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Carl Orff Composition Competition 2019/20

The organisers of the annual Carl Orff Composition Competition are calling for works again for its 2019/20 edition. They have decided that the theme of the composition be any folk song based on the native language of the composer. Details below:

In the Carl Orff Composition Competition 2019/20 we celebrate the 125th birthday of Carl Orff. In addition to the Carmina Burana is probably the “Orff-Schulwerk” known worldwide. On this occasion, we want to take up this pedagogical concept for the next competition.

The basis of the Orff Schulwerk is the creative interaction of the elements of music, language and movement as elementary forms of expression of humans and the awareness that to a child, language, dance and music are not yet differentiated areas of activity. Therefore, from the beginning singing is accompanied by the playing of instruments. To reproduce music that has been heard or written down or performing dance in traditional forms also includes the attributes of self-invention and self-design. The Orff Schulwerk activates elemental music and dance pedagogy which is a potential for expression that exists in every human being as well as cross-cultural musical behavior patterns.

With this in mind, the compositions of this competition are intended to provide an insight and encourage a better understanding for other cultures. Therefore, the theme of the composition should be a freely selectable folk song taken from the native language of the composer. Essentially, the works sung by the children should be able to be played along with a selection of Orff instruments.


1) Children up to 12 years of age Children’s choir

  • Soprano recorder

  • Alto xylophone (c1-a2)

  • Bass xylophone (c-a1)

  • Frame drum

  • Small percussion instruments (e.g. Maracas, Claves, Triangle, Tambourine)

All instruments should be used in composition and each monophonic. Each instrument group may have an own accompaniment melody. The children’s choir may have a maximum of 2 voices. In total there can be 5 voices plus percussion. The goal is that this part of the composition can later be practiced in school classes.

2) Accompaniment by a professional string quintet (2 VI, 1 Vla, 1 Vc, 1 Kb).

The exterior form of the composition:

  1. Theme – Singing in a capella, one voice, no instruments, solely the folk song (1st stanza)

  2. Variation with emphasis on rhythm (if nec. 2nd stanza)

  3. Variation with harmonic components (if nec. 3rd stanza)

  4. Variation ad libitum (if nec. 4th stanza)

Preludes, interludes and postludes are possible which will be played by the string quintet. Total length: max. 4 min without repetition. For pedagogical reasons, repeats or other stanzas might be recommended for execution in schools.

The interior form of the composition:

The singing by the children’s choir conforms to the principles of the cantus firmus. The singing is reproduced in the original language for all movements without variation. The composer will provide a phonetic spelling according to the international phonetic alphabet which corresponds to the lyrics of the song as well as an analogous translation into one of the following languages for comprehension: german, english, french or spanish. These can be added as a separate document. The instruments of the children’s group have a diatonic voice leading (possible keys are C-major/a- minor, G-major/e-minor, F-major/d-minor). Their interaction with tonal and harmonic structures begins with a basic sound. Rhythm and melody provide a basic structure in the ”rhythmic-melodic exercise” which is supported by a monotone. An attempt should be made to extend the sound as functional harmony, parallelism and layering.

The accompanying string quintet can be used completely at will. It offers the composer extended compositional possibilities. However, it should be arranged in such a way that an execution of the work could be performed without this element. This should ensure that the composition can be played in normal schools as well as in high quality concert performances.

Required file formats:

Original music notation file, xml, pdf, midi and alternatively mp3 or YouTube video

Conditions of participation:

All composers are invited to participate without any limitations. The winners from previous competitions (only 1st-3rd place) are not eligible to participate.


10 compositions will be nominated for the final concert. The Carl Orff Competition e.V. will provide the selected composers paid round trip expenses to the final concert in Germany, 2 overnight stays, a dress rehearsal and guided tour with good musicians and an attractive supporting program for two days. The prize money amounts awarded to the 1st , 2nd , 3rd places will be 5,000.00, 3,000.00 and 1,000,00 Euros respectively.

Submission deadline: 29 Feb 2020 (Sa).

The public evaluation will take place between 15 Mar 2020 (Su) and 30 Apr 2020 (Th). The premiere of the final works is planned for the Carl Orff Festival at the end of July 2020.

To composers who like to write for children to play, this sounds like a good opportunity to you.



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