Sally Beamish

born on 26/8/1956 in London, England, United Kingdom

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Sally Beamish

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Sally Beamish

Sally Beamish (born 26 August 1956) is a British composer and violist. Her works include chamber, vocal, choral and orchestral music. She has also worked in the field of music theatre, film and television, as well as composing for children and for her local community.

Life and career

Beamish was born on 26 August 1956 in London, to Tony and Ursula Beamish.[1] She studied viola at the Royal Northern College of Music, where she received lessons from Anthony Gilbert and Lennox Berkeley. She later studied in Germany with the Italian violist Bruno Giuranna.

As a violist in the Raphael Ensemble, she recorded four discs of string sextets. However, it was as a composer that she made her mark, particularly after moving from London to Scotland. She has written a large amount of music for orchestra, including two symphonies and several concertos (for violin, viola, cello, oboe, saxophone,saxophone quartet, trumpet, percussion, flute and accordion). She has also written chamber and instrumental music, film scores, theatre music, and music for amateurs.

In September 1993 Beamish received the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for outstanding achievement in composition. In 1994 and 1995 she co-hosted the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) composers' course in Hoy with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

From 1998 to 2002 she was composer in residence with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the SCO, for whom she wrote four major works.

Beamish won a 'Creative Scotland' Award from the Scottish Arts Council which enabled her to write her oratorio for the 2001 BBC Proms - the Knotgrass Elegy premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with Sir Andrew Davis.

Future projects include a second percussion concerto for Colin Currie with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Stanford Lively Arts and the Bergen Symphony Orchestra to be premiered in 2012. Also planned for 2012 is a clarsach and fiddle concerto for traditional musicians Catriona Mackay and Chris Stout. In December 2010, it was announced that Beamish had been selected as one of twenty composers to participate in the New Music 20x12 project as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Beamish will compose a new work for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to be premiered in 2012.[2]

She has a series of recordings on the BIS label.

She lives in Stirlingshire in Scotland and has three children.


  • The Lost Pibroch (1991) for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra
  • Winter Journey (1996) and Mary's Precious Boy (1999) are Nativity musicals for pre-school and primary school children
  • Monster (1996), an opera based on the life of Mary Shelley, commissioned by the Brighton Festival and Scottish Opera, with a libretto by Scottish novelist Janice Galloway
  • Black, White and Blue (1997) for harpsichord and string quartet
  • Caledonian Road (1997), commissioned by the Glasgow Chamber Orchestra
  • The Day Dawn (1997), commissioned by Contemporary Music-Making for Amateurs
  • No I'm Not Afraid (1998)
  • Awuya (1998) for harp
  • Four Findrinny Songs (1998)
  • Sun and Moon (1999), an unpublished dance project for pre-school children, with choreography by Rosina Bonsu
  • The Imagined Sound of Sun on Stone (1999) for soprano saxophone and chamber orchestra
  • Knotgrass Elegy (2001) commissioned by the BBC Proms
  • Viola Concerto No. 2 'The Seafarer' (2001), commissioned by Swedish and Scottish Chamber Orchestras, premiered by Tabea Zimmermann and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Joseph Swensen. It is part of the quarterfinal repertoire for the 2014 Primrose International Viola Competition.
  • Trumpet concerto for Håkan Hardenberger and the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, conducted by Martyn Brabbins, was performed at the Proms in 2003.
  • Trance o Nicht (2004), a concerto for percussionist Evelyn Glennie, received its premiere in the Northern Lights Festival, Tromsø
  • Flute concerto (2005), commissioned by the RSNO, was premiered and recorded by Sharon Bezaly in 2005
  • Shenachie, a stage musical with writer Donald Goodbrand Saunders, about the Highlands of Scotland, premiered in Gartmore in May 2006.
  • Under the Wing of the Rock (2006), a viola concerto, for Lawrence Power and the Scottish Ensemble.
  • St. Catharine's Service (2006), Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, commissioned for the choir of St Catharine's College, Cambridge.
  • The Singing (2006), a concerto for classical accordion and orchestra, commissioned by the Cheltenham Festival and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with Beryl Calver Jones and Gerry Mattock. First performed by James Crabb and the Hallé Orchestra with Martyn Brabbins at the Cheltenham Festival, 2006
  • The Lion & the Deer (2007), cycle of 14th century Iranian poems, commissioned for The Portsmouth Grammar School[3]
  • Suite pour Violoncelle et Orchestre (2007), commissioned for Steven Isserlis and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
  • Four Songs from Hafez (2007) for tenor and piano (also version for tenor and harp). Commissioned by Leeds Lieder. First performed by Mark Padmore and Roger Vignoles, Leeds 2007.



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This page was last modified 06.01.2014 23:30:10

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