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Cheltenham Music Festival launches a Fanfare Competition

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In 2019, Cheltenham Music Festival celebrates its 75th birthday. In honour of this special occasion, we’re inviting people of any age and musical ability to launch the Festival in style with a new fanfare. The winning entrant will be awarded £250 and will hear their composition performed by professional musicians from our new Free Stage in Imperial Gardens, and around town, on Friday 5 July.

How to enter

Please read these guidelines carefully – entries will be disqualified if any of the competition requirements are not fulfilled.

Age range

This is an open competition and is available to anyone. You just need to be able to compose and notate a simple score.


The piece must be scored for three trumpets (Bb). Remember to think about a friendly key signature and make sure that the individual lines don’t venture too far out of range for the Bb trumpet. We recommend you use Sibelius First to write your fanfare: it’s a great piece of FREE software that lets you compose for up to four instruments, and provides guidance on the correct range.


1 – 2 minutes


The winning Fanfare will be performed as the opening event of the new Free Stage at Cheltenham Music Festival on Friday 5 July at 5pm and around the town centre during the following hour.


£250 for the winning composition, and having your piece performed live at Cheltenham Music Festival.

Submitting your Fanfare

We will require a written score submitted as both a PDF and an Mp3 file. Please submit your applications via the Wufoo form by 5pm on Monday 1 July. If you are having trouble saving your Sibelius score as a PDF, try the following:

  • Choose File > Print
  • Click the Save as PDF button

There are videos on YouTube demonstrating how to export your composition into an Mp3.


The winner will be contacted via email by Wednesday 3 July and announced on the Cheltenham Music Festival website the same day.

Judge Alison Balsom Cheltenham Music Festival Artistic Director

Please note that the the judge will not be able to give individual feedback.

Submit your fanfare

See below for some invaluable top tips for writing your fanfare

So, what is a Fanfare?

A fanfare is a short, celebratory call to attention. It’s a piece of music used to signal that something important is about to happen – it needs to be exciting and immediately engaging/arresting.

Things to think about when writing your Fanfare

You need to get people’s attention straight away! Composers usually do this by beginning with a loud and energetic start… but you are the composer, so the choice is yours.


Do you want to start and finish the piece loud? Do you want to take the listener on a journey that builds as they go? Do you want there to be an element of surprise? You can play games with your music.


Fanfares are usually based around short and energetic rhythmic motifs. Some fanfares are very bold and simple rhythmically, and others more complex with dotted patterns and cross-rhythms. The possible options are endless.


Most fanfares are based predominantly on triad notes from the harmonic series; 1/3/5. So think harmonically as well as melodically! Also, remember that your performers need to breathe! Allow space for this in your music in the form of rests, even quick ones, or breath marks between musical phrases. Your musicians will be very grateful!


Although fanfares can be written for any instrument, the bolder the better. We’d like you to write your fanfare for three trumpets. Think about the trumpet, how it sounds, and write music that will work well for the instrument. This means that your fanfare will travel into the ears of people far and wide… which is exactly what a fanfare should do!


Remember your fanfare needs to be short and sharp, so no longer than two minutes please.


Listen to lots of trumpet fanfares and think about which musical features crop up often; this could help you to create an effective piece of music. The best piece of advice that we can give is to write about what inspires and excites you – and it will come through in your composition.