Ju­dith Bing­ham


BBC Music Magazine - - The Full Score -

Ju­dith Bing­ham (b1952) stud­ied com­po­si­tion and singing at the Royal Academy of Mu­sic. She spent 12 years per­form­ing with the BBC Singers be­fore a five-year stint as their com­poser in res­i­dence. Her work ranges from large-scale sym­phonic works to solo pieces, and her A Walk with Ivor Gur­ney is out now on Signum Classics.

When I started out in the 1970s, I felt I was a freak. I didn’t feel there were other women com­posers. I re­alised when I came to Lon­don there were women, but it was hard. It was a very sex­ist world. It is mas­sively bet­ter now, but it’s still self-con­scious. Peo­ple talk about women com­posers like they are a spe­cial thing, and we’ve got a long way to go be­fore there’s a sense of nor­mal­ity about pro­gram­ming mu­sic by women. Emily Brontë and Ber­lioz were my huge loves. I didn’t have any liv­ing role mod­els as a teenager. When I got to Lon­don, the first per­son who was a real model was the teacher I had when I le the Royal Academy of Mu­sic, Hans Keller. He taught me how to think prop­erly about things. He was an amaz­ing, unique man.

I make my liv­ing en­tirely from com­mis­sions. I usu­ally have to write eight to ten pieces a year. Oc­ca­sion­ally, I might do some­thing as a present. When I was very young, I thought it would be ro­man­tic, and it took me a while to re­alise it was

prag­matic and took a lot of work. Stress is the name of the game for com­posers. It’s pre­car­i­ous, but I like it.

A Walk with Ivor Gur­ney was a voy­age of dis­cov­ery. I had come across his po­ems and songs but I did a lot of read­ing be­fore I chose the texts. I like any­body who is wed­ded to their land­scape. Gur­ney is about Glouces­ter­shire and the Cotswolds, and this piece in­cludes texts from Ro­man tomb memo­ri­als found there. Just as Gur­ney be­came stranded in a for­eign coun­try in World War I, these sol­diers were stranded. That was a real link for him.

I’m cur­rently writ­ing a piece for two or­gans. A lot of cathe­drals have both a main or­gan and a smaller choir or­gan. It’s an ex­tremely di cult piece to write. I do a lot of think­ing in ad­vance – pre-com­po­si­tion. That’s re­ally im­por­tant to me. And then I like to try and write the piece quickly. This piece is for a cathe­dral in Swe­den. They have some won­der­ful cathe­drals and or­gans over there.

En­joy the scenery:‘I like any­body who is wed­ded to their land­scape’

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