Andrew Downes (composer)

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Andrew Downes (born 1950) is a British classical composer.

Early life[edit]

Downes was born in Handsworth, Birmingham. In 1969, he won a choral scholarship to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he gained an MA degree specializing in composition, and in 1974 went on to study with Herbert Howells[1] at the Royal College of Music. Downes was Head of the School of Composition and Creative Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire from 1992 until 2005, when he retired due to ill health.[2][3]


Andrew Downes' music has been performed throughout the world, in many leading concert halls and cathedrals, and has been broadcast on BBC Radios 2, 3[4] & 4, BBC TV, ‘France Musique’, Italian TV, Austrian Radio, Dutch Radio,[4] Czech Radio and Central Peking Radio. 17 CDs have been made of his music.

His commissions have included The Marshes of Glynn for the Royal opening of the Adrian Boult Hall in Birmingham in 1986;[5] Centenary Fire Dances for the City of Birmingham’s Centenary Festival of Fireworks and Music;[5] an Overture for the Three Choirs Festival; songs for the Cantamus Girls Choir;[6] song cycles for mezzo-soprano Sarah Walker and tenor John Mitchinson for broadcast on BBC Radio 3; anthems for the BBC Radio 4 Daily Service; Sonata for 8 Horns for the Horn Octet of the University of New Mexico; Suite for 6 Horns for the Vienna Horn Society; Song of the Eagle for the James Madison University Flute Choir of Virginia;[5] Concerto for Two Pianos for the Duo Scaramouche; Sonata for 8 Pianists for soloists from France, Italy and Britain;[7] Mela Kamavardhani for performances by Indo-Jazz Fusions in Calcutta, Delhi and Bombay; Fanfare for Madam Speaker, for the Installation of the Rt Hon Betty Boothroyd MP as Chancellor of the Open University in 1994; Concerto for Two Guitars for Simon Dinnigan and Fred T. Baker with Strings from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra;[5] Concert Overture 'Towards a New Age' for the 150th anniversary of the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers,[8] premiered in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; and Suite for Brass Sextet for the Czech Philharmonic Brass Sextet.

As a result of the success of the CD recording of his Sonata for 8 Horns by the Horns of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra,[4] Andrew was commissioned to compose a Concerto for 4 Horns and Orchestra for the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra,[4] who gave two performances of the work in the Dvorak Hall, Prague, in February and March 2002.[4] In March 2003 the work was recorded for broadcast by Czech Radio. Andrew returned to Prague in October 2005 to hear a performance by the Czech Philharmonic Horns of his 5 Dramatic Pieces for 8 Wagner Tubas.

More recent projects have included Songs of Autumn and Songs of the Skies, (both commissioned by Symphony Hall Birmingham, premiered in 2003 and 2005 respectively with 1200 children and players from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Central England Ensemble); Songs of Love for Paula Downes and David Trippett, (world premiere at University Hall, Harvard University Cambridge, Mass. USA on 1 February 2007); Sonata for Organ (premiered by Robert Green at St David's Cathedral, Pembrokeshire, Wales on 22 August 2007); the opera, Far from the Madding Crowd, premièred at the Thomas Hardy Festival in July 2006; Mass for Unaccompanied Solo Voice, premiered by soprano Paula Downes at the MIT Chapel, Boston, Massachusetts, USA on 6 March 2008; Sonata for Horn, Violin and Piano for the Brahms Trio Prague (Monica Vrabcová, violin; Ondrej Vrabec, [principal Horn Czech Philharmonic Orchestra] and Daniel Wiesner, piano), premiered at the Suk Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague on 5 February 2008 (a CD of this work has now been released on the Czech Philharmonic Artesmon label); Finished Fields, a setting of four poems by Wilfred Owen commissioned by Jonathan Pugsley (bass-baritone) and Duncan Honeybourne (piano)and premiered in Weymouth, Dorset on 12 November 2008; Concerto for Piano and Orchestra for pianist Duncan Honeybourne and the Central England Ensemble, conducted by Anthony Bradbury in Birmingham Town Hall on 1 March 2009, and given again by the same artists in Coventry Cathedral in July 2010; Sonata for Contrabass Flute and Piano for Peter Sheridan, premiered in 2009 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Sonata for Clarinet and Piano for clarinettist Angus Merion and Duncan Honeybourne, premiered in Salisbury, UK in January 2010; Concerto for Horn and Symphony Orchestra for Ondrej Vrabec (Principal Horn Czech Philharmonic Orchestra) and the Central England Ensemble, conducted by Anthony Bradbury, premiered in Birmingham Town Hall on 21 October 2012; a Jubilate for the thirtieth anniversary in 2013 of the Callington Singers, Cornwall; The Ballad of St Kenelm, a commission from the Francis Brett Young society and Butterfly, a commission from the celebrated girls' choir Cantamus in memory of their late conductor, Pamela Cook;

In 2015, 4 symphonies and 2 overtures by Andrew Downes were recorded in the Dvorak Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic, by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Ondrej Vrabec, as part of a 2-CD set of symphonic music by Andrew Downes, on the Artesmon label. The set of 2 CDs and one Documentary DVD were launched in the Suk Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, on 1 December 2015. The CDs were launched on iTunes on 18 March 2016.

Andrew Downes' present projects are: 7 Preludes for Piano for Duncan Honeybourne; The Four Songs of Bluebeard's Wife, settings of poetry by Julie Boden; and Autumn Songs, settings of poetry by Bernard Davies

Faber Music include Andrew Downes' motet O Vos Omnes in their compilation entitled Thirty Choral Masterworks for Upper Voices.

Andrew Downes is a Life Fellow of the RSA and of the International Biographical Association, Honorary Fellow of Birmingham Conservatoire, President of the Central Composers' Alliance and Leading Patron of the Midland Chamber Players.

Personal life[edit]

His wife Cynthia has, since 1976, published his music under the company name Lynwood Music. They have two daughters, Anna and Paula (both married), two grandsons, Oscar and Maxwell and two granddaughters, Persephone and Emilia.


  1. ^ Staff writer (2005-06-10). "Piano recital includes Howells' work". The Citizen. Northcliffe Newspapers Group Ltd. p. 10.
  2. ^ Staff writer (2005-06-09). "Leading pianist's recital". Newsquest Media Group Newspapers. Newsquest Digital Media.
  3. ^ Staff writer (2005-06-14). "Tribute to composer". Birmingham Evening Mail. Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd. p. 12.
  4. ^ a b c d e Morley, Christopher (2002-02-28). "Culture - Andrew on song with Czech mate". Birmingham Post. Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd. p. 16.
  5. ^ a b c d Grimley, Terry (2000-02-17). "Millennium is a new dawn for Birmingham composer". Birmingham Post. Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd. p. 13.
  6. ^ Staff writer (1999-05-25). "Such an evocative evening". Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph.
  7. ^ Staff writer (2000-12-02). "Perfect eight". Birmingham Evening Mail. Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd. p. 8.
  8. ^ Staff writer (1997-02-26). "Overture to a Celebration". Professional Engineering. Institution of Mechanical Engineers. p. 52.

External links[edit]