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Judith Bingham has composed vocal, choral, brass and orchestral music. A few of her works are “The Snows Descend” (a paraphrase for Brass, 1997) “First Light” for Chorus (setting of words by poet Martin Shaw, 2001), and “The Secret Garden” for chorus and organ (Proms Commission, 2004).
Her music is published by Peters Edition.
[by Anthony Burton]
Judith Bingham has, until recently, combined the careers of professional singer and serious composer – an almost automatic coupling in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but a rarer one in more recent times. Born in Nottingham, and raised mostly in Sheffield, she began composing as a small child, and then studied composing and singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London: her composition studies there with Alan Bush and Eric Fenby were later supplemented by lessons from Hans Keller. She was awarded the Principal’s prize in 1971, and 6 years later the BBC Young Composer award. She is the 2004 winner of the Barlow Prize for a cappella music.
After singing as an amateur with the then BBC Choral Society (now the BBC Symphony Chorus), she had begun working as a freelance member of the BBC Singers and several other choirs and vocal ensembles. In 1983, she joined the BBC Singers as a full time member of the alto section; with them she toured extensively, and sang many solo parts. She left the Singers at the end of 1995 to concentrate on her activities as a composer, though she continued to sing professionally for some years.
Judith Bingham’s compositional voice is a distinctive one: her singer’s feeling for expressive melodic lines is complemented by a strong rhythmic and harmonic sense. Her music is never purely abstract in conception, but always shaped and coloured by extra-musical sources of inspiration – both from the natural world and from the world of arts and ideas. Her first commissions, in the 1970’s, were from the Finchley Children’s Music Group, the King’s Singers, and Peter Pears, but she also wrote 4 pieces for the newly formed Songmaker’s Almanac, and a string of chamber works for, amongst others, David Roblou, David Mason, Anton Weinberg, and the New London Consort. On joining the BBC Singers, she quickly made her reputation with a series of choral works, many of them based on texts compiled from disparate sources as an integral part of the compositional process. Several of these were for the BBC Singers, but there were also pieces for other professional, amateur and collegiate choirs, including Salt in the Blood, written for the BBC Symphony Chorus to perform at the 1995 Proms, a Mag and Nunc for King’s College Cambridge, and diverse anthems and church works for the cathedrals of Winchester, Lichfield, Westminster Abbey, St John’s Cambridge, and more recently, Westminster Cathedral and Wells Cathedral.
Although Bingham’s output is marked by the number and variety of its choral works, she has always been seen as an all-rounder,and the scope of her activities has included pieces for brass band, symphonic wind ensemble and various chamber groups and solo instruments, concertos for trumpet and bassoon, and several impressive works for large orchestra including Chartres (1988), recently chosen for the BBC/Royal Philharmonic Encore project, Beyond Redemption (1995) a BBC commission for the BBC Philharmonic, and The Temple at Karnak (1996). Recently she has written a series of works for solo organ, including Ancient Sunlight for Thomas Trotter’s 500th lunchtime recital in Birmingham, a short ballet for the Royal Ballet, and future commissions include a commission for the Goldberg Ensemble and the tuba player James Gourlay.
Of more recent major works, The Christmas Truce, inspired by a celebrated incident in the First World War, was first performed by the BBC Singers and the Britten Sinfonia in Norwich last December: and the Ivory Tree, a music-drama for soloists, chorus and ensemble, will have its first complete performance in Bury St. Edmunds Cathedral next May. A smaller but significant commission, just announced, is for the new carol in the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in King’s College, Cambridge, this Christmas Eve.
Judith Bingham has also been involved in many education projects. The Red Hot Nail, written for the LSO, has been performed more than 100 times, including performances in Louisiana, and the LSO also commissioned The Mysteries of Adad for a project at the British Museum. Inside the Mandala was a dance project commissioned by the BBC Philharmonic, and several of Bingham’s works have been used as the basis for work in schools. She has regularly acted as a judge in many high profile events: the BBC Young Composer of the Year, BBC Young Musician of the Year, and the Royal College of Organists’ Performer of the Year 2002, and has lectured in many of the London Music Colleges, including the Royal Academy, Trinity, the London College of Music, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, as well as around the country and abroad.
References:Richard Frostick, animateur
business phone: 020-7254-4452
Dr John Evans,
Head of Music, Radio 3.
BBC Broadcasting House,
London W1A 1AA.
(Contribution by Judith Bingham.)