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Judith Bingham

Judith Bingham was born in Nottingham and raised in Mansfield and 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. Composition prizes include: the Barlow Prize for a cappella music in 2004, two British Composer Awards in 2004 (choral and liturgical), one in 2006 (choral) and a further award in 2008 (instrumental solo or duo). Most recently, she was made a Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music in May 2007.

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 four 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, 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. From 2004 to 2009 she was Composer in Association with the BBC Singers.

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. 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.

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 Beyond Redemption (1995) a BBC commission for the BBC Philharmonic, and The Temple at Karnak (1996). 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. 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 Down and Out for the Goldberg Ensemble and the tuba player James Gourlay.

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

Recent major works include The Christmas Truce, inspired by a celebrated incident in the First World War and first performed by the BBC Singers and the Britten Sinfonia in Norwich in December 2003. 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’. Naxos recently issued a portrait CD of her choral works including Salt in the Blood and The Secret Garden which received rave reviews. Other recent projects include further collaborations with the BBC Singers, an Organ Concerto for Philip Brunelle and a ‘Shakepeare’ Requiem for the BBC Philharmonic and Leeds Festival Chorus, premiered in November 2008. Recent premieres include Shadow Aspect a major new work for Edinburgh Royal Choral Union depicting the life of Robert Louis Stevenson, several new works for the BBC Singers, and new commissions from the Joyful Company of Singers, Wells Cathedral, and in the USA, St Louis Chamber Chorus.

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