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Robert Ely - Biography

Born in Lewisham at the very end of 1949, the first of five children, Robert’s family moved to the city of Leicester in the mid 1950’s where he did his schooling finishing at the City of Leicester Boy’s Grammar School. It was here that he developed his musical interest with the encouragement of the school’s music master ‐ even though there were insufficient pupils interested to warrant full music lessons!

In 1967 he joined the British Army as a musician, firstly playing clarinet and viola with the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals, then (after some difficult equestrian training) for four further years as principle flute of the Band of the Life Guards. During this time, he was developing his arranging and composition skills and in 1976 was chosen to attend the Royal Military School of Music on an accelerated promotion course to train as a Bandmaster.

Having successfully passed the course, winning a number of awards, Robert was appointed Bandmaster of the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment in 1979 and served with the regiment until 1986 when he, as Senior Bandmaster of the Regiment, left the army. Or rather, the army left him, when it found out he was gay. The story was told in a 1991 edition of ‘Heart of the Matter’.

Computerised music publishing was relatively new in the late 1980’s and he successfully taught himself to use the computerised music publishing programme ‘Score’ which led to working for ‘New Notations’ ‐ a music typesetting company in London, where he worked on many publications for major music publishing houses and music companies including the Royal Opera House.

Meanwhile he maintained his interest in composition and arranging, and after leaving the typesetting company he then learnt to use the ‘Sibelius’ music programme as ‘Score’ was not Windows compatible.

He has a wide portfolio of musical works from light and military music to a significant number of classic works for orchestra, symphonic wind band, vocal and various chamber ensembles.

In 1998 he conducted Free: an anti‐Requiem and was one of seven composers, along with librettist Peter Scott‐Presland, who devised the work; performed at Spitalfields Market Opera for World Aids Day.

In 2015, Robert was the only UK composer to reach the finals of ‘Coup de Vents’, a significant international symphonic wind band competition held in France, where his work ‘Les Sirènes’ won third place and in 2018 he was runner up in a similar competition in Galicia (Spain) with ‘Noite de San Xoán’

He entered the centenary competition for the Bromley Symphony Orchestra, with a piece called Broomleagh where he won the orchestra’s vote, though not, alas, the judges. His Cello Sonata was premiered in October 2018 in Bristol Cathedral by Keith Tempest (cello) and Barbara Murray (piano).

Recent performances

Vocal works include

Other works

Joi de Vivre

Variations on a Theme of Benjamin Britten’s

Robert had this recorded in a church in Staines on 21 September 2019 by the piano duet of Matthew Stanley and Beredina Cook. The theme is from Britten’s opera, ‘Gloriana’, taken from the final scene.

The Spectral City (2020)

Pianist Jack Campbell, who played in the final scene of Front for our recording to accompany our entry for an opera competition, played another composition of Robert's The Spectral City for his RCM end-of-year recital. The lovely Jack will graduate from the Royal College of Music in 2022 and is recording an album of Robert's piano music in October 2021.

Robert quotes on the title page: "London: a spectral city so filled with intimations of its past that it haunts its own inhabitants." It captures the mood of these Covid times, and it opens Jack's recital.

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