping them to interact with their audience in York.


Competition Day - Saturday 13 July 2024

  • The competition will take place throughout the day. All Finalists will take part.

  • Finalists will present a 20-minute programme (again, this is playing time only) in front of the panel of judges and a public audience. 

  • The programme for the competition must be different from that presented in the informal recital.

  • The results will be announced and prizes awarded after the final concert.  

  • All competitors will be required to stay till 19:00 for photographs after the prize-giving.


Representatives of international early music festivals, networks and radio stations are invited to attend the competition on Saturday 13 July.  


Competitors will be assessed on the following:

  • choice of repertory, and a sustainable interesting repertory for future performances

  • application of historical style of performance

  • musicianship 

  • interpretation

  • creativity of programme planning

  • technical ability

  • presentation - stage presence, rapport with audience, professionalism 

  • quality of programme notes

  • overall contribution to the early music scene

  • eventual professional viability

  • professionalism of dealings with the Festival office


Keyboard instruments

The following keyboard instruments, provided by Andrew Wooderson and the NCEM, will be available at the NCEM for use by the competitors:

Large single manual harpsichord (Italian)

Tuned at A=415 Vallotti


Small single manual harpsichord (Italian)

Tuned at A=440 in 1/4 comma meantone     


Double manual harpsichord (Flemish)

Tuned at A=415 Vallotti


Chamber organ

Tuned at A=415 Vallotti and A=440 1/4 comma meantone


Fortepiano (Viennese)

Tuned at A=430 Young


Competitors are reminded that the amount of space and retuning time will be limited and are advised to select only one keyboard instrument for their final programme. 


Accommodation and food


The NCEM will provide finalists with accommodation and breakfast free of charge in York for

  • 4 nights (Wednesday 10 July to the morning of Sunday 14 July) for those from the UK

  • 5 nights (Tuesday 9 July to the morning of Sunday 14 July) for those from mainland Europe 

  • 6 nights (Monday 8 July to the morning of Sunday 14 July) for long-haul competitors


The NCEM will contribute £20 per person per day, up to a maximum of four days, towards food expenses. 




  • The NCEM will reimburse the cost of return economy travel between your point of arrival/departure in the UK and York, up to a maximum of £65 per person.  These travel expenses will be reimbursed when you send us your receipts and bank details. You can choose to receive the payment either direct to your bank account (one account only per ensemble), or in GBP cash when you come to York.

  • Each ensemble is responsible for booking their own travel.

  • In the UK cheaper rail tickets are usually released only 12 weeks in advance of travel (not before). Competitors are advised to sign up at to receive an alert when they become available.

  • It is the ensemble’s responsibility to ensure that all members have the appropriate visa if required. The NCEM will support visa applications with a letter of invitation.

Visas and permission to enter the UK

Please refer to the UK Government website in the first instance for all queries.


For general guidance, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, plus US citizens and those of several Commonwealth Countries can travel to the UK for holidays or short trips without needing a visa. You will need a passport that is valid for the entirety of your stay. Identity cards, as issued by EU countries, are not valid for travel to or entry to the UK. If in doubt, you can check the requirements for your individual nationality here.

You will need to apply for a Standard Visitor Visa if you hold a passport from any of the countries listed on the government’s website. A Standard Visitor visa costs £115 for up to 6 months, and this must be borne by the musician. The earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel. You can apply here. Based on current experience, we strongly advise you to liaise with the NCEM if you have any questions about these requirements before applying. 

Programme notes

Programme notes for both the informal and final recitals must be supplied by Friday 26 April 2024. They should include:

  • programme notes about the music and concept of your programme (250 words for each recital) 

  • name of the author/s

  • full texts and English translations of vocal pieces


Recording and distribution

  • The organisers reserve the right to record or arrange for the recording of any of the informal or competition recitals, and to organise broadcasts and/or distribution (such as REMA radio) without recompense to the competitors.

  • It is anticipated that the BBC will record the competition for future broadcast of the highlights.

  • The NCEM will livestream the competition. The recording of the livestream will be posted on the NCEM website after the event.


Other regulations 

  • There is no appeal against the decisions of the jury. 

  • Participants will compete in the order given.

  • Each competitor will receive a programme and a free ticket to one of the evening concerts in the York Early Music Festival.

  • Tickets for the competition day - competitors will be given one week's priority booking before tickets go on general sale. They usually sell out quickly, so friends and family should book both tickets and accommodation early to avoid disappointment. 

  • All participants must be fully acquainted with the regulations and schedules. 

  • The NCEM reserves the right to:

    1. cancel or adapt the competition at any point.

    2. vary or change the prizes.

    3. disqualify any entrant who breaches the rules or who commits a fraud, at any stage, if in NCEM’s opinion it is deemed necessary or if circumstances arise outside its control.


The personal data you provide will be processed by the NCEM in accordance with the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018, for the purposes of administering the competition.  


For further information about how NCEM processes your personal information including your rights under data protection law, please see the NCEM’s Privacy Policy at .

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