Paul Alan Barker, Composer

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This Site Last Updated April 4 2016

Short Biog:
Paul Barker is an award-winning composer of many operas, music theatre, theatre, orchestral and concert works, performed at major international festivals, recorded and broadcast on TV. His opera El Gallo (2009) has toured three continents and received over 100 performances by Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes. His concert music reflects his practise that theatre and music are inseparable, for instance his clarinet quintet, In Memoriam: for those who fall in time of war for Joan Lluna and the Brodsky Quartet requires memorising and staging; it has been presented at major festivals in Spain, Holland, Serbia, Mexico and the UK, and been televised. He is currently a Professor of Music Theatre at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Long Biog:

Paul Barker’s compositions include orchestral works, choral works, vocal music, chamber music, percussion music, operas, music theatre, dance theatre and theatre productions.

For over a decade his scores have increasingly contained performance instructions which exceed and compliment the aural nature of composition. In addition to his theatre work, his concert work increasingly has become associated with Chamber Music Theatre, which seeks to address the whole concept of live music performance and presentation today.

Sixteen chamber operas have been performed at major international festivals in the UK, Mexico, the US and Europe. El Gallo, an opera without text for six actors and two string quartets (commissioned by Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes in 2009) received its hundredth performance in 2011 and continues to be toured internationally; it has also beeg recorded and released by Quindecim. The Pillow Song (based on Sei Shonagan’s The Pillow Book, for the London International Opera Festival 1988) has been extensively performed and recorded to popular and critical aclaim. Other operas includes La Malinche (in four languages, based on a story from prehispanic Mexico) and The Marriages Between Zones 3, 4 & 5 (after the novel by Doris Lessing, who worked with him on the libretto).

Orchestral works include a Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, (also featuring a solo part for giant bass drum) commissioned by the London Mozart Players and premiered by Tasmin Little and an orchestral song cycle, Three Songs for Sylvia, settings of excerpts from Sylvia Plath’s play, Three Women.  An early orchestral work was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize.  He has received many commissions for dance scores notably at the Edinburgh Festival and worked on over 50 theatrical productions internationally. The element of performance, sometimes theatrical, plays a prominent role: Stone Song/Stone Dance, for four players with stones was composed for Tambuco percussion ensemble in 2000 and continues to be performed extensively; a video of a performance at the Kennedy Centre in New York can be seen online (scroll down page to Tambuco). His clarinet quintet, In Memoriam: for those who fall in time of war, was commissioned by the Brodsky Quartet and Joan Lluna in 2004. It has received many international performances in Spain, Holland, Serbia, Ireland, Mexico and the UK etc. and has received outstanding reviews; the work is staged and performed from memory. In March 2012 Paul worked again with Joan Lluna and pianist Josep Colom in creating a dramatic structure around a programme of 10 contemporary works for the Festival Nous Sons '12 in Barcelona, including the premiere of his Transgressions No.1.

2010 saw the start of the International tour of El Gallo in Europe, Central and South America and the US. In 2011 it was awarded prizes in Oporto, Portugal and at the Brighton Festival, UK; the premiere of Hello, Mr Darwin, an opera for schools, commissioned by Opera UK and his solo piano piece La Malinche: transcription for solo piano by Ana Cervantes at the Festival Cervantino, Mexico. In February 2011, his musical Sigrun's Fire with book and lyrics by Stephen Clark, was premiered at the Central School of Speech & Drama, London. He recently premiered My Voice and Me, a drama for synthesised voice, piano and singer which can be performed live or as a radio play for the CREST Network) and is currently working on Nine Bean Rows, a speculative work for unspecified instruments, Four Songs, a melodrama for speaking string quartet, Musical Moments for Clown and Pianist, and Opera for duo pianists.

There are three CD’s available entirely of his music: Turquoise Swans (Sargasso 2000) containing compositions for voice and piano, recorded by the renowned soprano Sarah Leonard, accompanied by the composer; Entre Palabras (Quindecim 2005) which contains premiere recordings of Songs Between Words and his opera The Pillow Song, and his opera El Gallo (Quindecim 11207, 2012),

He was born in Cambridge, England and was a boy chorister at Jesus College, later graduating as pianist and composer from the Guildhall School of Music, obtaining a Masters degree from Durham University and a Doctorate from Hertfordshire University, UK. Awards include a Countess of Munster Trust Scholarship, Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust Scholarship, an Arts and Humanities Research Award, the 2005 McElwee Family Fellowship along with many commissions from Arts Council, England and internationally. He was founder and Artistic Director of Optemus (2002-5); Musical Director of Proteus Theatre, Spirals Theatre (1993-8) and European Youth Theatre (1994-98); Composer in Association with London Mozart Players (1994-6); Artistic Director Live Culture (ENO, 1995-6); Founder Chair of Opera & Music Theatre Forum (1993-94); Composer in Residence, West Sussex (1990-1994): Artistic Director of Modern Music Theatre Troupe (1985-94). During July 2005, he was resident composer at the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, San Francisco. He is currently Professor of Music Theatre at Central School of Speech & Drama, University of London, UK.


His book, Composing for Voice, was published by Routledge in 2004. He has also contributed two articles to the Encyclopedia of Peace (Oxford University Press, 2010), and a chapter on music for theatre in Devised & Collaborative Theatre (Crowood Press, 2002). He is a Research Consultant for Toshiba UK. He regularly presents papers at university conferences in the UK and abroad.