Sally Beamish

b. 1956



Born in London in 1956, Sally Beamish initially trained as a viola player at the Royal Northern College of Music before moving to Scotland in 1990 to develop her career as a composer. Her music embraces many influences, particularly jazz and Scottish traditional music, in a catalogue boasting over 200 compositions including solo, duo, chamber, orchestra, vocal, choral, ballet and opera works. Her music has been broadcast and performed extensively around the world with notable soloists including Håkan Hardenberger, John Harle, Branford Marsalis, Tabea Zimmermann, James Crabb, Dame Evelyn Glennie and Colin Currie amongst others.


Sally Beamish, OBE & FRSE, was born in London. She began her career as a viola player with the Raphael Ensemble, Academy of St Martins and London Sinfonietta, before moving to Scotland in 1990 to focus on composition.

She was appointed a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2015, and of the Royal Swedish Academy in 2022. In 2018 she won the Award for Inspiration at the British Composer Awards, and in 2020 was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours.

She has written three major oratorios. Knotgrass Elegy (text by Donald Goodbrand Saunders) was premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and chorus in the BBC Proms 2001, and has recently been named in BBC Music Magazine as one of the top 6 oratorios of the 20th and 21st century. Equal Voices (text by Sir Andrew Motion) was premiered by the LSO with Gianandrea Noseda in 2014. The Judas Passion (text by David Harsent) was commissioned by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and premiered in the UK and USA in 2018.

She is known for her many concertos for internationally-renowned soloists, including Branford Marsalis, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Håkan Hardenberger, Steven Isserlis and Tabea Zimmermann. Her harp concerto, Hive, was premiered at the BBC Proms in 2022, by Catrin Finch, with BBCNOW conducted by Ariane Matiakh, and shortlisted for a South Bank Sky Arts Award.

Her recent concerto, Distans, for violinist Janine Jansen and clarinettist Martin Fröst, was co-commissioned by the Concertgebouw, LSO, Swedish Radio Symphony (who gave the premiere in 2021) and Oslo Philharmonic. It received its Dutch premiere in Amsterdam with the Concertgebouw conducted by Klaus Mäkelä in April 2023, and the London premiere at the Barbican will be in June 2024, with the LSO conducted by Gianandrea Noseda.

In June 2023 Roderick Williams performed her Four Songs from Hafez, with the Sinfonia of London conducted by John Wilson.

Her third full-length ballet, A Christmas Carol, with choreographer Sir David Bintley, for Finnish National Ballet, received its premiere run in December 2023, to considerable critical acclaim.

She returned to performing in 2015, when her daughter, luthier Stephanie Irvine, made her a viola. Since then she has returned to live in England, and has performed regularly with chamber ensembles including Divertimenti, and as a guest with the Elias and Chilingirian quartets. She has performed at Musikdorf Ernen, in the Ryedale, Trondheim and Oxford Festivals, and in the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, amongst others, as well as giving solo recitals in London and Brighton.

Future commissioned works include a piano quartet and several concertos, and she was recently appointed Composer in Residence with the Yehudi Menuhin School, where she mentors composers and performs her works with staff and pupils. Her Partita for string octet will be included in the 2024 centenary celebrations of Sir Neville Marriner at the Wigmore Hall, London, performed by the Academy of St Martin-in- the-Fields.



14th June 2024

BBC Concert Orchestra
St George's Theatre, Great Yarmouth, United Kingdom

20th June 2024

Janine Jansen (violin), Martin Fröst (clarinet)
Janine Jansen; London Symphony Orchestra; Martin Fröst
Gianandrea Noseda
Barbican, London, United Kingdom

24th June 2024

BBC Concert Orchestra
Ellie Slorach
Alexandra Palace, London, United Kingdom

30th June 2024

Trio Gaspard
Kirche St Georg, Ernen, Switzerland

28th September 2024

Diego Cajas
Carlos Chávez Hall, México City, Mexico