St Albans girl, 13, youngest winner of BBC carol competition

Rebecca winning contest
Image caption,Rebecca, 13, said winning was “a dream come true”.

A 13-year-old has become the youngest ever winner of the BBC Radio 3 carol competition.

Rebecca from St Albans, Hertfordshire, composed music to accompany the poem Polaris by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage.

A new junior category was created to celebrate the contest’s 10th anniversary.

Rebecca, who has played the violin since the age of four, said it had been “an incredible experience”.

She added: “I’ve always fiddled on the piano. I’ve written pieces before, but this is the first time someone else has played something I’ve written.

“I can hardly believe it: it is a dream come true.”

Girl playing violin
Image caption,Rebecca started learning violin aged four and piano aged six

Eight carols were shortlisted and recorded at Maida Vale Studios by BBC Singers, with listeners voting for their favourite.

A “star-studded” panel of judges shortlisted the entries, including Blue Peter presenter Mwaksy Mudenda, Daniel Hyde, director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge, and Abimbola Amoako-Gyampah from the Coronation Gospel Choir.

Clare Welfare, 46, from Dereham won the senior (16+) category.

Rebecca said she took inspiration from the poem by Mr Armitage.

“To me it was about climate change, and people blaming the victims of climate change while ignoring the truth. So I tried to represent that,” she said.

Carol contest judges
Image caption,The panel of judges included Blue Peter presenter Mwaksy Mudenda

Her mum Isobel said: “Rebecca’s had so much fun working with the arranger and BBC Singers. It’s been an unbelievable experience.”

Rebecca was signed up for music lessons at St Albans Music School at a young age. She also played in a school cèilidh band and was a fan of folk music, which influenced the sound of her carol.

But while she loves classical greats like Vivaldi, she said: “I do also listen to modern things – Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Billie Eilish.”

Sam Jackson, controller of BBC Radio 3, said: “This 10th anniversary year has been remarkable, seeing exceptional talent shining through in our new juniors category.

“We hope these two winning carols will have a long life beyond this competition.”

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