Sally Beamish

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Sally Beamish
Born (1956-08-26) 26 August 1956 (age 64)
London, England

Sarah Frances Beamish OBE (born 26 August 1956) is a British composer and violist. Her works include chamber, vocal, choral and orchestral music. She has also worked in the field of music, theatre, film and television, as well as composing for children and for her local community.

Life and career[edit]

Sarah F Beamish was born on 26 August 1956 in London, to Tony and Ursula Beamish.[1] She studied viola at the Royal Northern College of Music, where she received composition lessons from Anthony Gilbert and Lennox Berkeley. She later studied in Germany with the Italian violist Bruno Giuranna.

As a violist in the Raphael Ensemble, she recorded four discs of string sextets. However, it was as a composer that she made her mark, particularly after moving from London to Scotland. She has written a large amount of music for orchestra, including two symphonies and several concertos (for violin, viola, cello, oboe, saxophone, saxophone quartet, trumpet, percussion, flute and accordion). She has also written chamber and instrumental music, film scores, theatre music, and music for amateurs.

In September 1993, Beamish received the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for outstanding achievement in composition. In 1994 and 1995 she co-hosted the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) composers' course in Hoy with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

From 1998 to 2002, she was composer in residence with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the SCO, for whom she wrote four major works.

Beamish won a 'Creative Scotland' Award from the Scottish Arts Council which enabled her to write her oratorio for the 2001 BBC Proms – the Knotgrass Elegy premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with Sir Andrew Davis.

Other works include three viola concerti, five string quartets, two percussion concerti (the second of which was written for Colin Currie with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Stanford Lively Arts and the Bergen Symphony Orchestra and premiered in 2012), and works for traditional instruments, including a concerto for clàrsach and fiddle concerto premiered by Catriona Mackay and Chris Stout in 2012. In December 2010, it was announced that Beamish had been selected as one of twenty composers to participate in the New Music 20x12 project as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Beamish will compose a new work for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to be premiered in 2012.[2]

In 2012, and again in 2015, she was featured as BBC Radio 3's Composer of the Week.[3]

She has a series of recordings on the BIS label.

In March 2016, Beamish was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's National Academy for science and the arts.[4]

In December 2017, Northern Ballet premiered The Little Mermaid,[5] a full-length ballet with her orchestral score.

Beamish was presented with the 'Award for Inspiration' at the 2018 British Composer Awards.

She has lived in Brighton, UK since 2018. She is a Quaker.[6]

Beamish was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to music.[7]



  • "Impulse classical music website: Sally Beamish". Archived from the original on 1 May 2006. Retrieved 18 May 2006.
  • "Scottish Music Centre: Sally Beamish". Archived from the original on 13 August 2006. Retrieved 18 May 2006.


  1. ^ General Registrar's Office record 1956 Jul/Aug/Sep, Hammersmith 5C 990; Obituary of Tony Beamish by Oliver and Sally Beamish, published by Bryanston School Archived 7 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine. PDF format.
  2. ^ "2012 Cultural Olympiad composers named". Gramophone. 10 December 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2011.NOTE This information neeeds an update
  3. ^ "BBC Radio 3 - Composer of the Week, Sally Beamish (1956-), Early Works". BBC.
  4. ^ "Fellows". The Royal Society of Edinburgh. 21 June 2016.
  5. ^ "The Little Mermaid". Northern Ballet.
  6. ^ "Composer gives shell shock soldiers a musical voice". The Scotsman. 01 November 2014.
  7. ^ "No. 63135". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 October 2020. p. B11.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "the Friend - Shaping words for remembrance". Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  10. ^ Birthdays Today, The Times August 26, 2020, page 27
  11. ^ "Sally Beamish". Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  12. ^ Radio TImes 7-13 Sept 2019 page 60

External links[edit]