John Alexander (born 12 October 1942, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, UK) studied composition with Edmund Rubbra at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London in the early 1970’s. From 1979 to ’83 he studied at the University of Sussex as a mature student (gaining a BA Hons degree in music and an MA in composition and analysis) and where his teachers were Jonathan Harvey and Peter Weigold. During his time as an undergraduate, John’s mixed ensemble piece for young people, fusion, was selected by Trevor Wishart and Roger Marsh from an entry of 129 works for a performance at the Concordia Composers’ Forum, St Katherine’s College, Liverpool.
In 1999 John won the 1st British and International Bass Forum Composition Competition with abalone for unaccompanied double bass, and was subsequently appointed as a jury member of the 2001, 2003 and 2008 BIBF Composition Competitions. This success has led to a large number of ongoing requests and commissions to compose music for the double bass. He was a featured composer at Bass-Fest 2001 in Newbury and composer-in-residence at the 2004 Rotterdam Conservatoire Double Bass Weekend, at Bass-Fest 2006 in Sherborne, Dorset and Bass-Fest 2013 in Frome, Somerset. In 2002 John Alexander received the audience prize at the Scottish Bass Weekend, RSAMD, Glasgow for his double bass quartet unquiet air. His music for double bass was also a feature of festivals in Odense, Denmark (2005), in Seattle, USA (2010) and at the Mittenwald International Masterclass and Double Bass Camp 2016 near Munich, Germany.
John became a short-listed composer to the Society for the Promotion of New Music during the years 2001-03 that included the opportunity of writing for the C4K (composing for kids) project. Having served as an assistant composer at Hastings in 2003 and Norwich 2004, John Alexander was appointed lead composer on the spnm’s award winning sound inventors composition scheme for young people (creative director, Alasdair Nicolson) at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff in 2005.
Recent commissions include soft rains, a set of three poems by Sara Teasdale with two instrumental interludes for mezzo soprano, clarinet and piano, which was premiered at the Sherborne Abbey Festival in May, 2006; leavings, seven pieces for clarinet, violin, cello and piano, premiered in June 2006 at the Warehouse in London by Diagolos and received a second performance a month later by Contemporary Consort at the King’s Lynn Festival; and six Somerset Folksongs, new piano accompaniments commissioned by Sarah Poole and the Somerset Collective, received their premieres in April, 2008 at Wells Cathedral School, Somerset.
Three pieces for double bass have been recently included in the Trinity/Guildhall Board’s list of graded examinations. They are: gridlock waltz from the collection called traffic trials (Grade 2); interior (after edouard vuillard) from the collection called portfolio (Grade 4); and self portrait (after francis bacon), also from portfolio (Grade 5). These pieces are available from www.recitalmusic.net
In San Diego, USA, Nancy and Bertram Turetzky recorded John’s rain spirit passing on their CD of music for flute and double bass, released early in 2011 on Imaginary Chicago Records.
to be continued…