© Faith Clark

Ian Stephens is a composer and arranger of increasing renown, with a string of high-profile commissions from professional arts organisations over many years. His original music has been widely performed in the UK and further afield by ensembles including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Brodsky Quartet, Fitzwilliam Quartet, Choirs of King’s College Cambridge and Salisbury Cathedral, and Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, and has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4. His children’s ballet Pinocchio, for Northern Ballet, opened in October 2021 and tours February-April 2022. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, his children’s entertainment for narrator and orchestra, was performed by the RLPO, with Michael Rosen narrating, at the Royal Albert Hall in 2013 as part of the BBC Proms. 

In his music Ian seeks to reconcile a wide variety of techniques within his own style, incorporating elements of both tonality and atonality, both rhythmic definition and free rhythm, and blending conventional notation and performance techniques with a more experimental approach. His aim is to write music with a sincere and heartfelt meaning, not shying away from the extremes. “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, 2013).

Forthcoming projects include a CD of his chamber music with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet, a concerto for double bass and strings for Toby Hughes, a new work for St Helens Youth Brass Band, and an orchestral suite from his score for Pinocchio.

Recent highlights include Ramiform for solo double bass (2020, written for the 200th birthday of the Royal Academy of Music), Clarinet Concerto (2019, written for his wife Mandy Burvill), the large-scale Super Slow Way: A Rhapsody to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal(2016) with lyrics by Ian McMillan, much chamber music including North Country (string quartet, 2021), Springhead Echoes (string quartet, 2017), Bassoon Sonata (2014) and Ultramarine (brass quintet, 2012), and choral pieces including Salisbury Service (2016) and Cecilia Speaks (2015). 

Ian is a skilled and highly effective arranger in both directions, from small forces to large (e.g. piano to orchestra) and from large to small (e.g. orchestra to string quartet), as well as in creating bespoke string and orchestral arrangements for artists including OMD, Cate Le Bon, Ian Broudie, Boris Grebenshchikov, Black and Fish; he created all the orchestrations for ‘And In The End’, a tour with the Bootleg Beatles and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (2019, 2022). See arrangements.

Ian was born in Sidmouth, Devon, in 1974. He was a keen participant in school choirs and orchestras (as a cellist), and was a longstanding member of Devon Youth Choir and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. Particularly inspiring were cello lessons with Ruth Lass and music lessons at Exeter School with Simon Foxall and Julian Sutton. Ian began composing while in his early teens, and some early pieces were performed at school. He studied Music at Bristol University (BA, 1st class, 1995; MA in Musicology, 1997), with composition lessons from Adrian Beaumont. Ian was an editor on the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians between 1998 and 2000; he taught Music part-time at the University of Liverpool and at Liverpool Hope University between 2000 and 2002. 

Now based near Liverpool, he takes a full part in the musical life of the city and the region as a composer, performer and workshop leader. He is a mentor on the Rushworth Young Composer scheme, a Composition Tutor at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, and leads the Cambiata Choir (for boys with changing voices) of the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir.