|Categories||Contemporary, Fusion, Sacred|
Andrew Downes was born in Handsworth, Birmingham, in 1950. He won a choral scholarship to St. John's College, Cambridge (in 1969), where he gained an MA degree specializing in composition; and in 1974 went on to study with Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music. Between 1990 and 2005, he was Head of the School of Composition and Creative Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire and was awarded a Professorship in 1992. He now works as a freelance composer.
Andrew Downes' music has been performed throughout the world, in many leading concert halls and cathedrals, and has been broadcast at home and abroad. His commissions have included: The Marshes of Glynn, for the Royal Opening of the Adrian Boult Hall in Birmingham in 1986; an Overture for the 1986 Three Choirs Festival; an Anthem for Shakespeare Sunday; Song Cycles for Tenor, John Mitchinson and for Mezzo-Soprano, Sarah Walker, both for performance on BBC Radio 3; works for 'Cantamus' Girls' Choir, and for the BBC Radio 4 Daily Service; Centenary Firedances, for the City of Birmingham's Centenary Festival of Fireworks and Music; Sonata for 8 Horns for the University of New Mexico; Fanfare for Madam Speaker, for the Installation of the Rt Hon Betty Boothroyd MP as Chancellor of the Open University; and many more.
In January 1989 Andrew Downes visited Israel to attend a performance of his Sonata for Two Pianos by Bracha Eden and Alexander Tamir in the Israel Philharmonic Guest House. Eden and Tamir came to Birmingham in January 1990 to perform the work in a concert broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
In November 1993 Downes conducted the Crane Concert Choir in the University of New York's Hosmer Hall in a performance of his St Luke Passion. In 1994 he attended, at the Calcutta School of Music, a performance of his Sonata for Violin & Piano by Calcutta born violinist,
John Mayer; and he revisited India in February 1996 for performances by 'Indo-Jazz Fusions' of his composition, Mela Kamavardhani, in Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi.
New York Metropolitan Opera Soloist, Stephanie Blythe, performed Andrew's Songs from Spoon River at the Tanglewood Festival in August 1994. A series of recordings of Downes' works was broadcast on Central Peking Radio in 1994 and the China Film Philharmonic Orchestra requested copies of several of his orchestral works, while in Japan 'Cantamus Girls' Choir gave performances of Piano by Andrew Downes during their 1994 concert tour.
In March 1995 Andrew was invited by the University of New Mexico to give talks and to attend the performances of several of his works, and especially his Sonata for 8 Horns, commissioned by the University Horn Octet. In October and November 1995 he heard in Paris performances of his Sonata for Two Pianos by the 'Duo Scaramouche', including a performance on Radio 'France Musique'. He was interviewed on Italian Television in March 1996 before a broadcast performance of his Sonata for Two Pianos by the 'Duo Scaramouche' from Barletta.
In the Summer of 1996 he attended a performance of his Sonata for 8 Horns at the International Horn Convention in Oregon and the first performance of his Sonata for 8 Flutes at the National Flute Association's annual Convention in New York. This latter work has since been performed at numerous venues throughout the USA, Australia and Japan and also in Caracas by the National Flute Orchestra of Venezuela, as well as at a special Flute Day in Birmingham devoted to it, and twice at the Stratford International Flute Festival. In April 2004, the work was given its Mexican premiere by the Mexican Flute Ensemble conducted by Jenny Brooks in Mexico City.
Andrew Downes' Concert Overture, Towards a New Age, commissioned for the 150th anniversary of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, was premiered in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, on 28th January 1997 by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Constantine. Andrew was awarded a commemorative gold medal by the Institution in recognition of his outstanding contribution to their celebrations.
In January 1998 Andrew made a