Sally Beamish

Scottish Music Centre

Sally Beamish (b. 1956) - Home

Sally Beamish

Sally Beamish was born in London. Initially a viola player, she moved from London to Scotland in 1990 to develop her career as a composer. Her music embraces many influences: particularly jazz and Scottish traditional music. The concerto form is a continuing inspiration, and she has written for many soloists, including Tabea Zimmermann, Håkan Hardenberger and Steven Isserlis.

Sally’s music is performed and broadcast internationally, and since 1999 she has been championed by the BIS label, who have recorded much of her work. Recent commissions include 'Dance Variations': Percussion Concerto No 2, for percussionist Colin Currie, with the Bergen Symphony Orchestra, Scottish and Swedish Chamber Orchestras, and Stanford Lively Arts, California. Her string quartet for the Elias Quartet, 'Reed Stanzas', received its premiere at the 2011 BBC Proms, and won a Royal Philharmonic Society Award.

Sally’s concerto for Scottish fiddle and harp, 'Seavaigers', was premiered in Glasgow, at Celtic Connections 2012, and a CD is now available, performed by its dedicatees, Chris Stout and Catriona McKay, and the Scottish Ensemble.

In February 2012 Sally was BBC Radio 3 Composer of the Week; and in July that year, Branford Marsalis premiered her new sonata, ‘Albatross’, at the World Saxophone Congress in St Andrews, with the composer at the piano. They gave a repeat performance in September 2013 at the RCS. Marsalis is one of three soloists – the others being James Crabb and Håkan Hardenberger - on a recently recorded CD on the BIS label, featuring the RSNO and NYOS conducted by Martyn Brabbins.

The Britten centenary year of 2013 was a prolific period for the composer, with several Britten-related commissions and world premières. Her ‘Variations on a Theme of Benjamin Britten’ was premiered by the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields; and Ursula Smith commissioned ‘Suite for Solo Cello’, in memory of Kevin McRae. Beamish’s opera with Clara Glynn, ‘Hagar in the Wilderness’, was premiered at the Presteigne Festival and has toured England and Scotland.

A new work for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, ‘Flodden’, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden, was premiered in September 2013, with soprano Shuna Scott Sendall, and was shortlisted for both a Royal Philharmonic Society and a British Composer Award.

The Trio Apaches have released Beamish’s ‘Seafarer Trio’, narrated by Sir Willard White, on Orchid Classics, alongside her new arrangement of Debussy’s ‘La Mer’, for piano trio. The disc has received excellent reviews.

Beamish’s ‘Spinal Chords’, one of the PRS 20x12 Olympic commissions, with text by The Times Journalist Melanie Reid, toured the UK in 2014 with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and narrator Juliet Stevenson. The composer has also appeared several times as narrator.

A joint commission, ‘Equal Voices’, for the London Symphony Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra, with their choruses, with text by Sir Andrew Motion, was premiered at the Barbican and then in Scotland to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War. The conductors were Gianandrea Noseda and Rory Macdonald, with soloists Shuna Scott Sendall and Marcus Farnsworth.

Work in progress includes a full-length ballet for Birmingham Royal Ballet and Houston Ballet, with choreographer David Bintley, to be premiered in 2016.

Sally Beamish is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow, a Creative Scotland award, and the Paul Hamlyn Award. She is also a visiting lecturer at Leeds College of Music.

With composer Alasdair Nicolson, Sally Beamish co-directs the annual St. Magnus Composers' Course in Orkney.