Richard Leigh, Composer
I am a British composer inspired by folk, contemporary classical and sacred traditions. Having studied composition and violin my earliest music includes a piano concerto for pianist Leslie Howard, chamber operas, a string quartet, works for Pipers 3, Mapaluna, Kai and Zingaresque. I play violin in the band – Finality Jack.
A visit to Swaziland in 1999 sparked a more intense interest in the voice which has lead to creating a body of vocal music that highlights unity of the worlds sacred traditions. I am drawn to words that have a transcendent quality, whether from poetry, Shamanic, or many religious traditions. I gather melodies, ideas, words and sounds, sometimes over a period of many years, until they find form, often woven together as elaborate tapestries, or sometimes with child like simplicity. I am equally concerned that my music speaks to a 5 year old child as to an 85 year old and enjoy the challenge of integrating my music into community settings as much as traditional concert venues.
My most recent choral work RIVERS explores the oneness of religion & weaves a tapestry of poetry & scripture from 8 of the worlds great religions. Funded by Arts Council England, RIVERS was created in collaboration with NMPAT, local faith & inter-faith groups & the film maker Lou Armitt. It was performed by the award winning Northants County Youth Choir with an ensemble of strings, piano, harp, Shamanic gongs & percussion at St John Smiths Square, London. They were joined for the final 10 minutes of the piece by an online virtual choir of singers of all ages and abilities who had pre-recorded and uploaded their voices via youtube. Other works include – MYRIADS – 9 settings of The Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah, weaving Persian and Arabic chant, Tibetan prayer bowls, SATB choir & ensemble, & – SEED – 12 settings of Baha’i writings.
I have also written a significant amount of educational music such as Hurdy-Gurdy written for over 300 young string players of all levels, the Native American inspired The Guaymi Dawn Song written for hospital and outreach students.
Through my many years experience of working with young people and in the community, I have developed an approach, which, like the folk tradition, is grounded in community, whether it be in the context of choirs, inter-faith, hospice, education, dance, theatre or working with professional musicians.
I studied composition with Andrew Downes, John Mayer, John Joubert at the Birmingham Conservatoire & with Michael Clarke for my MA in composition at Huddersfield University. Masterclasses with Robert Simpson and Lasse Thoresen. I work for the Northants. Music and Performing Arts Trust (NMPAT) which includes directing Zingaresque (the county youth world/folk ensemble) teaching composition, violin, voice/body percussion, hospital/outreach & commissions.
GROUPS AS PERFORMER / COMPOSER
Kai (2000-2005) – voice/violin/guitar
Mapaluna (1994-99) – Violin
Finality Jack (1994-) – Violin (CD – Glory Be – Wildgoose Records)
“Finality Jack is a trio of instrumentalists consisting of Tim Perkins on violin and bouzouki, Richard Leigh on violin and kantele, and Becky Price on accordion, they play an intriguing mixture of English- and French-influenced instrumental music with a smattering of Eastern European polka in there as well. These may not be typical traditional dance tunes, but in their quiet way they all feel as exuberant and full-of-life as the dancers on the cover of the CD.
The mellow, melodic nature of this music may fool the listener into not really paying attention to it but just letting it flow into the ears. But, unlike a great of contemporary instrumental music, each tune here stands up well to concentrated listening, opening up more and more upon each repeat. This is actually remarkably complicated music, almost experimental in its mixing of styles and various melodies. Would that each musical experiment was as nice on the ears as this one….” Brendan Foreman
‘Rivers was breathtaking, extraordinary & mesmeric, we were all stunned at the end’ Sarah & Oliver Percival (St John’s Smith Square 07/09/13)
‘…breath-taking…spine-tingling…a work which deserves to be heard again and again, which well could become a benchmark for composers setting Baha’i writings to music…’ Rob Weinberg (Classic FM) about Myriads
‘ Myriads shows he is a very gifted composer with some magical visions…’
Lasse Thoresen (composer & Head of Composition at Oslo Conservatoire)
“…spacious, ethereal landscapes with sparse instrumentations – clusters of notes are left hanging and ringing, conjuring the immensity of space and resonating with the mysterious eternal world of the soul” Rob Weinberg – Classic FM.
‘The range of colours drawn from the small scoring is almost unbelievable, the variations vary from wild and raucous to almost still. Dense harmonies are avoided throughout so that the piece has an aspect of remote antiquity to it but is entirely absorbing…’ International Double Reed Magazine – Kante-laride – commissioned by Pipers 3 oboe Trio
LIST of WORKS
Farkhundi Tayiri (2015) 5′ – SATB choir
Mathnavi (2015) 5′ – SATB choir
Rivers (2013) 60′ – writings from 8 religious traditions – SATB choir/harp/Shamanic Gongs/Percussion/Strings
Do not Stand at my Grave and Weep (2007) 5’ – SATB choir
Myriads (2001) 55’ – 9 settings of Baha’u’llah – SATB choir/Persian & Arabic chant/harp/Tibetan prayer bowls/perc./prep. piano (CD – Klarton Records)
O Son of the Wondrous Vision! (1999) 8’ – SATB choir/harp/drum
O Son of Earth! (1999) 4’ – SAB choir
Cold Star Lighting – (2015) – 3 Poems of Wilfred Owen – Voice/guitar/string quartet – (written for Royal & Derngate Theatre production – A Day to Remember)
(Seed (2010) 55′ – 12 settings of Bahai Writings – voice/gtr/pno/kantele/violin/viola
Mystic Bird (2002) 50′ – 11 Persian & Arabic prayers & chants – voice/violin/medieval fiddle/pno/kantele (CD – Klarton Records)
Almost, Once Upon a Time (1990) 30′ – chamber opera (in collaboration with Jim Hacobian & James Cooper)
3 Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1987) 12’
1) The Windhover 2) Gods Grandeur 3) Inversnaid – voice/string quartet/guitar/flute
String Quartet (Hurdy-gurdy) (2015) 20′ – string quartet
Glory Be (1997) 18′ folk ensemble (CD – Wildgoose Records)
1) Devina Divine 2) Han Ter Dro 3) Thrift 4) Stone of Stumbling 5) Lin-lan-lone
Distant Voices (1994) 12’ – violin/piano/perc.
Heartspring (1994) 5′ – recorder ensemble
Metamorphosis (1993) 32’ – ballet – violin/percussion/piano/flute/guitar
Invisible Dances (1996) 6’ – 2 violins/viola/cello
Kante-laride (1996) 12′ 2 oboes/cor anglais/kantele (CD – Pipers3)
Toccata e Fantasia (1991) 13’ – solo piano & orchestra
String Quartet (1989) 15′ – 2 violins/viola/cello
Somme Threnody (1988) 17’ – cello/piano
The Guaymi Dawn Song (2012) 8′ – voices/piano/Shamanic gongs/perc.
Hurdy-Gurdy (2004) 17’ – string orchestra/perc./guitar/hurdy-gurdy/small-pipes Nine Red Horsemen (2001) 5’ – voices/gtr/pnoThe Tibetan Book of the Frog (1996) 24’ childrens cantata – strings/perc./piano
The Awakening Dream (1991) 32’ – children’s opera