Howard Skempton was born in Chester in 1947, and has worked as a composer, accordionist, and music publisher. He studied in London with Cornelius Cardew from 1967 (helping to organize the Scratch Orchestra) and Cardew helped him to discover a musical language of great simplicity. Since then he has continued to write undeflected by compositional trends, producing a corpus of more than 300 works – many pieces being miniatures for solo piano or accordion. Skempton calls these pieces “the central nervous system” of his work.
Skempton’s catalogue of works is also as diverse as it is long, ranging from pieces for solo cello (Six Figures, 1998), and guitar (Five Preludes, 1999), to the Chamber Concerto for fifteen players, the Concerto for Hurdy-Gurdy and Percussion and Lento, premièred by the BBC Concert Orchestra in October at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2006.
Many of his compositions have been recorded, including the hugely successful Lento for orchestra on the NMC label by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the piano works performed by John Tilbury on the Sony Classical label and Shiftwork by Ensemble Bash, also on Sony Classical, to name a few.
Works have been commissioned and performed by other leading artists including the BBC, Ensemble Bash, OKEANOS, and New Noise, and a chamber work for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s ‘Ensemble 10/10’ was premièred in May 2007. Skempton recently completed a large scale orchestral work for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and James Gilchrist, which was premièred at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival on 6th September 2007 and broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and a setting of John Drinkwater’s poetry to celebrate 30 years of the Coull Quartet’s residency at Warwick University, which was performed by the Coull Quartet and the University of Warwick Chamber Choir in March 2008.