Biography — the highlights
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I was born in Doncaster in 1950, went to Oundle School and studied music at King’s College, London between 1970 and 1973, resulting in a B.Mus. degree. This course included my only formal composition studies, principally with Geoffrey Bush, with extra advice at the more radical end from Ian Bent.
In the 1970s my String Quartet (which was subsequently broadcast by the BBC in an Arditti Quartet programme) and Sleep for 60 solo strings with keyboards, harp and percussion were given public airings by the Society for the Promotion of New Music. In 1979 the String Quartet was performed on BBC Radio 3 by a very young Arditti Quartet.
My Concerto for Trumpet and Brass Band, the middle movement of which is in memory of Duke Ellington, was premièred in 1978 by James Watson with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band under Elgar Howarth and broadcast in 1985 with Håkan Hardenberger as soloist. It was recorded for the Doyen label (in a slightly abridged version) in November 1995, again with Howarth conducting the Grimethorpe Band, with the band’s brilliant principal cornet player, Richard Marshall, as soloist. It is included on the CD The History of Brass Band Music, Vol.6: New Adventures (DOY CD165), but is now, sadly, no longer available. In 2018 I fulfilled a long-held promise to myself and produced an orchestral version which I now consider my definitive Trumpet Concerto.
The meeting with Hardenberger led to my largest work, Invisible Cities (1986/7) for trumpet, trombone and orchestra, which was written for Hardenberger and Christian Lindberg, who gave the première in The Hague with the Residentie Orchestra and a further broadcast performance in 1989 with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, both times conducted by Elgar Howarth.
Double Entendre (1985), for piano and stereophonic brass band, has received three performances, the first two with Andrew Ball as soloist. He played it in 1990 at the Royal Academy of Music in London with their brass students conducted by Harold Nash, and the piece was included in the Visions of Paradise festival in February 1995 at the Barbican Centre, London, to celebrate the 90th birthday of Sir Michael Tippett. On the latter occasion, Elgar Howarth conducted the Grimethorpe Colliery Band in a London Sinfonietta programme. Double Entendre was also performed later that year by Richard Casey with the Royal Northern College of Music’s brass students conducted by Chris Houlding.
Son of The Bebop Variations (1992) for trumpet, trombone and tape, has been performed by Håkan Hardenberger and Christian Lindberg at least four times: at the Wigmore Hall in London, at the 1993 Stockholm New Music Festival and Bath International Festival, and at the 1997 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. That piece was one of several spin-offs from Bebop for brass quintet (1986), which is now part of the repertoire of Fine Arts Brass. Other spin-offs from that piece were Big Bo Bebop, written as an encore piece for Son of The Bebop Variations, and Be, Bop and Away (in memory of Dizzy Gillespie), which Hardenberger performed with a jazz group on a Swedish television game show in 1993.
Following the success of my music for The Europeans, the same theatre in Luxembourg invited me to provide the music for their 1998 production of director Eric Schneider’s stage adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Heart of a Dog (Coeur de Chien in the French adaptation). This time it involved a live musician, Marcel Lallemang, who played the bass clarinet with electronic sound provided on CD. The seven-minute Entr’acte from this set, Music from the Heart of a Dog, was recorded by the leading British clarinettist and co-founder of Lavender Hill Opera, Andrew Sparling in 2004 for NMC Records and released on the CD Andrew Sparling (NMC D092). It can also be downloaded from the iTunes store.
After a ten year gap, and after hearing Son of The Bebop Variations, Odaline de la Martinez, founder and conductor of Lontano, asked me to write a new piece for one of their two Brazil-themed concerts in the 2008 La Linea festival of Latin American music. The resulting 8-minute piece was The Bossa Nova Variations for flute, cor anglais, bass clarinet, violin, cello and piano, and was performed (and enthusiastically received) in London’s Purcell Room on 2 April 2008.
Having thought from the start that it might be possible to arrange Son of The Bebop Variations for ensemble, in 2012 I finally got round to it — and thus it morphed into Return of the Son of The Bebop Variations for chamber orchestra with drumkit (15 players in total). I am now looking for a performance.
Other works include:
- Variations on a Theme of George Harrison for bass clarinet, trombone, double bass, harp, keyboards and 2 percussionists.
- lovesongs: seven poems by e e cummings for voice and piano.
- Five Pieces for Saxophone Quartet, also transcribed as Five Pieces for Guitar Quartet and Five Pieces for Brass Quintet.
- Music for an Imaginary Ballet for jazz/rock sextet and orchestra — one of my largest works and still awaiting a performance.
- Nights in Tunisia and Elsewhere, subtitled A Collection of Semi-Tasteless Pastiches, a set of variations for brass band on Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night in Tunisia.
- Short Change — all 30 seconds of it — written for and performed by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band under Elgar Howarth in their The Band Plays On concert at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1993. (I was the only one of the four composers asked to compose a piece for this event who kept to the 30-seconds brief!)
- Incidental music, which I composed and recorded for a 1995 performance at the Théatre d’Esch, Luxembourg, of Howard Barker’s play The Europeans, directed by Eric Schneider in his own Luxembourgish translation.
- 60 Minims, for trumpet and general MIDI (or tape), a 60th birthday present for Elgar Howarth.
- Cog-Dance for divided orchestra, which reached the top 10% of entries for the 1997 Masterprize competition.
Over the Christmas period of 1995, I was one of the three judges (with Elgar Howarth and Michael Blake Watkins) for the Royal Philharmonic Society’s annual Composition Prize, which was awarded to Sang-Eun Lee for her O-Zone.
I have always maintained an interest in ‘popular’ forms of music. Over the years, I have composed, played and recorded everything from orchestral and chamber music to experimental jazz and pop songs and include Zappa, Ellington and the Beatles among my main influences, along with the likes of Bartók, Berio, Birtwistle, Ligeti, Messiaen, Nancarrow, Stravinsky, Varèse and Xenakis.
In recent years I returned to playing the fretless bass guitar after too long a gap, and since 2015 have been a proud member of Chris Ramsing’s Psychoyogi. We have recently included my own piece Kapadokya, developed from one of the tunes for The Europeans, in the repertoire — Psychoyogi’s first non-Ramsing number!