Ian Stephens is a composer and arranger of increasing renown, with a string of high-profile commissions from professional arts organisations over many years. His original music has been widely performed in the UK and further afield by ensembles including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Brodsky Quartet, Fitzwilliam Quartet, Choirs of King’s College Cambridge and Salisbury Cathedral, and Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, and has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4. His children’s ballet Pinocchio, for Northern Ballet, opened in October 2021 and toured February-April 2022. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, his children’s entertainment for narrator and orchestra, was performed by the RLPO, with Michael Rosen narrating, at the Royal Albert Hall in 2013 as part of the BBC Proms.
In his music Ian seeks to reconcile a wide variety of techniques within his own style, incorporating elements of both tonality and atonality, both rhythmic definition and free rhythm, and blending conventional notation and performance techniques with a more experimental approach. His aim is to write music with a sincere and heartfelt meaning, not shying away from the extremes. “Stephens’ musical language is hallmarked by strong thematic ideas and driven by the power of bold rhythmic motifs and sonorous combinations of instruments or voices” (Andrew Stewart, BBC Proms programme, 2013).
Forthcoming projects include a CD of his chamber music with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet on the Divine Art label.
Recent highlights include Scenes from a Modern War, a concerto for double bass and string orchestra for Toby Hughes and the Janus Ensemble (2023), Dream Studies for St Helens Youth Brass Band (2022), Clarinet Concerto (2019, written for his wife Mandy Burvill), the large-scale Super Slow Way: A Rhapsody to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal (2016) with lyrics by Ian McMillan, much chamber music including North Country (string quartet, 2021), Springhead Echoes (string quartet, 2017), Bassoon Sonata (2014) and Ultramarine (brass quintet, 2012), and choral pieces including Three Green Songs (2023), Salisbury Service (2016) and Cecilia Speaks (2015).
Ian is a skilled and highly effective arranger in both directions, from small forces to large (e.g. piano to orchestra) and from large to small (e.g. orchestra to string quartet), as well as in creating bespoke string and orchestral arrangements for artists including OMD, Cate Le Bon, Ian Broudie, Boris Grebenshchikov, Black and Fish; he created all the orchestrations for ‘And In The End’, a tour with the Bootleg Beatles and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (2019, 2022). See arrangements. In 2022 he collaborated with Bill Ryder-Jones on strings for a new version of 100% Endurance by Yard Act and Elton John. In 2023 he arranged strings for a new Yard Act album.
Now based near Liverpool, he takes a full part in the musical life of the city and the region as a composer, performer and workshop leader. He is a mentor on the Rushworth Young Composer scheme, a Composition Tutor at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, and leads the Cambiata Choir (for boys with changing voices) of the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir.