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Roger Marsh

Roger Marsh was born in Bournemouth in 1949 and grew up in London. He studied at the University of York from 1968 to 1975 (BA 1st class hons 1971; DPhil(composition) 1975. His principal composition teacher was Bernard Rands. While at York he co-founded and directed the music theatre ensemble 'Clap' with Melody Lovelace, Bernard Rands, Vic Hoyland, Jonty Harrison, Glyn Perrin and others. From 1976 to 1978 he held a Harkness Fellowship, working as Associate Fellow at the Center for Music Experiment and Related Research at the University of California, San Diego. Here he worked with the Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble who premiered 'Not a Soul but Ourselves...' (on texts from Joyce's Finnegans Wake) in April 1977. He also collaborated with Pauline Oliveros, Jean Charles Francois, Allan Kapprow, David Antin and others on the first and second 'What's Cooking' festivals of performance art.

In 1978 he returned to the UK to lecture at the University of Keele, Staffs- a post he held from 1978 to 1988, being Head of Music there for the last three of those years. During this time he maintained his interest in music theatre, working with Electric Phoenix on 'Not a Soul but Ourselves..' and 'Bits and Scraps', with John Potter and Alan Belk on 'Dum', and with Vocem (electric voice theatre) on 'Samson - a dramatic oratorio'. In 1987/88 he began a collaboration with Vocem and the Dutch 'Tibia Flute Quartet' which resulted in the music theatre piece 'Love on the rocks'. This piece was later recorded on CD by Tibia with the voices of 'Midland Music Theatre' (including Marsh himself in the role of Charon).

In 1988 he returned to the University of York. Here he continued to compose works for ensembles and orchestras including 'Stepping Out' for piano and orchestra (for the 1990 Prom season), 'Kagura' for 16 players and 'Espace' for large orchestra. In addition, following the premiere of Part 1 at the Norwich Festival of Contemporary Church Music in 1989,  he mounted a full production of his large scale music theatre work 'The Big Bang - a dramatic oratorio on Old testament texts'. In 1990 he set up the 'Centre for Japanese Music' at York, with Yoshikazu Iwamoto(shakuhachi) as Fellow in Japanese Music from 1990-1993.

In 1993 he was invited to be Visiting Senior Professor of Composition at Harvard University for the Fall Semester.  On his return to the UK he co-founded(with his wife, the singer Anna Myatt) a contemporary music ensemble Black Hair which continues to give concerts of new music and music theatre, and is a Yorkshire Arts Ensemble in Residence. In 1996 he made a new direct and singable English translation of Schoenberg's 'Pierrot Lunaire', performing the piece in a fully staged production with Black Hair in York, Newcastle, Dartington and elsewhere. In the same year a work for wind orchestra 'Heathcote's Inferno' was premiered by the RNCM Wind Orchestra. He is the principal conductor of Black Hair and also regularly conducts University ensembles.

In 1994 he furthered his interest in the work of James Joyce by abridging and producing an audiobook version of Ulysses for Naxos Audiobooks. This 4CD set won the 1995 'Talkies Award'  for best abridged modern fiction. Since then he has gone on to produce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners and Finnegans Wake for Naxos, as well as the three books of Dante's  Divine Comedy.

In 1999 a work for eleven solo strings 'Canto 1' was premiered at the Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music, and in Feb 2000 a percussion quartet'Sukeroku'was premiered by the percussion quartet Backbeat. 'More Silly Love Songs' was premiered at the Late Music Festival, York by the Cornelius Cardew Ensemble in March 2002.  In November 2002 the world premiere took place of 'Pierrot Lunaire' - vocal settings of all 50 of Albert Giraud's collection of moon poems, in French and English.  This was a fully staged production given as the University of York's annual 'Practical Project'.  On March 21 the premiere took place of a new work for Backbeat Percussion Quartet and Chinook Clarinet Quartet: 'From every sides'.   On June 27th 2003 the vocal trio Juice gave the world premiere of Hold Me Tight at St George's Hanover Square. In the same concert they also gave the London premiere of seven numbers from Pierrot Lunaire.

Principal compositions, published by Novello & Co Ltd (to 1994) and Maecenas Contemporary Music (after 1994)

Published by Novello

Variations for trombones (1977) Commissioned by Los Angeles trombonist Miles Anderson. 1st performance at Los Angeles City Art Museum, 5 February 1979.

Not a soul but ourselves..... Commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain for the Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble, San Diego. 1st performance in San Diego 29 November 1977. Subsequent performances worldwide, and recording on WERGO (WER 60094) by Electric Phoenix. Duration: 16 mins.

A Psalm and a Silly Love Song (1979) Soprano, mezzo and 6 instruments.
Commissioned by Elms Concerts. 1st performance by Lontano 25 April 1979, Collegiate Theatre, London. Duration 13 minutes.

Still (1980) for full symphony orchestra. Commissioned by the Feeney Trust for the CBSO. 1st performance at Birmingham Tow Hall, 13 November. Duration: 12 mins.

The Wormwood and the Gall (1981) Mezzo-soprano and 6 instruments. Commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain. 1st performance at the Wigmore Hall, London, by Linda Hirst with Lontano. 6 July 1981. Duration 14 mins.

Samson (1983) A dramatic oratorio for voices. Commissioned for VOCEM by the Arts Council of Great Britain. 1st performance at the 1984 Nettlefold Festival, 20 October 1984. Duration: 30 mins.

Music for piano and Wind instruments (1986) Commissioned by the University of York with funds from Yorkshire Arts. 1st performance by Anemone, 17 March 1986. Subsequent performance by Lontano for BBC Radio 3, November 3 1987. Duration: 12 mins.

The Song of Abigail (1986) Commissioned by the BBC for Lontano ensemble. 1st performance 7 March 1987 at St John's, Smith Square. Broadcast April 1987, Radio 3. Duration: 20 minutes.

Easy Steps (1987) for solo piano. Commissioned by Reading University for Anthony Williams. 1st performance Reading University. 4 March 1988. Duration: 10 mins.

Ferry Music (1988) for clarinet, cello and piano Commissioned by GLAA for the Muhlfeld Trio. 1st performance at the Purcell Room, London, October 6th 1988. Duration: 9 minutes.

Dying for it (1988) for nine instruments 1st performance by Akanthos Ensemble, Phoenix Art Centre, Leicester, 23 February 1990.

The Big Bang (1989) A dramatic oratorio for voices and instruments.1st performance at the Norwich Festival of Contemporary Church Music, Norwich Arts Centre, July 1 1989. Duration: 2 hours.

Love on the rocks (1989) Music Theatre for voices and amplified flute quartet. Commissioned by the ArtsCouncil of Great Britain. 1st performance at the 1990 Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music, (Nov 26) with subsequent performances in London (Dec 4, 5&6). Duration 30 mins.
Concert version for voice, cl,vn,pf,perc,vcl (2000) premiered at Dartington College of Arts, May 2000.

Stepping Out (1990) for piano and orchestra. Commissioned by the BBC for the 1990 Prom season. 1st performance at the Royal Albert Hall, Aug 31 1990. Broadcast live and recorded for later broadcast, BBC Radio 3. Duration 14 minutes.

Kagura (1991) for 15 players. Commissioned by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group in association with Keele University and West Midlands Arts. First performance at the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham, Sept 29 1991. Recorded by the BBC. Details of a more recent performance, here at York, are available.

The Bodhi Tree for trombone and soprano. Commissioned by Barrie Webb and Nicola Walker Smith. First performance St. Paul's Hall, Huddersfield, May 1992.

Hoichi(1992)  for solo alto flute with live electronics. Commissioned by Jos Zwaanenburg (Hilversum). Premiere at Middelburg Festival, Netherlands, 3 July 1992. Broadcast BBC Radio 3 April 1994.

Published by Maecenas Contemporary Music

Espace (1993/4) for large orchestra. Composed during leave supported by  Arts Council of England Composers Bursary. Premiere at Huddersfield Town Hall during Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music, 26 Nov 1994. English Northern Philharmonia, conductor Diego Masson.
Broadcast BBC Radio 3 27 Nov 1994. (17 mins).

A little Snow (1994) for solo voice. Text by Nicanor Parra. Premiere by Anna Myatt at the Purcell Room, London, June 10 1994. (5 mins)

Waiting for Charlie (1995) for 15 instruments. Commissioned by the City of Apeldoorn (Netherlands) for 'de ereprijs' ensemble. Premiere in Alpeldoorn April 5 1996. Subsequent performances and broadcast on Dutch Radio. Performance in Moscow and Wroclaw September 1996. Recorded in public concert at BBC Radio Theatre, London, 11 January 1998. BBC Radio 3 broadcast 16 January 1998. (14 mins)
CD 'Going Up'. De ereprijs ensemble. KLIM OP 007

Heathcote's Inferno (1996) for symphonic wind orchestra. Commissioned by the Royal Northern College of Music.  Premiere at the RNCM on Oct 25 1996. RNCM Wind Orchestra, conductor Clark Rundell. (17 mins) To be recorded for Chandos in February 2001

Sozu Baba (1996) a theatre piece for soprano solo. Text by Judith Woolf (English Department, University of York). Commissioned by Janice Jackson (Utrecht). Premiere at the Kikker Theatre, Utrecht, 31 March 1997. (20 mins).

Spin (1997) for piano solo and 9 instruments. Commissioned by Ensemble Telemaque, Marseille. Premiere by Telemaque at Cite de la Musique, Marseille, 21 November 1997. Further performance at Ancona Festival, Italy, 29 September 1998. Performance by Capricorn, conductor Roger Marsh, University of York, Oct 21 1998.

Slow Right Arm (1997) for baroque violin and double bass. Commissioned by Maya Homburger and Barry Guy. Premiere at Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music, 28 November 1997.

Canto 1(1999) for eleven solo strings. Premiered by the Goldberg Ensemble, conducor Malcom Layfield, Huddersfield Festival Nov 24 1999.

Sukeroku(2000) for percussion quartet. Commissioned by Backbeat with funds from the Arts Council of England. Premiere at the Royal Northern College of Music, Feb 5 2000.

Hold Me Tight (2000) for three voices. Composed for 'Trio Mediaeval'.

Pierrot Lunaire: Part 1 (2001) Settings of the first 22 of Albert Girauds collection 'Pierrot Lunaire'for combined vocal ensembles.  Composed for the Hilliard Ensemble Festival, Schloss Engers, Koblenz. August 2001

More Silly Love Songs (2002) for soprano and ensemble. 3 songs: 'I Love the Way', 'Western Wind' and 'Hold me Tight'.  First performance given by the Cornelius Cardew Ensemble, York, March 2002.

Wiegenlied (2002) for tenor and prepared piano.  Composed for John Potter and Nicky Losseff and first performed by them at the York Spring Festival of New Music, May 2002.

Peirrot Lunaire: Part 2 (2002)  Settings of the final 28 poems from Albert Giraud's 1884 collection; for combined vocal ensembles, with some instruments.   First performance: Lyons Concert Hall, York.  November 13/14/15 2002.

From every sides (2003) for octet: (percussion quartet and clarinet quartet) for Backbeat and Chinook Quartets.  First performance RNCM March 21 2003


Novello & Co Ltd: Fiona Southey: Tel: (0207) 432 4209 FAX: (0207) 287 6329 email:

Maecenas Contemporary Music: Giles Easterbrook: (0208) 660 4766 FAX: (0208) 668 5273

Roger Marsh: email:

Black Hair:  tel: 01430 861954   email:   or

CD recordings

Heathcote's Inferno (for Wind Orchestra). RNCM Wind Orchestra, conductor Timothy Reynish
     On Doyen: DOY CD127

Ferry Music (for clarinet, cello and piano).  The Muhlfield Trio.
    On Clarinet Classics CC0007

Love on the Rocks (for amplified voices and electric flute quartet).  Midland Music Theatre with the Tibia Flute Quartet.
    On Erasmus WVH 154

Waiting for Charlie (for 15 players).  de ereprijs ensemble.


 Also several commissioned CD and festival programme notes on the music of Luciano Berio.

Audiobooks (CD/Cassette tapes)


Click here to see Roger Marsh page at 'The Brazen Head' a US Joyce website
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Last updated: Sept 17th 2002