David Bedford


Born in London on August 4th, 1937 to a musical family (grandmother was composer Liza Lehmann), David Bedford began composing at an early age. He attended Trinity College in London and studied with composer Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy of Music from 1958-61, with composer Luigi Nono in Venice (in 1961, thanks to a grant from the Italian Government), and at RAI Electronic Music Studio in Milan in 1962. He served as teacher and Composer-in-Residence at Queen’s College in London from 1969-81, as Associate Visiting Composer at Gordonstoun in Scotland from 1983, and as Youth Music Director and Composer-in-Association with the English Sinfonia since 1986 and 1994, respectively. His memberships have included Director of the Performing Rights Society and Chairman of the Association of Professional Composers.

In the late 60s Bedford produced the score for a theatrical work entitled “From Marie Antoinette to the Beatles”, and this led to his being associated with various pop and rock genres in the late 60s and 70s. Bedford became involved (as keyboardist, arranger, and conductor) with such popular and progressive music acts as Kevin Ayers’ The Whole World, Roy Harper, Edgar Broughton, Lol Coxhill, Camel, and most famously, Mike Oldfield. His collaborations with Oldfield in the 70s greatly broadened his fan base throughout the progressive music world. Their creative relationship proved to be one of those rare symbioses where each artist influenced, and was influenced by, the other – the sensitive pop/rock guitarist/composer, plus the formally-trained composer – their output from this period, both collaborative and solo, still represent some of progressive music’s finest and most influential recordings. In addition to the artists mentioned above, Bedford has worked as arranger and/or conductor for such artists as Elvis Costello, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Propaganda, China Crisis, Enya, Billy Bragg, A-ha, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and Madness.

But before and during Bedford’s involvement with progressive and popular music circles, he was composing steadily, and has ever since – he has received commissions from such major sources as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, English Sinfonia, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, John Alldis Choir, Singcircle, the Omega Players guitar ensemble (for which Bedford composed “Nurses Song With Elephants”), Electric Phoenix, Endymion Ensemble, Sir Peter Pears, Jane’s Minstrels, the Myra Saxophone Quartet (for which Bedford composed “Fridiof Kennings” in 1980), the Composers Ensemble, The British Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles, Aldeburgh Festival, Harrogate Festival, Spitalfields Festival (for which he composed “A Charm of Blessings” in 1997), Cheltenham Festival (for which Bedford composed “Trona” in 1967), Chelmsford Festival, Huddersfield Festival, Kings Lynn Festival, Norfolk and Norwich Festival (where he served as Composer in Residence in 1996, and for which he composed “A Charm of Joy” in 1996 and the opera “The Prostitutes Padre” in 1998), and many BBC commissions, including four of the BBC Proms and the BBC TV’s “Omnibus” program (for which Bedford composed “The Song of the White Horse”). Recent comissions include “A Charm of Grace” (1995) by and for the BBC Singers’ 70th birthday celebration, “A Charm of Blessings” by Spitalfields Festival (1996-7), “Tiddalik the Frog” by The Dartington String Trio (1997), “Oh Eva, Hear My Lament” by Rebecca Larsen (1997), “Inventress of the Vocal Frame” by The Brook Street Band (1997), “Lift Up Your Heads” by Marcus Davey and Tatty Theo (1997), “String Quartet No. 2” by Norfolk and Norwich Music Club (1997-8), “At the Sign of the Crumhorn” by the BBC (1998), “Requiem” by National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain (1998), an Oboe Concerto by John Lewis Partnership (1998), and “The Sultan’s Turret” by the BBC Symphony Orchestra for a Festival Hall performance in April 1999 as part of the BBC’s Sounding the Century series, amongst others. This will be followed by a commission from the Academy of Ancient Music for a piece for orchestra. This is part of their new policy of commissioning new pieces and is the 2nd in the series which was initiated with a commission from John Tavener.

In the 60s, Bedford was a burgeoning avant garde composer (some of his early works can be heard on the 1972 recording “Nurses Song with Elephants”). Since then, his work has demonstrated a sensitivity and considerable talent for many different compositional genres, from avant garde to minimalist to neoromantic to you-name-it. His extra-musical influences include many literary notables and astronomical topics (a few of of his best-known works, “Star’s End”, “Star Clusters, Nebulae & Places in Devon”, “Great Equatorial”, etc. attest to his interest in astronomy).

His film work includes orchestrations for “The Killing Fields” (another Oldfield collaboration), “Supergrass”, “Absolute Beginners”, “Meeting Venus”, “Orlando”, and choral coordinator for “The Mission”. He has also contributed original music for several of the Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense TV series, and did arrangements for theatrical productions such as “From Marie Antoinette to The Beatles”.

Bedford has always been involved with youth music education and interactive music. As mentioned above, he was appointed Youth Music Director of the English Sinfonia in 1986. His many contributions to youth music range from small pieces for very young pupils to seven school operas. He is frequently involved with student creative workshops and composition projects in UK and elsewhere. His “Seascapes” (1986) and “Frameworks” (1989) encourage students to create their own music in the context of a public concert with a professional orchestra, and his “Stories from the Dreamtime” (1991) is for 40 deaf children and orchestra. For Gordonstoun School in the late 70s, he composed a trilogy of young peoples’ operas using Icelandic mythology (one of which was “Fridiof’s Saga”, from which came the sax quartet piece “Fridiof Kennings”). For Queen’s College he composed “Some Bright Stars for Queen’s College” in the late 60s, and this piece was for 80 girls’ voices and 27 plastic pipe twirlers! One amusing anecdote is how Bedford offered conductor/composer Pierre Boulez a piece in which the audience had to play a hundred toy kazoos (“With 100 Kazoos”) – Boulez declined the offer.