Fairy tale takes top spot in 2023 Pianist Composing Competition

17 March 2023
By Erica Worth
Announcing the winner and runners-up of the latest Pianist Composing Competition

We are delighted to announce that Steve Langford from Christchurch, UK, has won the 2023 Pianist Composing Competition! Steve, who has won a Kawai piano, wowed the judges with his 56-bar composition, Fairytale.

A long-term subscriber to Pianist, Langford is retired, having enjoyed a career in telecoms engineering. During his early years he received some help from his brother on the rudiments of notation, but he was mainly self-taught, learning by ear.

"I was always attracted to the piano. I took some evening classes in piano and theory later on in my twenties, but work left little time to practise. Now that I’ve retired I spend pretty much all my time at the piano. I always thought I had some musical ability, and though I don’t consider myself much of a pianist, I do enjoy composing."

Langford entered last year’s competition with his Waltz for Ava, and was awarded runner-up. "I think I’ve entered most years without success – just for enjoyment. Nearly winning last year was a further boost to my confidence. But now, winning... it’s the peak of my musical achievements!"

And what of the title, Fairytale? "The piece is dedicated to a young YouTube pianist called Mayuki Miyashita. About ten years ago I came across a video of her at the age of ten playing a piece by Hiromi. I was so moved. I imagine her life must be like something of a fairy tale in itself. I have followed her progress ever since."

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Perfect for the intermediate-level pianist, Langford says Fairytale was quite an easy creative process: "I find my best pieces seem to evolve naturally, without effort – as if they write themselves. My composing is done at the piano by fairly random improvisation. There is very little brainwork involved; that comes later when editing the piece. I was concerned that the right-hand part was awkward (there’s a lot of position-changing) and simplified things as much as I dared without compromising the sound I wanted."

Langford received a black Kawai ES520 piano. "I’m lucky to have both acoustic and digital pianos already, but the Kawai will replace my old one and it will be put to good use; I think it’s easier to record yourself and produce videos for YouTube on a digital." (Langford uploads his compositions to YouTube "for a bit of fun really. Because I don’t play in public, I don’t have the confidence, so I use it as an incentive.")

The competition’s two runners-up were Erik Johannessen with his short but sweet Waltz for Merete and Rebekah Raa with her quirky Semitone Sleight. Special mentions also go to Abia Ng’s Pumpkin Waltz, Robert Melbourne’s Élegie and Gavin Littaur’s Queen Elizabeth Waltz: Reunion with Philip. Fairytale will be published in Pianist issue 133.

Thanks to over 100 entrants to the competition, who ensured a high standard and a tough day of decisions!