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Brian Inglis

Brian Inglis

Brian Inglis' music has been described as extraordinary, powerful,  moving and passionate. His output ranges from chamber and choral music to orchestral and operatic works, also taking in multimedia and pop. He has specialised in writing for voice, and has a particular interest in (especially unaccompanied) instrumental and vocal solos. Alongside  virtuoso showpieces like Sailing to Byzantium for recorder and Ecstasis for voice, he is equally at home writing for amateur choirs (Without Loss, Verbum bonum et suave, After-Thought). His music combines experimental elements with eclectic historical, geographical and genre influences - from Japanese music to synthpop. Enduring threads which weave through his music are polystylism and postmodernism (typified by 1993's Recorder Concerto but equally evident in the 2017 Piano Trio), an interest in mystical texts and themes, and the interplay of process and intuition, movement and stasis.

Of Irish and Scottish heritage, Brian was born and partly brought up in Germany. He studied music at the University of Durham and composition at City University, London - an MA was awarded in 1993 (along with the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers' Prize), and a PhD (supported by a British Academy major scholarship) in 1999. His principal teachers were John Casken, Roger Redgate, Simon Holt and Rhian Samuel. Outside formal study, he has participated in the Dartington International Summer School; Aberystwyth's Musicfest, and the Dundaga Workshop (Latvia).

Brian first came to attention as a composer when his Responsory - a setting of words by Hildegard of Bingen - was performed at the 1992 Huddersfield Festival; other Hildegard settings followed culminating in 1997 in an opera on her life. Another early interest was the poetry of the First World War, exemplified by Three War Songs (taken up by Roderick Williams and Jeremy Huw Williams) and Two Songs after Rupert Brooke. These early interests fuse in the oratorio Visions of Sorrow and Joy (1998) - a commission from Bath Choral Society sponsored by Making Music's pilot 'Adopt a Composer' scheme.

In 1999 Brian's Jubilee Prayer was commissioned to celebrate the Millennium in Wales, broadcast on BBC2, Radio Wales and Radio Cymru in 2000 - ' a highpoint of the service' (Cytûn). (His music has also been heard on BBC radios 1 and 3, London's Resonance FM and Germany's Bayern 2.) Many other choral commissions have followed. Highbury Fields, a cantata for chorus and orchestra written in collaboration with lyricist Charles Hart (The Phantom of the Opera, Bend it like Beckham), premiered at London’s Cadogan Hall in June 2013 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Islington Choral Society; A Christmas Alleluia was commissioned by Bedford School for their 2015 carol services.

Collaboration with sound sculptor Derek Shiel led to the Futurist-inspired Symphony No 2, premiered by Sarah Leonard and Sculpted Sound at the Central School of Speech and Drama's international conference Theatre Noise in 2009. 2008/9 also saw the unaccompanied solo opera The Song of Margery Kempe premiered by Loré Lixenberg at the Tête-à-Tête opera festival. Brian's third opera The Break-Up, a six-word operatic miniature written for the Warehouse Ensemble, was performed at the 2011 festival.

In February 2009 Brian curated Gabriel Prokofiev's groundbreaking classical club night Nonclassical, and in the same year he spent time as Composer-in-Residence at the International Centre for Composers in Visby, Gotland (Sweden). The 2010s kicked off with a commission for renowned recorder ensemble Consortium5, Burmese Pictures, whose 'pleasantly tropical luxuriance' was praised by Ivan Hewett (Daily Telegraph). It has toured venues and festivals (Deal, Truck, Spitalfields) throughout the UK since 2010 and was released on the Nonclassical record label in 2011. Recorder music forms a distinct and growing sub-category within his oeuvre

Concerto for Piano Solo, in honour of the bicentenary of the birth of French composer Charles-Valentin Alkan, encapsulates a longstanding interest in alternative music history and features a graphic score cadenza. It has enjoyed a string of spectacular live performances since its premiere by Gabriel Keen at the Stoke Newington Contemporary Music Festival. In 2017 the Concerto was released on Brian's debut solo album, Living Stones (Sargasso), also featuring his Piano Sonata (2002) and Four Piano Pieces (1992-2014).

2018 saw premieres of Four Pieces for toy piano at Borough New Music, commissioned and performed by Kate Ryder; and Piano Trio,  a commission from the London Chamber Music Society premiered by the Aquinas Trio at Kings Place, of which seenandheard-international wrote: 'there proved to be plenty of "passion" in the work, generated by the rapid-fire juxtapositions, alternations and altercations ... as well as contrasts between syncopated propulsion, rhythmic hyper-tension and disturbing dissipation of movement'.

Having taught at Trinity Laban and the RCM, Brian is now Senior Lecturer and BA Music Programme Leader at Middlesex University. Also a musicologist, he researches broadly in the areas of genre and identity.

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Brian Inglis
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