Andrew Toovey
Andrew Toovey - drawing by Nichal Aracchande


1962       1970       1980       1990       2000       2010       2020

1962Born 21 February, London, England. Father, James (1910-1977) was a painter and decorator from Brighouse, Yorkshire. Mother Margaret (1920-2006) is from Glasgow, Scotland. Sister Janet (1948) and brother Peter (1959).
1967-70Stonebridge Primary School, London where at the age of nine hearing a teacher play records of Mozart's Magic Flute Overture and Joan Baez decided I wanted to be a composer.
1970-74Moved to Bridge Road Primary School and joined St Michaels Church choir which sang the likes of Walton and Howells. Began private piano lesson. For the next ten years many small compositions were written, later to be played by members of the various orchestras I attended.
1974-77Sladebrook Secondary School, began to play at first the clarinet and cello, but fairly quickly moved on to the violin. Joined the Borough of Brent String Orchestra.
1977-81Moved to Brondesbury and Kilburn Secondary School to take '0' Levels and later 'A' Levels in Music (two), English and World Religions. Dropped the violin for viola and joined the Brent Youth Symphony Orchestra which played much new music.
1981-84The summer of this year was spent traveling around Europe, including seeing great Italian art, spending time in Bartok's house in Budapest and seeing the triple bill of Bluebeards Castle, Miraculous Mandarin and The Wooden Prince at the State Opera. It was Bartoks centenary year. This all made a deep impression on me. As did seeing Birtwistle's opera Punch and Judy.

BMus (Hons) Music degree at Surrey University, Guildford. As part of the degree also studied 20th Century Poetry with Morag Morris which greatly developed my love of poetry. Met many poets through her University poetry lectures, and wrote to a number including Larkin, Heaney, Gunn and Levi. During these three years much student composition was written, including first acknowledged work 'Winter Solstice' for voice and seven instrumentalists, settings of Japanese Haiku. Won the Joyce Dixey Award for composition with Auden setting 'Postscript' (withdrawn) in my second year of University. Wrote my first Rilke setting 'Ich bin Niemand' (withdrawn) for voice and large ensemble as a result of this prize. Became very involved in looking at and buying 20th Century art. Bought first Hayter prints (see cover of CD) at this time. Exhibited Hayter Print collection in University Library (via Elizabeth Estave-Col) Met various artists including Francis Bacon and Henry Moore.
1984-85Received a scholarship from the RVW Trust to do a Master'of Arts degree at Sussex University. Studied composition with Jonathan Harvey (my first teacher) and aesthetics with David Osmond-Smith. Continued this study to Master of Philosophy. Started attending The Dartington Summer School on the composition courses (and later with IXION) for next five years. Became friends with James Clapperton. Saw Francis Bacon Tate Exhibition many times. At the same time saw Adam and Eve paintings by Barnett Newman also at the Tate - major influence on my composing. Was joint winner of the Huddersfield Festival Yorkshire Arts Composers Prize with Veiled Wave 3 for guitar. Had private lessons with Michael Finnissy and became close friends. Pieces still existing from this time.
1986-87PGCE. Institute of Education London University.Studied composition with Morton Feldman at Dartington Summer School. A major change in my approach and attitude occured through working with him. He gave me the Tippett Award for Untitled String Quartet (1985). Cantec for viola and piano awarded the first prize in the Royal Over-Seas League Bernard Shore Viola Composition Award. Also wrote Ate for 16 players which won the Terra Nova Prize in 1988. Attended the Venice Biennale art exibition where Auerbach represented the UK. Also saw Mark Rothko Tate Exhibition many times.
1987Set up new music ensemble IXION with Peter Reynolds, to play young composers work and the music of Feldman, Cage etc. First concerts at Dartington and the BMIC. Dartington also had Toovey performances by Alan Hacker, Pierre Yves-Artaud, the Mistry String Quartet and James Clapperton. Wrote piano trio Shining Forth (my first real commission). Began music teaching for two days a week at Bishop Ramsey mixed secondary school in Hillingdon.
1988IXION plays a major new music part in Brighton Festival for next five years. From this year my music was recorded and regularly featured on BBC Radio 3, and various European stations. A good composing year, wrote among other works a music theatre work based on Artaud's The Spurt of Blood, and chamber works: White Fire, Shimmer Bright, Whisper(ingly) Crumbling (into) Silence, Lament, Strathspey, Reel, Fragments After Artaud and (nobody'll Know) which was awarded an RVW Trust Award. Visited Hayter Exhibition at Ashmolean Museum Oxford.
1989Black Light for 16 players, Rilke setting An die Musik (voice with vibraphone), Out Jumps Jack Death! for piano. Published by Boosey and Hawkes for next 5 years (Ate, Black Light and some smaller works). Clapperton releases CD including 2 Toovey works.
1990First visit to USA, concert in Albright-Knox Gallery. Featured in Oslo festival. IXION South Bank Debut in Purcell Room including first performance of Adam. IXION at the Bergen Festival 'Music Factory'. Traveling around Europe as part of John Cage's Europera 3 and 4 with John Cage himself. Two week holiday in Budapest with best friend Deirdre Henderson. Became friends with artist Julian Grater. IXION at Darmstadt, spent extended times in the Hessischen Landesmuseum with large collection of Joseph Beuys art works. Attended Covent Gardens 'Garden Venture' opera course held at Dartington, (met writers James Mavor and Karen Whiteson) and had IXION concert at the same time. Became friends with artist Bridget Riley. Visited 3 times Jasper Johns Haywood Gallery exhibition. Wrote another Rilke setting for voice and vibraphone Einsamkeit, released on Kitchenware CD by Nicola Walker Smith in 1991.
1991Saw Morton Feldman's opera Neither in Amsterdam while on holiday with my brother Peter. James Clapperton tours Fragments After Artaud extensively around Holland. Still Far Off (withdrawn) tour of UK. Huddersfield IXION concert featured on BBC 2 TV 'Late Show'. Wrote Mozart for strings of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Fallen, Rilke settings for voice and violin. Otherwise spent year writing chamber opera Ubu based on Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi. Met first director of Ubu Keith Turnbull.
1992Went to ICA Bruce Nauman exhibition with artist and composer Chris Newman. Concerts of music in France including IXION at AUCH festival. First visit to Dublin for holiday. Amsterdam IXION/SPNM concert. Detailed Tempo article by Michael Finnissy (issue 181 June 92). Six week visit to Banff Centre for the Arts Canada for rehearsals and performances of opera Ubu. (have been back 3 times since for other work) Black Light for 16 players performed by Ensemble Modern at ISCM Warsaw. Made 'composer' profile recordings for BBC World Service. IXION at Darmstadt. Visited 'Documents' at Kassel. Holiday in Rhodes with Deirdre. Adam performed at Gaudeamus New Music Week. Ubu tour with Music Theatre Wales.
1993Appointed Associate Composer for the Young Concert Artists Trust (until 1995). Among other works wrote Your Mouth for viola and percussion for YCAT. Most of the year spent on second chamber opera The Juniper Tree commissioned by Broomhill Opera. Over two years Ubu has two new productions in Germany (Hamburg and Saarbrucken). Composer on the Opera Factory South Bank Summer School (to 1996). Through this became friends with director Robert Chevara. Bought present home in Harlesden, London
1994Wrote Irish Settings for voice and viola and Out! for two pianos and orchestra for YCAT 10th Anniversary Concert in the QEH London. Met novelist James Purdy in New York. My third opera will be based on one of his novels. Became friends with Jenny Stein and sculptor John Davies. Worked with Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Stephen and Philip Langridge on educational project at Glyndebourne based on Birtwistle's opera The Second Mrs Kong. Holiday in Mexico with photographer Philippe Benfell which filled me with compositional fuel! Added Yoshi and Zeberde my siamese cats to my home.
1995Finish Come and Go for Musikfabrik of Dusseldorf for extended tour of Germany, including ISCM Festival in Essen. Eos, conducted by Charles Hazelwood tour Mozart in Germany. Wrote Acrobats for COMA (Contemporary Orchestral Music for Amateurs). Visited 'Lost Workers' Exhibition by Christian Boltanski at Halifax. Began relationship with the London Festival Orchestra working with primary schools on special projects. Trip to Japan for performances of piano work The Moon Falls Through the Autumn and saw many wonderful things including Kabuki Theatre performances and an array of 20th Century art. Friends with artist Peter Stanyer. Mostly working on orchestral piece Red Icon.
1996Red Icon performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra (and later in the year by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra). Wrote Still a piano piece for Spectrum the Associated Board's first book of contemporary piano works accessible to all ages and abilities. Frequent visitor to the Leon Kossoff Tate Gallery retrospective. Holidays in Rhodes with Deirdre, Thessalonki with brother Peter to visit John Davies and Tina, and Prague. Brief visits to Vienna, Budapest and Essen for performances. While in Vienna visited Alban Berg House at invitation of Finnissy and the ISCM. Wonderful! My mother develops dementia. CD of Fall for Saxophone released by Thomas Mejer on Earup, Basel label. Two education projects with ENO 'Baylis' programme and COMA 'Grimm Tale' music theatre project at Huddersfield Festival. Began Oboe Concerto (strings and harp).
1997First visit to the home and studio of Jack and Sue Smith for whom in 2002 I was to write the chamber ensemble piece, Music for the painter Jack Smith. Also started to collect the work of artist Peter Stanyer. I bought a big painting from him to celebrate the BBC Commission of my first orchestral piece Red Icon. Extensive work commenced on an Oboe Concerto commissioned by Dame Evelyn Barbirolli for the Isle of White oboe competition. Many wonderful lunches at her home to discuss this piece. Visits throughout the year to many art exhibitions including Frank Auerbach, Estelle Thompson, Julian Grater and on holiday in Spain to The Miro Foundation, Tapies Foundation (Ana Mendieta solo show) and first visit to Gaudi La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Working with the London Festival Orchestra, conducted by Ross Pople did a project that included talking to over 700 GCSE Music students in the QEH - rather scary! Wrote piano piece Techno Stomp for Stephen Gutman and a collection of Rilke poetry setting while in Banff Canada for the summer.
1998Back to Spain, this time Madrid and Seville with friend Deirdre Henderson this time to visit the wonderful collection of art at The Prado. Did two education projects with English Touring Opera and another with artist Estelle Thompson at the Warwick Arts Centre. On 14/05/1998 was interview for a part-time music post at Alperton Community School and got the job! Was composition tutor at the COMA summer school and heard a performance of Acrobats which was commissioned by COMA. I also went on to The Banff Centre, Canada for performances of musical theatre piece The Spurt of Blood with text by Artaud. Bruce Nauman exhibition at the Haywood Gallery in London and the Rauschenberg exhibition in Cologne while hearing a performance of my (nobody'll Know) for cello and piano. Also performance of ensemble piece Come and Go in Stockholm ISCM festival.
1999Met artist Alan Charlton at Annely Juda Gallery and bought a collection of 15 prints that have been helpful in guiding my thoughts on compositional structure. Also through Annely received a gift from Christo, famed for wrapping buildings and other things, of many signed prints which have been a great influence over the years. Many visits to the home of artist Bridget Riley (who I later wrote Splice (1991) for) and John Davies who had an exhibition of his drawings at Purdy Hicks Gallery. Made a visit to clarinettist Andrew Smith to see the Angel of the North by Gormley and attend some concerts at The Sage Gateshead. First trip to Marrakech in Morocco with ceramicist Lynda Stone where I was eventually to buy a second home. Holiday in Greece with Deirdre and trip to Amsterdam to hear Musik Fabrick perform Come and Go, and another trip to Stockholm, Sweden as the UK representative of the ECIM (European Composers Informal Meeting) devised by the BMIC. In October sang (as I regularly did over the years) in a Mozart Requiem conducted by Valery Hill (who was the first music teacher I worked with at Bishop Ramsey back in 1987) and also saw a marvellous Ken Kiff exhibition, for whom I later dedicated Red Bird (2002) to after a linocut of the same name.
2000Saw the Millennium in in style watching the London fireworks from the OXO Tower next to the Thames home of Pam Chavera, mother of director Robert Chavara. Robert was the director of English Touring Opera and just into the millennium I wrote a short chamber opera I'll be there> for you to an original libretto by Mark Ravenhill. Saw Birtwistle Gawain again as part of the new ROH and had my violin pieces played by Charles Mutter at the opening of an exhibition of work by Julian Grater in Reading. This included the new piece Transparencies written in this year.
2008A good start to the year with a weekend of Judith Weir's music at the Barbican Centre with a featured piece of Michael Finnissy, Red Earth. Also this was the year of Birtwistle's opera The Minotaur at ROH. My first trip to Seoul, Korea for performances by Michael Finnissy, the trip also included visits to Hong Kong and Tokyo. The Hadrian exhibition at the British Museum was excellent. Sang Chris Newman songs with Michael Finnissy at the piano as part of the Spitalfields Festival. Too many concerts and exhibitions to mention.
2009First time for seeing the wonderful opera by Korngold, Die tote stadt at ROH and also Janacek's Jenufa at ENO. Concerts of music by Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and enjoyed the art exhibitions of both Tim Hyman at Austin Desmond Fine Art and Estelle Thompson at Purdy Hicks Gallery. Bought a Prom Concert season ticket for the RAH that kept me busy throughout the summer. Started my on-going relationship with the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire by giving a talk on my music to students at BCU in October.
2010Trip to Shanghai, China and heard Chinese Peking opera live for the first time. Throughout the year heard many concerts including recitals by Maurizio Pollini and Evgeny Kissin among others and great seminal pieces by Varese, Messiaen, Feldman, Glass, Nyman, Lachenmann to name a few and exhibitions, the best one was Leon Kossoff's at Annely Juda's gallery. Main composition was on Ubu's Journey a 30 minute orchestral piece for IIan Volkov and the BBCSSO. Wrote Oldham for Coma Ensemble. Put a great deal of my work and other things that interested me on YouTube, and created my own channel.
2011Early Turkish holiday with my brother Peter. Simeon Stafford - Thompsons Gallery and Twombly - Dulwich Picture Gallery, exhibitions were my favourites of the year.. Concerts of Xenakis, Debussy opera Pelleas and Melisande were highlights as was another season of Proms Concerts, working at the CoMA Summer school and hearing my new orchestral piece Ubus Journey in Glasgow with the BBCSSO conducted by llan Volkov. Started composition teaching at Benslow Music in Hitchen and visited my niece, Rebecca in Brussels with my brother.
2012New Year's Day with Dhol Group from ACS performing in the London New Year's Parade. Barbican Centre performance of my teachers opera Wagner Dream and ROH performances of Judith Weir's opera Miss Fortune Ed Bennetts opera Jackie's Taxi (PR, SBC) as well as performances of Philip Glass, Nancarrow at the Purcell Room SBC and two Prom concerts of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder and the 'Cage Prom' were big highlights. The David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy was very exciting as well, I visited it a few times, once with photographer and friend Malcolm Crowthers who gave me a marvellous insight into the work.
2013The year started with lunch with Suzanne and Ian at his home, very tasty as always. Days later off to Amsterdam to see Philip Glass opera: Einstein on the beach, which was a wonderful start to my cultural year. I saw many films, concerts, operas and exhibitions throughout the year. A stream of good concerts and opera performance. Highlights were recitals by Soile Isokoski, Iestyn Davies, The Capucon brothers, all at the Wigmore Hall. Operas included, Lully's Phaeton, a rare Wagner Die Feen at the QEH, Berg's Wozzeck, Glass's The Perfect American, and two rarely heard Britten operas, Gloriana and Paul Bunyan. Then there were major excitements at the Proms Concerts, Stockhausen's music! A new piano concerto from Fred Rzewski, which he played wonderfully himself and excellent Glyndebourne Britten Billy Budd, and many Wagner operas including The Ring with Daniel Barenboim conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin. A wonderful triumph! Had a great holiday to see the Venice art biennale in October. This holiday summed up a very good year. Just at the end of the year wrote Breathless for Huw Watkins.
2014This year started with a string of Handel opera performances and made me think about the idea of composing a Handel-like opera, hence Narrow Rooms by James Purdy to a libretto by Michael Finnissy. They included, Jephtha, Theodora, and also other opera, Rameau Les Indes Galantes, Strauss Die Frau Ohne Schatten and Ariadne auf Naxos, Birtwistle's Yan tan tethera, Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites and Glass The Trial. I also enjoyed concerts of music by Villa-Lobos, Nyman and John Tavener. Huw Watkins gave the first performance of my new piano piece Breathless (2013/14) at The Forge in Camden and Jonathan Powell revived my first piano piece Artaud (1986) in a stunning performance in Oxford. I wrote a new ensemble piece Wenke (2014) for the Vieneese group Ensemble Reconsil. The ensemble Broken Consort gave the first performance of a new piece called Eyjafjallajokull (2014) after the Icelandic volcanic mountain that erupted that year. I also did a piano version of this piece. CoMA celebrated their 21st anniversary at St Johns Smith Square and performed a new fanfare I wrote called Walking Fanfare (2014). I also wrote a solo piano piece for Michael Finnissy called Where are we in this world (2014).
2015January 1st : Day out to Hastings with my brother Peter who is now thinking about moving there by the sea. Best exhibitions were those of Egon Schiele (Courtauld gallery) Carole Hensher (Printmakers Gallery), Jason Hicklin (Eames Gallery), who also gave a fascinating talk on the nature of his work, Alexander McQueen (V&A), The Celts (British Museum), and Ai Weiwei (RAA). The highlights of music events was: Opera - Ava's Wedding (Crescent Theatre Birmingham) by Michael Wolters, Wagner's Die Meistersingers of Nuremberg (ENO) and The Flying Dutchman (ROH), Weill's The Rise and Fall of the city of Mahagonny (ROH) and Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (ENO). Concerts I enjoyed this year were piano recitals by Benjamin Grosvenor and Alexander Melnikov at the Wigmore Hall, Maurizio Pollini (RFH), Daniel Barenboim's 4 recitals of Schubert sonatas on his own invented piano (RFH), the Pierre Boulez' total immersion weekend at the Barbican Centre, and the new orchestral pieces by Magnus Lindberg Accused: 3 interrogations for soprano (the wonderful Barbara Hannigan) and orchestra (RFH), and Richard Ayres No 48 (BH). Two Prom concerts including Michael Finnissy work and premier of Janne for orchestra was a highpoint of the season. Finished teaching and head of music position at Alperton Community School in July, and in October started a funded M3C Composition PhD at BCU Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, while still teaching composition part-time. For the end of the year, holiday in Venice, Italy to see the art biennale. Two trips to Norfolk to see Michael Finnissy and Philip Adams with Peter (my brother) and Morgan Hayes. Trip to Benslow Music as composition teacher, and the year ended perfectly with lots of friend and family activities.
2016Once again the first day of 2016 was another day out in Hastings where my brother, Peter, now lives since November. I had some great performances of my music this year (see the performances page for all the information on them). A trip to Beijing, China in May was fantastic, with composers/Thallein performers from The Birmingham Conservatoire. Starting up my ensemble IXION with two concerts at the CoMA Summer School in August was an excellent start to my plans for the ensemble's future. Throughout the year over fifty visits to concerts, operas, art exhibitions, films many of which are listed in my 'listening/looking log' on my PHD Thesis page. Highlights included the multi Michael Finnissy events celebrating his 70th Birthday, operas by Philip Glass, Gerald Barry, Leos Janacek and Wagner including Opera North's marvellous complete Ring at the RFH. Art highlights included visits to see the work of John Davies, Nek Chand, Armando Alemdar, Geogia O'Keeffe and the 'We are all human' SBC exhibition of 'Offenders' art. Saw many films, and especially enjoyed The Dutch Girl, Julieta, Moonlight, Koyaanisqatsi and a marathon Star Trek day. Among many new compositions I heard this year I especially enjoyed those by Robert Crehan, Patrick Giguere, Samuel Bordoli, Ryan Latimer, Tazul Tajuddin, and many student composer concerts at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. I know this year we lost a lot of composers, musicians and important figures generally, we also had Brexit and Trump to worry us, but I'm lucky to have some good friends and family around me so this helps a lot. The year ended with a very special Christmas time with many of my family and friends and I was pleased with my compositions this year, so all in all it was a good year.
2017I composed some eight pieces, mostly smaller in scale as I have been working on my chamber opera Narrow Rooms. I've also been too many varied concert/exhibitions/operas/ films (a selected list can be seen at the end of the PHD thesis page) but highlights include: Exhibitions: James Ensor and Jasper Johns at the RAA, Rauschenberg, Giacometti , Zeid at Tate Modern, Grayson Perry at the Serpentine, Harriet Riddell exhibition at the GX Gallery London and a marvellous trip to the Venice Biennale. Concerts of music by Laurence Crane, Joe Cutler, Sorabji, Philip Glass, New Music Dublin, Ben Smith piano recital, celebration concert of Skempton/Roxburgh, Handel/Jaroussky and operas by Glass (Einstein on the beach - Dortmund opera) and Mussorgsky's Kovanchina at the Proms. Somehow I managed to keep up with friends and family and enjoy working with the many composers at the Royal (yes it became this in September this year) Birmingham Conservatoire as well. The focus on my new opera has been a massive presence overshadowing a lot of my thoughts this year and I hope to have the work completed in June 2018. Aside from the opera I seem to have become obsessed with simple piano pieces and collections of songs/settings with violin accompaniment. The years ends with a quiet Christmas with my brother in Hastings and reflecting on the year I feel it has mostly gone well in terms of my creative activities. Let's see what 2018 has to offer!
2018The year started well with the Oxford CoMA String Course where I worked with the composers who wrote pieces for the String Orchestra. Early events included hearing new orchestral pieces from the RAM students, BBC Radio 3 concerts at LSO St. Luke's featuring performances by Xenia Pestova and Sarah Nicolls, a sculpture exhibition by John Davies in Turner Contemporary in Margate, art exhibitions by Jason Hicklin and Nick Wadley in London and a few days composition teaching in The Hague Conservatoire. Working on the composition of my chamber opera Narrow Rooms, while finishing various poetry settings by Colin Blundell, Mark Storey and Richard Cutler were important for me to complete. I had a complete focus on completing all the planned pieces for my PhD submission in September 2018, and writing a comprehensive and extensive commentary on my work to accompany the compositions was a daunting task.

Even so many concerts, films and exhibitions were still an important focus during this time and hearing the first performance of Gerald Barry's Organ Concerto in the RFH, Patrick Gigure's new orchestral piece for the LSO at the Barbican, Ben Smith's two piano recitals (at Milton Court, Guildhall and later in the year at Regent Hall Oxford Street) and concerts celebrating the music of Greg Rose (St John's Smith Square), Ed Bennett (City University) and new operas by Philip Venables (Hammersmith) and Dani Blanco Albert (RADA) were all highlights of the year. IXION Ensemble performed Norfolk composers in Norwich as part of the CoMA Festival in March and later in the year CoMA also performed my Acrobats piece, originally written for them in St John's Smith Square, London. Because of extensive commentary writing I only saw a few Prom Concerts, but did manage to get to ones by The Berlin Phil, Boston Symphony and a marvellous performance of Handel's Theodora opera. I also loved the Christo exhibition at the Serpentine gallery and his London Mastaba.

Once the PhD was submitted I had a celebratory trip to New York with brother Peter and friend Andrew Smith, seeing concerts by Philip Glass Ensemble, Yuja Wang and the Bruce Nauman exhibition at MOMA. It was a very exciting trip and spending time as a tourist was fantastic. After this I then had visits to the Assyrians (British Museum), Anni Albers (Tate Modern), Art in Clay (Farnham) Oceania (RAA) and the film Peterloo was a favourite on screen. Ending the year teaching the composition course in Benslow Music and Christmas with my brother in Hastings was a very relaxing end to a busy year, especially the completion of my PhD.
20192019 started with a feature on four things, New Year with my brother, a Cafe Oto Fred Rzewski concert, the affordable art fair and my PhD viva. All were fun and the PhD was awarded to me the day before my birthday which is on 21st February. Soon after this Florian Steininger performed my pieces Queer Sensibility and Conjoined (piano duets written with Rob Roberts) at Schott Music Rooms in London. In various concerts over the month's highlights I heard were pieces by Rob Crehan (Schott music and Milton Court, Guildhall), Geoff Hannon (Milton Court), David Breeze (Reading), Simion Ten Holt (City University), Stockhausen's vast Das Licht (RFH), Elgar's epic Dream of Gerontius, and the Mela Guitar Quartet (Purcell Room, SBC). Proms highlights for me were: Messiaen Des Canyons aux Étoiles, and concerts of Varese/Walton, Yuja Wang (Rachmaninov 3rd Piano Concerto), Handel opera Jeptha, Bruckner Symphinies, including the concert featuring the great conductor Bernard Haitink. Favourite exhibitions were by Armando Alemdar (Zari Gallery, London), Frank Bowling (Tate Britain) and Bridget Riley (Haywood Gallery, SBC. Films: The Last Tree, Joker and Almodóvar's Pain and Glory. Trips to Sheringham in Norfolk, Dublin (for Philip Glass Ensemble concerts and fantastic art exhibition of Lucian Freud and Jack B Yates with Andrew Smith) and Krakow, Poland for a holiday round off this year's work and enjoyment. And finally I should mention the two operas that I originally saw nearly 30 years ago and have both been wonderfully performed this year: Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park first performed in The Almeida Theatre in 1990 and Harrison Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus - first performed by ENO in 1986. I hope I don't have to wait another 30 years to see them again!
2020What a year! Saw the New Year in in Battersea at Leila's with Morgan, Malcolm, Suzanne et al. Art exhibitions: William Blake at Tate Britain (with Janey Davey and David Breeze), Islington Affordable Art Fair (with Suzanne Hartley and Armando Alemdar), Picasso at the RAA (with Rochelle Haussman). Opera's and concerts included in January to March: Wozzeck New York Met opera streamed in Notting Hill Cinema, wonderful Jarousky and later Tiberghien Wigmore Hall recitals, St Paul's Orchestra concert featuring John Carmichael's piano concerto performed by Antony Gray. Concerts at the Ashmolian, Oxford and the RAM (featuring Cole Wilson's orchestral piece), Howard Skempton's King's Place concert of his Preludes for piano, Horizon Voices at St Mark's Maida Vale conducted by James Rhodes and at The Royal Opera House, Gerald Barry's opera: Alice Adventures in Wonderland, a specticular performance.

During this time I was also composer/teacher for an educational project and workshops for CoMA and the Nonesuch Orchestra that included working with secondary school students (16-18) on new pieces for the Nonesuch Orchestra concert in St. Albans Church, Acton, London. Also in early March IXION Ensemble performed as part of the CoMA Festival three repeated concerts including Mankind by Michael Finnissy and new pieces by Leo Grant, Morgan Hayes and myself. CoMA Festival concert in Mile End was the end of what has become known as 'normal' times when Covid-19 reared it's ugly head.

Then all plans changed. With restrictions in place I began to cycle and walk more regularly than in recent years, both to excercise, but also to get out into the world. I started to watch far more streamed operas on the Met opera site and especially enjoyed Akhenaten, Eugene Onegin, Electra, Boris Godunov, Mahagonny and Hansel and Gretel. Listening to lots of CD's and putting some of my rare 78rpm records recordings of music from around the world onto Youtube and films of walks and cycle rides along the canal and parks within London featuring ducks, swans, coots and Egyptian geese with babies adding some of my piano pieces to accompany these wonderful birds.I also wrote the piano piece 'Passing' that I recorded for youtube and reflects my initial mood in late March.

While still enjoying composition teaching (both live and online) at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire I was also composer in residence at the Tchaikovsky Academy and Conservatoire in Moscow (online only) which was fantastic and very enjoyable to be part of, and there was also a streamed performance of my early piano trio Shining Forth. I wrote a piece for CoMA tenor horn performer Karen Burnell and husband Paul (on oboe) - 'I me you we us'.

Perhaps my most treasured musical memory of 2020 was a short trip to Berlin to hear my new percussion Quartet 'Yunomi', performed at the end of August. Having the chance to hear something live within a concert will not be forgotten, and is a reminder of how concerts, musicians, operas, art exhibitions, films in cinemas and many other things are so important to me. The year ended quietly at home watching TV and a microwave meal for both Christmas and the New Year celebrations!
2021As in 2020 I continued to walk (often with friends), cycle and surprising by about July was seeing some art exhibitions, opera, plays, films and even went to 10 BBC Prom concerts at the Royal Albert Hall (including wonderful performances of Stravinsky, Wagner, Korngold, Glass, Beethoven and Mahler). Art Exhibitions I most enjoyed were Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Paula Rego, William Hogarth (all at Tate Britain) JR - Can art change the world? (Saatchi Gallery), Alan Lowndes (Crane Kalman Gallery), two Arts fairs and Redlees open studio. Plays: Death of a Black Man (Hampstead Theatre), Happy Days (Riverside Studios), Princess - London's Queer Georgians at the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and The Lady of Willesden (Kiln Theatre). Films I enjoyed the most were Dune, A Quiet Place 2, An Actors Revenge and Macbeth.

Live Opera and concerts are an essential part of my life and highlights were seeing Tippett Midsummer Marriage (RFH), Glass Satyagraha, Wagner Die Walkure, (both ENO) Puccini Tosca, Verdi Nabucco (both ROH) and concerts by The Philharmonia Orchestra featuring Beethoven 3rd Piano Concerto played by Uchida Mitsuko with the final concert of Esa Pekka Salonen was fantastic and the first live concert I went to in 2021 (July 10th RFH). Performances of Messiaen (Vingt Regards) by Jean-Bernard Marie (St. James Piccadilly), Kensington Philharmonic Orchestra performing Debussy, Saint-Saens and Bizet (Chelsea Town Hall), Glass concert featuring The Labeque sisters (RFH), Rowland Sutherland Jazz Festival concert (QEH). And visits to The Sky Garden and Kew Gardens were a very pleasurable experience.

The release of a CD and performances of my percussion quartet Yunomi (2020) were a wonderful surprise and I am looking forward to hearing new commissions - as and when (2021) for CoMA Voices and a new piece (still not named) for solo oboe as part of the RAM 200 Anniversary. I joined the publishing group, Composers Edition, which is looking after a good collection of my works. I also enjoyed being back in person in teaching at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

So 2021 had to say the least it's ups and downs, but the moments outlined above have keep a positive attitude and I hope 2022 will grow in positive possibilities. The most important thing this year was spending time with my friends.
20222022 started with a lovely visit to Kew Gardens seeing a spectacular display of Christmas and New Year themes. Opera, among others included Handel's Theodora at ROH (saw Swan Lake there as well), Solomon (at the BBC Proms featuring the fantastic countertenor Lestyn Davies), a concert performance of the wonderful Il Prigioniero by Dallapiccola (very rare to hear) to Poul Rouders The Handmaid's Tale at ENO. Concerts included The Budapest Philharmonic performing The Rite of Spring (RFH) Martha Argerich's Wigmore Hall piano duet recital, over the year three concerts with the Kensington Philharmonic Orchestra at the Chelsea Old Town Hall, Gavin Bryars concert with the Addison Singers conducted by David Wordsworth, Stephen Gutman piano recital, Rob Crehan new work with LCO at St. John's Smith Square, Ollie Turvey (or OT as he is now known) performing his own work at the wonderful Iklectik centre in Waterloo. Filippo Perocco Nosferatu film music at King's Place. The Third Orchestra with Peter Wiegold at Paddington. Andrew Smith performed the Copland Clarinet Concerto and later in the year performed with the Clarinet Society at St Paul's Covent Garden. Jonah Raes new choir work at St Alfege's Church in Greenwich, Lawrence Powers viola concert at the Purcell Room SBC featuring Cassandra's Miller and more of her work at the Wigmore Hall with the marvelous Quatuor Bozzini. Also BBC Proms featuring Yuja Wang, Mahler (symphonies 1, 2 and 7), Bach Mass in B Minor, Elgar The Dream of Gerontius and Nicholas Hodges performing in Betsy Jolas's piano concerto.

A daft amount of excellent art exhibitions were seen in the year including Peru at the British Museum, Francis Bacon at the RA, Japan, and William Kentridge also at the RA From Island to Island and Walter Sickert at Tate Britain, Van Gogh at The Courtauld Gallery. Almando Alemdar exhibition at the Zari Gallery. George Rowlett 80th Birthday exhibition at Artspace Islington. Jason Hicklin and Norman Ackroyd at Eames Fine Art, Marcel Dzama at David Zwirner Gallery, Chris Shurety at City Lit. Peter Smith ceramics at Redlees Art. And art fairs, print fairs and ceramics fairs throughout the year.

Great films included: Scream, Belfast, Moonfall, The Outfit, Elvis, Avatar.

Composing has been less than usual (maybe because I go to too many events!) but I wrote Reliquary for solo oboe (dedicated to Sir Harrison Birtwistle who sadly died this year) for the RAM 200 anniversary. Glimpse, seven settings of poems by Walt Whitman for solo voice and viola. Also I am currently writing a Piano Concerto with String Orchestra for Antony Gray due to be performed next year. Also keeping busy with my composition teaching at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and CoMA with Nonesuch String Orchestra. Trips to visit the Venice Biennale, friend Joyce in Berwick-upon-Tweed and Christmas at my brothers in Hastings were fantastic.
20232023 started with a wonderful week with CoMA Mid-Winter course in early January at St Hilda's Oxford working with composers writing for the string orchestra. Also very enjoyable was being the external composition examiner at the RCM - hearing/meeting so many talented composers was a joy. I then started writing a piano concerto which is still to be completed. Also in October a visit to a Philip Glass Ensemble concert (Music in 12 parts) got me started on a new String Orchestra piece - Perception which developed after a trip to Pere Lachaise Cemetery to pay respects to the recently departed Kaija Saariaho on October 7th! Also sadly the funeral of my piano teacher Gerald Willis who was a very early inspiration to me in my teens, along with poet, artist, composer Colin Blundell and wonderful singer Keel Watson (who sang in the first performances of my second opera The Juniper Tree and I had recently seen in Wagner's Ring cycle at Regent Opera and Iolanthe at ENO) all greatly missed. The year was busy with various events (outlined below) and ended with a lovely Christmas/New Year in Hastings with my brother Peter.

If going often to the opera, concerts, art exhibitions and films is seen as a distraction then I was certainly distracted by them in 2023! Sometimes a break from composing can be a refreshing element in my life, I did manage some composing but like when monitoring daily walking/steps - 'you did less this year than you did last year' etc etc. So in date order:

The opera going year started well with a new one by Brian Irvine, and also at ROH - Barber of Seville, Tanhausser, Turandot, Innocence (Saariaho + Barbican immersive day dedicated to her music), Wozzeck, Jephtha and Woman at Point Zero by Bushra El-Turk. At ENO (thankfully still going!) Das Rheingold, Die Tote Stadt, Akhnaten, Peter Grimes, 7 Deaths of Callas, and Regent Opera performing Die Walkure, Judith Weir's Blond Eckbert at Barbican theatre and Ian Wilson's opera at Spitalfields (also including concerts featuring music by Michael Finnissy). Concerts included performances by Irvine Arditti (+ quartet and marvelous counter tenor son at Wigmore Hall) Sam Cave at City Uni. Shinuh Lee at Somerset House, London Sinfonietta Birtwistle concert at QEH, CoMA at RAM, Stephen Montague 80th Birthday concert at St John;s Smith Square, Joseph Havlat Kings Place piano recital, Andrew Ball's memorial concert at RCM, The Nonesuch String Orchestra concerts at both East Sheen and The Strand, Concerts including music by Morgan Hayes and Michael Blake played by Darragh Morgan and Mary Dullea at Royal Holloway Uni and the RAM, Panto by Adam de la Cour at BBC Maida Vale studios, Gwyn Pritchard 75th Birthday concert at the October Gallery in London and Gavin Bryars 80th Birthday celebration concert at The Barbican, LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme workshops featuring Rob Crehan, Rafael Marino Arcaro and Robin Haigh. RAM Polish trio concert including pieces by students from RAM and RBC. Elise Lorraine concert including my Rilke vocal settings, Splendor - Amsterdam. Also I went to thirty five BBC Prom Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and thoroughly enjoyed them and do not want to pick out my favourites as it would take up more space!

Films included Plane, Babylon, The Whale, Sisu, Oppenhemer, Equalizer 3, A haunting in Venice, the Creator and more. Art exhibitions included Monika Beisners exhibition at Art Space gallery, Gilbert and George at their new gallery in Spitalfields, Armando Alemdar in Zari Gallery, Beth Carter at Beaux Arts in Bath, Brian Clarke in Newport Street Gallery, Peter Smith at Redlees Studios, London, Philip Guston Tate Modern, Marina Abramovic RAA and The Koestler Exhibition at the South Bank Centre. Here's to 2024!

Andrew Toovey - stitched portrait (face)Andrew Toovey - stitched portrait (reverse)
Andrew Toovey - Stitched portrait (showing both sides of the material) by Harriet Riddell 2016

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