Bayan Northcott

Bayan Northcott
© Oliver Northcott

Bayan Northcott was born in London in 1940 and read English at Oxford, teaching the subject for six years before turning to music criticism and, later still, to composition. He has been music critic successively of the New Statesman, the Sunday Telegraph and The Independent and has served as a director of the contemporary record label NMC. Though greatly encouraged by, among others, Alexander Goehr and Hans Keller, he was essentially self-taught as a composer, and his modest output to date is mostly for small forces.


However his Hymn to Cybele (1983) has been twice broadcast by the BBC Singers who are also performing it in the 2010 BBC Proms, while his Concerto for Horn and Ensemble (1998) was first performed in the United States by Speculum Musicae (New York) and in Britain by the London Sinfonietta. His music was the subject of the Aldeburgh Festival annual Composer Portrait concert in 1994 and a Phiharmonia Music of Today programme in 2004. His Ave Regina Celorum (1997) was commissioned and toured by Gothic Voices, and was subsequently included in the Four Votive Antiphons Op. 7, a cumulative cycle of polyphonic settings of the chants traditional to Compline, two of which, Salve Regina and Alma Redemptoris Mater, have been recorded on the Signum label by The Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, to great acclaim. In 2007, the same performers gave the world premiere of his Canticle: The Doubting of Thomas. His Fandango for harpsichord was commissioned by Chau-Yee Lo, who gave the first performance at the Reform Club, London, in April 2006. Recent works include Poet and Star, composed for the NMC Songbook, and the ensemble piece Doubles All Round for the 30th anniversary celebrations of Endymion in June 2009 - both works recorded on the NMC label. Bayan Northcott's selected writings, The Way We Listen Now, were published by Plumbago in 2009 and are available from Boydell & Brewer.

© 2010 Stainer & Bell Ltd

Critics who compose are scarce: only Havergal Brian comes readily to mind. Brian enjoyed a prolific old age, and it would be good to have a bumper late harvest from Northcott.
Paul Conway, The Independent Review, 6 October 2004



Fandango Op.9. Harpsichord. (2006) [6'] (Ref. Y234) [PDF] [MP3 Clip - 30 sec. extract]
Fantasia for Guitar
Op. 3 (1981-82) [9'] (Ref. H356) [PDF] [REVIEWS]
Sonata for Solo Oboe Op 1 (1977-78) [7'] (Ref. Y89) [PDF] [REVIEWS]


Carillon (after Machaut) (1987) [5'] (Ref. HL292) [PDF]
fl/picc, ob, cl, bn, hn, tpt, tbn, 1 perc, pno, 2vlns, vl, vc, db
Concerto for Horn and Ensemble Op. 8 (1990/98) [23'] (Rental Ref. HL340) [PDF] [REVIEWS]
solo hn, fl/picc, ob, cl, bn, perc (1), pno, vln, vla, vc, db
Doubles All Round
2009 [4'30''] (Ref. AC241)
fl/picc, cl/b.cl, hn, pf, vn, vc
Of All the Instruments
(after Purcell) (1994) [2' 15''] (Ref. AC125) [PDF]
fl, ob, cl, glock, vln, vc, db
Sextet Op. 5 (1984-85) [12'] (Ref. AC88) [PDF]
fl/picc, cl/b.cl, pno, perc (1), vln, vc


Three English Lyrics Op. 6 (1988) [6'] (Ref. AC85) [PDF]
sop, cl, vla, db
(texts: Anon, 15
- 16 century)
Six Japanese Lyrics
Op. 2 (1971/97) [8'] (Ref. AC87) [PDF]
sop, cl, vln
(texts translated by the composer)

Memento (1999) [c.3'] (Ref. AC176) [PDF]
sop, fl

(text: Hilda Morley)
Poet and Star (2008) [2'40''] (Ref. Y247) [PDF] [MP3 Clip]
sop, ten, pf

(text: Thomas Hardy) 


Alma Redemptoris Mater Op. 7 No.2 (2000) [4'] (Ref. Y209) [PDF] [MP3 Clip - ending]
3 ten (or bar for ten 3)
(text: Anon Latin)
Ave Regina Celorum/Alleluia Op. 7 No.3 (1997) [7'] (Ref. Y143) [PDF]
mezzo (or ct), 3 ten (or bar for ten 3)
(text: Anon Latin)

Canticle: The Doubting of Thomas [5'] (Ref. AC238) [PDF]
Solo alto, tenor and baritone voices with organ
Hymn to Cybele (1983) [12'] (Rental Ref. HL342) [PDF]
con, ten, bar: mixed chorus: 2 perc, db
(text: Catullus, translated by the composer)

Regina Celi
Op.7 No.4 (2003) [5'] (Ref. Y210) [PDF]
mezzo (or ct), 3 ten (or bar for ten 3), bar

(text: Anon Latin)
Salve Regina Op. 7 No.1 (1999) [5'] (Ref. Y208) [PDF] [MP3 Clip - ending]
mezzo (or ct), 3 ten (or bar for ten 3)
(text: Anon Latin)


NMC Songbook

Fantasia for Guitar

"Music of Memory"
Label: NMC. Catalogue Catalogue Reference NMC D184

NMC: http://www.nmcrec.co.uk/



all the ends of the earth

Salve Regina and Alma Redemptoris Mater

The Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, Geoffrey Webber (cond.)

'All the Ends of the Earth'

Label: Signum Records. Catalogue Reference SIGCD070

Signum Records: http://www.signumrecords.com/

Salve Regina [MP3 Clip - ending]

Alma Redeptoris Mater [MP3 Clip - ending]


Another excessively beautiful piece is Bayan Northcott's Alma Redemptoris Mater. Against an existing plainchant melody, Northcott writes wonderful counterpoint with changes of colour, subtle rhythmic fluctuations and a delight in vowel sonority. For those interested, his bass line uses isorhythm, a 14th-century French technique, and the piece recalls that sound world, but taking us somewhere new.
Robert Hollingworth, BBC Radio 3 CD Review, 18 February 2006

NMC Songbook

Poet and Star [MP3 Clip - 30 sec. extract]
Claire Booth (soprano), Daniel Norman (tenor), Andrew Ball (piano)

"The NMC Songbook"

Label: NMC. Catalogue Catalogue Reference NMC D150

NMC: http://www.nmcrec.co.uk/

NMC SongbookDoubles All Round 
Endymion, Quentin Poole (cond.)
"Sound Census"
Label: NMC. Catalogue Reference NMC D160
NMC: http://www.nmcrec.co.uk/

Recent and Forthcoming Performances

Hymn to Cybele
BBC Singers/David Hill
4 September 2010, 3.00pm, BBC Proms, Cadogan Hall, London

Canticle: The Doubting of Thomas
12 May 2011, 1.15pm, Lunchtime Requiem Mass, St Pancras Church, London (London Festival of Contemporary Church Music)

For further information about Bayan Northcott and his works,
please e-mail Caroline Holloway caroline@stainer.co.uk

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