I was born in Liverpool in 1955 but grew up in Wrexham, North Wales. I'm of mixed Scottish and Welsh parentage and on my Welsh side I’m related to the composer Grace Williams - which did help encourage a positive attitude to my early attempts at ‘composing’ on my Nan’s old piano. Eventually, at the age of eleven, I was sent off for piano lessons which did not put a stop to it.
Piano lessons were good, but so was playing in bands: A few years later I took up the flute - inspired more by Tubby Hayes and Ian Anderson rather than anything officially classical. Consequently, most of the music I wrote as a teenager was as sort of jazzy prog-rock.
The earliest music on this site, however, dates from my music student days during the late seventies. I studied at University College Cardiff where my post-graduate composition tutor was Alun Hoddinott. My student compositions, mainly a collection of multi-movement sonatas, were still very much influenced by prog-rock which set me apart somewhat from the prevailing atonal/serial orthodoxy prevalent at the time. Three of these ‘Academic Sonatas’ (as I have since re-branded them) are now available - including my Op.1 - a sonata for flute and piano which has been recorded and is still regularly performed.
Heneghan & Lawson
After leaving academia in 1980 I formed a music production partnership with fellow post-graduate Ben Heneghan - a partnership that has lasted over 35 years and is still producing music for film and TV from our base at Fieldgate Studios near Cardiff. We spent most of the eighties co-writing pop music and TV music (including perhaps our best known work the theme song to Fireman Sam). Our pop music from this period provides much of the repertoire for the ‘The Boo-Hooray Theory’ - a 12-piece rock band that we occasionally reassemble. The band has also recorded an album called Follow the Gleam.
The Great Little Trains of Wales
A return to writing concert music was prompted by the score for a 1984 documentary series about the ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’ called Crwydro’r Cledrau (Wandering the Rails). For this series we wrote a great deal of thematic and picturesque music to accompany the various trains in their respective landscapes and soon realized that these ideas could also form the basis of a large (albeit unfashionably melodic) orchestral suite. We pitched the idea to the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra and they premiered the first movement Snowdon in a gala-type charity concert conducted by Louis Fremaux in June 1988. The piece was successful enough for the director of St. Davids Hall to program a second performance the following year in a Welsh Proms concert given by the Hallé orchestra, conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes.
The Great Little Trains stands apart from most of my concert music in that it was jointly composed (with Ben Heneghan) and derives from music originally written for film - there is not much sign of prog-rock here!
The Virtual Orchestra
Despite the success of Snowdon we were unable at that time to secure interest in a performance of the complete four movement 25 min work, a dissapointment that probably would have led both of us to abandon writing for orchestra if it wasn’t for the emerging new music technology that presented the possibility of producing electronic renditions of orchestral instruments. Learning this technology would at least give the opportunity for ourselves and others to hear our scores.
My next orchestral piece Celtic Fanfares 1, which later became the first movement in my four-movement work Celtic Fanfares, was released by Chandos Records on ‘Walking the Wild Rhondda’ a CD of orchestral music by Ben and myself produced using this virtual orchestral technology.
Recordings and Performances
A couple of years prior to this, however, another orchestral work Overland to the Sea saw the light of day when it was featured in a concert tour given by the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera in January 2000.
During the following couple of decades despite still writing media music pretty much full time I began build up a catalogue of concert works. Almost all were not commissioned - these were the pieces I really wanted to write - Some have been performed, some recorded, others not.
A couple of highlights are: Cantemus Chamber Choir Wales have recorded a number of my short choral works on ‘The Contingent World’
Lara James, The Will Todd Trio, and the Quartet recorded The Glittering Plain for Signum Classics.
In recent years I have enjoyed entering composing competitions - mainly for the motivation to write things I otherwise wouldn’t. Although it is disappointing when you don’t win, I have had my fair share of good luck:
In April 2016 my setting of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 104 ‘Three Years’ won first prize in The Fourth Choir’s inaugural composing competition. The first performance was given on the bard’s 400th anniversary in Middle Temple hall - the only still-standing hall in which it is known Shakespeare performed. Three Years has also subsequently been performed by the Ulster Youth Choir.
A month later High Aldons a piece for Northumbrian pipes, Accordion, Celtic harp, and Cello was shortlisted in the Alwinton music festival composing competition, and performed by Kathryn Tickell and the Side.