Young singer Jessica Foxley’s name lives on, four years after her tragic death, as her family cultivate a legacy to encourage other young people in music.
Their latest project comes to fruition on Sunday 2nd November, when six composers aged under 25, from all over the country, will have their compositions sung by one of Yorkshire’s leading choirs to compete for cash prizes and the title of ‘Jessica Foxley Young Choral Composer of the Year.’
The KVU Singers – formerly Keighley Vocal Union – will perform the six pieces at The Muni in Jessica’s home town of Colne in an afternoon public concert with guest performers.
Jessica was just 21 when she was killed along with her boyfriend Tom Petty and friend Philip Wright when their car hit a wall on Skipton Old Road, Colne, in July 2009.
A talented musician, Jessica had played recorder, piano and guitar as a child and played cello in Pendle Youth Orchestra and Westholme School Orchestra at Blackburn, where she also sang in the choir. Singing was her first love, and she had sung soprano with Lothersdale Singers along with her brother Oliver, mum Margaret and dad Paul.
The family were devastated by her death, but turned their grief into inspiration for others by initiating the Jessica Foxley Stage, for new young musical talent, at Colne’s Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival. This became Jessica Foxley Unsigned, placing the newcomers in the same venues as some of the festival’s visiting big stars.
The Foxleys launched the composers’ competition last November, inviting young musicians via schools, colleges and music centres. It got a huge boost after American composer Eric Whitacre mentioned it on his Facebook page, resulting in a flood of inquiries, many from the US.
When entries closed in March, there were 32 choral pieces submitted, now whittled down to the final six composers, aged between 18 and 23, from London, the Midlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Their entries will be judged by English contemporary composer Alan Bullard, Cantores Olicanae conductor Jonathan Brigg, KVU president Paul Whittaker and Jessica’s mum. There is a first prize of £500 for the 19-25 age group and £300 in the under-19 age group.
Paul said: “Jessica was a talented musician, but was frustrated by lack of opportunity. When she died, just as she looked set to make real progress with a career in music, we knew we had to find a way to create new opportunities for other young musicians.
“The final six compositions were chosen on merit, and they’re all a very high standard.”
The 2nd November concert starts at 3pm, and guest performers are singer Samantha Oxborough, currently studying at Birmingham Conservatoire, and young accordion vituoso Thom Hardaker. Adult tickets are £5 in advance from The Muni (www.themuni.co.uk/events/final6-concert) or £7 on the door, and admission is free to anybody under 18.
Jessica’s dad said: “We’ve made admission free for young people, with no requirement for an accompanying adult, because the whole purpose is to inspire and help young musicians. We hope we’ll fill the Muni and have a great atmosphere.”