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Contemporary Music
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Judith Bingham

Born in Nottingham, and raised in Mansfield and Sheffield, Judith Bingham began composing as a small child, before studying composition 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. Recent composition prizes include: the Barlow Prize for a cappella music in 2004, two British Composer Awards in 2004 for The Christmas Truce (choral) and Missa Brevis: The Road to Emmaeus (liturgical), one in 2006 for My Heart Strangely Warmd and the instrumental award in 2008 for Fantasia. She was once again nominated for an award in 2009 for Shakespeare Requiem, a Leeds Festival Chorus commission.

 

Her first commissions, in the 1970s, 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, making her one of the first composers to write new music for medieval instruments.

In 1983, she joined the BBC Singers as a full time member of the alto section and toured extensively with them, singing 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. In 2004 she was made Composer in Association with the BBC Singers, a highly successful collaboration which continued until 2009. During this period of association the BBC Singers made a CD of some of her choral works, Remoter Worlds, for Signum. Ed Breen wrote: 'this is really wonderful writing and beautifully executed by The BBC Singers.'

She has 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 such as BBC Young Composer of the Year, and has lectured in many of the British music colleges and at several American universities.

On joining the BBC Singers she wrote a series of choral works, many of them based on texts compiled from disparate sources as an integral part of the compositional process. These included Irish Tenebrae, A Winter Walk at Noon and A Hymn before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamonix. 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 Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis 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, Wells Cathedral and the Edington Festival. She has written three settings of the Missa Brevis, and two sets of Evening Canticles as well as many anthems. In 2007 she was made a Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music for distinguished services to church music.

Although Bingham's output is notable for 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 tuba, and several impressive works for large orchestra. Beyond Redemption (1995) was a BBC commission for the BBC Philharmonic and The Temple at Karnak (1996) was commissioned by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Chartres, a significant work for large symphony orchestra, was performed to great acclaim by the BBC Philharmonic under Jane Glover in 1994, and was recently conducted by James MacMillan in Liverpool Cathedral as part of the BBC/Royal Philharmonic Society's 'Encore' project. She has written a substantial body of pieces for organ including Jacob's Ladder, a concerto for Stephen Cleobury and Philip Brunelle. A CD of her organ music performed by Tom Winpenny was released on the Naxos label in 2010. The Ivory Tree, a music-drama for soloists, chorus and ensemble, had its first complete performances in Bury St. Edmunds Cathedral in May 2005. A carol God would be born in thee was performed at the King's College Cambridge Nine Lessons and Carols at Christmas 2004 and was released by EMI on the CD On Christmas Day. Her works in recent years have included See and Keep Silent for the BBC Singers and Guy Johnston, performed on Good Friday at King's College Cambridge, and Shadow Aspect for choir, organ and timpani, written for the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union. A set of solo violin pieces called The Lost Works of Paganini was performed by Peter Sheppard Skaerved on Paganini's violin in Genoa and London.

Recent premieres include Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, a new piece for Girl’s Voices (SSA) commissioned by the City of London Festival and first performed on 28 of June, 2014, by the girls’ choirs of Southwark and Guildford Cathedral, in Southwark Cathedral, London. This piece sets the words of Elizabeth Cook that describe the Camargue legend of Mary Jacobus and Mary Salome (two of the Marys who witnessed the crucifixion) being put in a boat without oars and ending up in the Camargue in Southern France where they spread the gospel.

The City of London Festival also saw the premiere of Bingham’s new oboe concerto The Angel of Mons, commissioned by the John Armitage Memorial Trust and first performed on 10th July 2014 in St. Bride’s, Fleet Street. The work commemorates the centenary of the First World War and recollects an alleged eye witness account of the Battle of Mons (28 August 1914), which described the sudden appearance of ‘a tall man with yellow hair in golden armour, on a white horse, holding his sword up, and his mouth open as if he was saying, "Come on boys! I’ll put the kybosh on the devils"’, uplifting morale and leading to victory.

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