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Stephen Pratt

Stephen Pratt portrait
Aphrodite's Rock
Concerto for violin and orchestra
Lovebytes
Double Act
Short Score
The Miraculous Mandolin
Uneasy Vespers II
Strong winds, gentle airs
On Reflection
Entre Nous
Chants du Printemps


Stephen Pratt (b. Liverpool 15th June, 1947) studied first to be a teacher, at Christ's College of Education; later he continued his music studies at the Royal Manchester College of Music (conducting with George Hadjinikos) and then to under- and post-graduate study at Reading and Liverpool Universities. At Liverpool he studied composition with Hugh Wood, with whom he continued to study privately until 1975. He became known with works like the Piano Sonata (1974-5) and Star and Dead Leaves for flute and piano (1977) which were both selected for performance in the BBC Young Composers' Forums of 1976 and 1978. In 1978 an Arts Council bursary enabled him to write his first orchestral work, Some of their Number (1978-9), which was commissioned by the RLPS and given its premiere by the RLPO under Simon Rattle in 1980; it was subsequently given three more performances by the orchestra under Barry Wordsworth in 1984. In 1987 his Strong Winds, Gentle Airs was performed in London at the Festival Hall by the Wirral Schools Concert Band, who had commissioned the work, and following this he became the Performing Rights Society's composer-in residence to the Wirral which involved him in extended composition projects with pupils from Wirral Schools. In 1991 he completed the first part of Uneasy Vespers, commissioned for the 150th anniversary of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society; it was premiered by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra with the Finzi Singers under Vernon Handley in the May of that year.

At the request of Wells Cathedral School, he returned to the solo piano for At the turn of the year (1992), heard in Wells, London and more recently in performances by Joanna MacGregor and on Richard Casey's CD recording; following that, a choral piece, With the drawing of this love (1993), first heard at the Chester Festival given by the Finzi Singers, directed by Paul Spicer; and a work for saxophone, string trio and tape, About time, which was first performed by Take Four in March 1995. In 1997 he completed a Violin Concerto, which he began in 1991, and in the July of that year Joanna MacGregor gave the first performance of The Song Within, a commission for the 1997 Chester Festival. In 1998 he completed Undulations and other Movements for the ensemble Psappha, which received its first performance at the Royal Northern College of Music in November 1999, and was subsequently issued on Psappha's double CD Waterfront in December 1999. His tape work Four mini-tudes and thirty-three seconds (studies after John Cage) was heard at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in December 1998, and subsequently extracts were used on Joanna MacGregor's CD of the music of John Cage, Perilous Night. An orchestral work, Surroundings, was a Millennium commission by the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Concerts Society, and was first performed in the Cathedral in July, 2000. In 2001 he was invited to write a piece for the Chilingirian String Quartet, which resulted in Aphrodite's Rock, first performed by the quartet in November of that year. A song-cycle, Lovebytes, for soprano and chamber ensemble was premiered by Patricia Rozario and the RLP's 10/10 ensemble in May, 2003 conducted by Clark Rundell. Lovebytes was subsequently nominated for a British Composers' Award by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters in December 2004. The Violin Concerto, somewhat revised from the 1997 version, received its first performance by the Anthony Marwood and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gerard Schwarz in October 2003. Both Lovebytes and the Violin Concerto have been recorded and have recently been issued together on the RLPO Live ! label with Double Act (2006). Double Act was commissioned by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic with funds provided by the Liverpool Culture Company to celebrate the 10th anniversary season of Ensemble 10/10, and received its first performance in November 2006, given by Ensemble 10/10, conducted by Clark Rundell, at the Royal Northern College of Music. Following Double Act, Stephen was asked to write a work for his former pupil and BBC Young Musician of the Year, Mark Simpson. Short Score, for clarinet and piano, was first performed in November, 2006 and repeated during the festival week celebrating the re-opening of the concert room in St.George's Hall, Liverpool, and more recently by Mark and David Horne at the Bath International Festival (June, 2008). His most recent work, The Miraculous Mandolin, for ensemble, was performed in Bournemouth in November 2007 by the ensemble Kokoro. He is currently completing the second part of Uneasy Vespers, a commission for 2008 by Liverpool as European Capital of Culture for performance in October 2008.

As a conductor, Stephen Pratt has worked with various orchestras and ensembles in the North West including the RLPO, the Merseyside Youth Orchestra, and he has been principal guest conductor with the Metropolitan Cathedral Orchestra since 1985. With this orchestra, the Cantata Choir and the Cathedral Choir he has given many concerts in the Cathedral, of music from Bach to Boulez, and including a number of first performances. In the Mozart bi-centenial celebrations in 1991 he conducted performances of the great C minor Mass in the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Requiem at the Philharmonic Hall. This latter performance was with the choirs and orchestra of Liverpool University and Liverpool Hope. He has been the director and principal conductor of Liverpool University Choir for seventeen years, and, together with the choir of Liverpool Hope, they have given performances in the Philharmonic Hall and both Cathedrals of major choral works including Haydn's Creation, The Seasons and Harmonie-Mass, Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Les Noces, Szymanowski's Stabat Mater, Poulenc's Gloria, Mozart's Solemn Vespers and C minor Mass, and Verdi's Four Sacred Pieces. A particular highlight came in December, 1999, when, under Stephen's direction, the joint University Choirs and Orchestra joined with members of both Cathedral Choirs, and members of the RLPC and the Welsh Choral Union for a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony at St. George's Hall as part of the city's millennium celebrations. In November 2003, the two University Choirs joined with the Cathedral Cantata choir and orchestra to repeat this work in celebration of the completion of the new steps and surrounding buildings of the Metropolitan Cathedral. Working with the Liverpool University Orchestra from 1994-1998, Stephen Pratt conducted performances which included Sibelius' 5th Symphony, Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, Beethoven's 7th Symphony, Berg's Seven Early Songs (with Alison Wells), Bax's Tintagel , Lutoslawski's Concerto for orchestra, and the premiere of James Wishart's Close to the edge at the concert celebrating the centenary of Liverpool University's Faculty of Arts in December 1996.

In addition to his work as composer and conductor, Stephen Pratt is well-known as a broadcaster both on local and national radio. He has been one of the team of presenters of Radio 3's Hear and Now programme, and has also appeared on Nightwaves. He was a regular contributor to BBC Radio Merseyside's Music Magazine for over 20 years.

Stephen has been closely involved with music education since his early student days, and he has worked as a teacher in the primary, secondary and higher educational sectors, as well working on specialist creative and practical music projects with the RLPO and other organisations. He was closely involved with the creation of the RLPO's Educational unit, and for some years was the chair of its management committee. In 2004, he organised and directed composition projects for year 10 pupils from Liverpool with the ensemble Psappha through the Excellence in Cities scheme.

In June, 2003 Stephen was promoted to the post of Professor of Music at Liverpool Hope University; prior to this he was Director of Music, having joined the institution as a full-time lecturer in Music in 1972. He was the inaugural Head of the School of Creative and Performing Arts at Liverpool Hope (from 2000-2001), is a fellow of the University of Liverpool, and having retired from his post as Professor of Music at Gresham College, London (1997-2000), he was elected as a fellow in September 2000, and in 2007 became a Professor Emeritus of the College. Following his professorial lecture series at Gresham, he was invited through the College to contribute to the educational programme at the Globe Theatre, London. He has recently set up Gresham at Hope, a scheme which brings Gresham Professors and Fellows to lecture to public audiences in Liverpool, funded jointly by Gresham College and Liverpool Hope University. Since 2001, he has been Artistic Director of the Cornerstone Festival, which has become one of the city's leading arts festivals, and which has featured prominently in the region in the years leading up to the Capital City of Culture year, 2008. Stephen makes no secret of the fact that his early career plan was to be a footballer or a pop star. Although the latter now appears out of the question, he is still living out the other ambition on a weekly basis on a 7-a-side pitch. He is a lifelong fan of Everton FC and has been a season ticket holder for longer than he cares to remember.

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