“Composing is an amazing thing. When it’s flowing, when I’m engrossed, when I utterly lose track of time – those are the best times. And the intensity of creation is closely matched by the thrill when a new piece is brought to life by musicians. But there’s one further summit – the first performance itself, when the new piece speaks directly to the audience. It’s that process of unveiling, and the reactions of the audience members to what has been unveiled, that really makes it all worthwhile.”
Ian’s music has been performed by ensembles including the Choir of King’s College Cambridge, Brodsky Quartet, Fitzwilliam Quartet, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé and Royal Northern Sinfonia. In 2004 he was shortlisted for the British Composer Awards for Crosby Symphony Overture. He was among ten composers commissioned to write a piece for the 10th anniversary of Ensemble 10/10 in 2007. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, for narrator and orchestra, was performed by the RLPO, with Michael Rosen narrating, at the 2013 BBC Proms, Sunday 1 September, and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. Many of his works are available from Composers Edition, either as print copies or pdfs, and many are available to view online on nkoda. Listen on SoundCloud.
“Stephens’ musical language is hallmarked by strong thematic ideas and driven by the power of bold rhythmic motifs and sonorous combinations of instruments or voices.” (Andrew Stewart, BBC Proms programme, 1 September 2013)
Pinocchio, a children’s ballet commissioned by Northern Ballet, is opening on 26 October 2021. I’m really excited about this. The wonderful choreography and scenario are by Gavin McCaig, based on the story by Carlo Collodi. Gorgeous designs by Frankie Bradshaw. Rehearsals are looking wonderful.
The Clarinet Concerto, commissioned by Kensington Chamber Orchestra with funding from the Nicholas Berwin Charitable Trust and Damian Edwards, is scored for 2222.2200.T.str, and lasts about 25 minutes. To hire performance materials, please get in touch via the contact form.
A Song for the Season of Creation, commissioned by the Environment Working Group of the Church of England for St Bride’s Choir and setting words by Malcolm Guite, is in lots of versions, designed to be performed together: Unaccompanied Mixed Choir (SS, AA, TT, BB), Upper Voice Choir (S, S, A) + keyboard, Male Voice Choir (T, Bar, B) + keyboard, Mixed Voice Choir (S, A, Men) + keyboard, Unison Voices + keyboard, Unison Voices + simplified keyboard and chords, Lead Sheet. Sheet music and rehearsal files are available to download for free as well as the recording of the SATB version by St Bride’s Choir.
Premieres coming up:
• Pinocchio, a children’s ballet commissioned by Northern Ballet, opens in Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds, on 26 October 2021. Choreography by Gavin McCaig, story by Carlo Collodi. For clarinet (doubling alto sax), viola, cello and piano. Also orchestrated; orchestral version to be recorded by Northern Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Philip Ellis, in November 2021.
• North Country for string quartet, commissioned by Paul Bryant, performed by the Chapel Street Ensemble, Chapel Street Methodist Church, Chapel St, Penzance TR18 4AW, Cornwall, 31 October 2021, 3pm
• Ha’n mor-tyd morlenow (As the sea-tide flows) for solo piano, for Phillip Leslie, commissioned by Truro Three Arts, to be premiered on 12 November 2021, 7.30pm, at Mylor Theatre, Truro College, TR1 3XX
• Carricknath for Clarinet and Orchestra for the Concerto Class of the 2022 Cornwall Music Festival, commissioned by the Radford Trust, to be premiered on 16 March 2022 at Truro Methodist Church, 18 Union Place, Truro TR1 1EP
• Duo for Violin and Cello, commissioned by Stephen Lustig and Alison Atkinson; details of performers and venue to be announced
• Song of Hope for unaccompanied mixed choir (text by Thomas Hardy), commissioned by Manchester Chamber Choir for performance in the 2021-22 season
• Hummingbird for unaccompanied mixed choir and unison choir plus body percussion, commissioned by Finchley Children’s Music Group and its director Grace Rossiter, to be premiered in the 2021-22 season
• Mount’s Bay for unaccompanied mixed choir (text by Humphrey Davy), commissioned by Nicholas Stephens for Camerata Kernow and its director Nigel Wicken, to be premiered in the 2021-22 season
• Unruhige Träume for unaccompanied mixed choir (text by Franz Kafka), commissioned by Deutscher Chor London and their director Barbara Höfling, one of their Corona Commissions, to be premiered in the 2021-22 season
• Colston Falls for brass band commissioned by the National Youth Brass Band of Wales and their conductor Philip Harper, originally for premiere in July 2020 but now postponed until July 2022 because of Covid-19. Colston Falls is featured in British Bandsman.
• Ramiform for solo double bass, for the Royal Academy of Music‘s bicentenary project, premiered online on 5 July 2021 by Alexander Jones.
• Gàir na mara for soprano, flute, clarinet and violin, performed by students of Chetham’s School of Music, Friday 1 November 2019, 6pm, Carole Nash Recital Room, Royal Northern College of Music, 124 Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9RD. Part of New Music Manchester festival.
• Sounds and Sweet Airs: Choirs and Orchestra of Sherborne School for Girls, conducted by John Jenkins, Wednesday 26 June 2019, Sherborne School for Girls, Bradford Rd, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 3QN
• A Song for the Season of Creation: St Bride’s Choir, Sunday 26 May 2019, 5.30pm, St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8AU
• Clarinet Concerto: Mandy Burvill and Kensington Chamber Orchestra conducted by Tom Seligman, Saturday 11 May 2019, 7.30pm, St Peter’s Notting Hill, Kensington Park Rd, London W11 2PN
• Springhead Echoes and Clarinet Quintet : Mandy Burvill and Fitzwilliam String Quartet, 24 November 2018, All Hallows Church, Savernake Rd, London
• Bassoon Sonata: Matthew Dodd and Sam Laughton, 4 August 2018, Pigotts Music Camp
• To the Atlantic: Liverpool Philharmonic Children’s Choir and Melody Makers, Orchestra of In Harmony Liverpool, conducted by Rod Skipp, 7 July 2018, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
• Tunnel Vision: Brighouse and Rastrick Band conducted by David Thornton, 28 January 2018, Royal Northern College of Music Brass Band Festival, Manchester
• Three Cornish Songs (SATB and piano): Camerata Kernow conducted by Nigel Wicken, 10 December 2017, St Mary’s Penzance
He is a Composition Tutor at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester. He is a composer-mentor on the Rushworth Young Composer scheme, run by Liverpool Philharmonic; he has mentored Joshua Quinlan (2017-18), Armand Rabot (2018-19), Jay Palombella (2019-20) and Nieve Mannion (2020-21).
Three of his works are available on CD: A Wailing on the Wind for string quartet and storyteller, Timepieces: Three Auden Lyrics for choir and alto saxophone, and Ultramarine for brass quintet, which is on the CD Something Blue.