News Archive (2020)

BBC Radio 3’s ‘In Tune’ interview with Katie Derham

Dear Friends, 

I do hope you were able to ‘tune in’ to ‘In Tune’ on Tuesday last. Katie Derham interviewed me about my new Requiem. If you missed it, then it is still available on the BBC iplayer for a week or so.  The interview with Katie Derham begins at 18 mins 57 seconds in. I hope you enjoy it.

Here’s the link:


 SOMM Recordings is proud to announce the premiere recording of Ian Venables’ exquisite and moving Requiem with the Choir of Gloucester Cathedral conducted by the Cathedral’s Director of Music Adrian Partington and Assistant Director of Music Jonathan Hope playing the organ”.

“a subtle but gripping performance…If you think of new English music as hard on the ear and bereft of melody, Venables will force you to reconsider”  Simon Heffer (The Telegraph) 

To read more of Simon Heffer’s Hinterland article please click here

PRESTO MUSIC : Interview 

Ian Venables on the first recording of his Requiem by David Smith

British composer Ian Venables has established himself as something of a spiritual heir to lyrical songwriters of the English school – Butterworth, Quilter, Vaughan Williams and others. While far from averse to composing in other styles, the majority of his performed and recorded works have been in this solo-vocal idiom – so the emergence of his Requiem, premiered in Gloucester Cathedral in 2018, was a pleasant surprise. Fittingly, the choir of the Cathedral also sing on its first recording – bringing a melodious work of quiet profundity to a broader public.

I spoke to Ian about the process of writing this work, and the challenges and opportunities it represented for him as a composer.

It seems so common for contemporary composers to write hybrid works, interpolating other texts among the words of the Requiem, that your decision not to do so is worth remarking on. Did you consider writing that kind of work, or was this always conceived as a more ‘traditional’ Requiem from the outset?

TO READ MORE PLEASE CLICK HERE:–interview-ian-venables-on-the-first-recording-of-his-requiem

The Gramophone –  Online ‘Blog’

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A 21st century Requiem: Why did I write a work I didn’t want to write?

Ian Venables reflects upon his largest scale work to date and discusses how an unlikely commission took him in a creative direction that he never thought possible

Composing a piece that I did not wish to write turned out to be more straight-forward than I had envisaged. Many of my works have sprung from commissions and I have had the luxury of writing what I wanted. With my Opus 48, I was asked by Bryce and Cynthia Somerville to write a Requiem in memory of their parents. After a definitive ‘no’, I eventually suggested a short choral piece which could be sung at their mother’s funeral service (she had not yet passed away). I began to regret this decision, until I happened upon a translation of the Introit to the Requiem Mass and realised how inherently human its message is. 

I started work and was surprised by how quickly the music appeared. It was duly performed and I was asked again if I would consider writing a whole Requiem. The Introit ends unusually on a dominant chord which is both emotionally and harmonically suggestive of future resolution. I looked at the words for the next section of the Requiem Mass and suddenly my definitive ‘no’ became a definitive ‘yes’. Excitement was soon followed by fear and doubt as a list of names tumbled before me: Fauré, Duruflé, Mozart, Verdi, Britten, Howells. ‘What have I done’, I thought? However, as each movement unfolded, I realised that I was not just writing a work in memory of Thomas and Doreen Somerville, but I was also embarking upon a spiritual journey of my own. This was brought into sharp focus when I was informed of the death of a dear friend, Gina Wilson. Deeply upset, I laid aside the Sanctus and found the words of the Pie Jesu staring up at me. I had always intended not to set it (again one thinks of Fauré and Duruflé) and yet wrote the music in an afternoon. It is set a cappella and sits in the middle of the Requiem as both a tribute to Gina and as a moment of quiet contemplation. I then reflected on the fact that, had she not passed away, it would not have been written. 

I now reached the Libera me. ‘Oh dear’, I thought, ‘yet more words I don’t want to set’. I had always wished to avoid any reference to a vengeful God, but could not avoid the Dies Irae, as presented in the Libera me. Its ‘reappearance’ however is not a restatement of any terror-stricken vision, but a reassuring expression of deliverance from such an outcome. In spite of this, I responded by writing music that is both menacing and considerably more dissonant than any other part of the Requiem.

Unlike Fauré, I decided to end with a Lux aeterna. in which I use light as a metaphor for the soul’s journey: the luminescent key of B major (albeit with Lydian inflections) dominating the work’s final pages. So my Requiem found its resolution. It had returned to its opening tonality; I had moved forward in spiritual growth; the commissioners had received the work they had always wished for and any creative doubts that I had about in 

my own abilities abated. My partner summed up the whole process with his usual succinctness when he said that, whist he always had faith in my ability to write a Requiem, he was, nevertheless ‘looking forward with great anticipation to the next work I wasn’t going to write!’  Well, in a way … so am I.

Debut English Song CD

‘A Lad’s Love’    Brian Giebler (tenor) and Steven McGhee (piano)


 Brian Giebler is an extraordinarily gifted young singer who has been singled out by The New York Times, for his “lovely tone and deep expressively”. This award winning tenor’s debut CD, A Lad’s Love, presents an imaginatively conceived programme of English songs that “brings together the beauty created by Britain’s poets and composers in the face of lost youth, lost time, Lost love, Lost friends, and lost life in the turbulence years of the early 20th century.”x

In his booklet notes, Brian Giebler explained the idea behind the album and of his keen interest in the song settings of A.E Housman. He had performed, with the pianist Steven McGhee Ivor Gurney’s song cycle, Ludlow and Teme for his final degree recital and  “Ever since that first outing, we have wanted to record the work. A.E.Housman’s poetry, set by Gurney , was so affecting that we started digging for other settings by lesser-known British composers of that time”. That led us to John Ireland’s songs, and ultimately to living composer Ian Venables’ 21st Century setting of “Because I liked you better”.

“Brian Giebler is a powerfully expressive and communicative singer whose rich and lyrical voice lifts the music off the page. This is a must buy CD for all lovers of English Song”  Ian Venables 

For further details and how to purchase this recording please click this link

REQUIEM op.48  Vocal Score Published by Novello and Co

Described in the Church Times as a “masterpiece” the Requiem is full of exquisite English pastoral melancholy, built firmly on the traditions of Howells et al. but modern in its dissonances and resolutions. You will be stunned by the passion and complex tonality, and amazed that it fits so well into the ranges of voices of a good choir. It is very performable.


For sample pages for the vocal score and further details please CLICK the following link.


“Venables … is a very fine composer of songs, with a real feel for poetry…”  

  Mark Pullinger (The Gramophone)

…an impressive testament to Ian’s significant voice as a writer of contemporary British art song…”  Robert Hugill 


“… A notable addition to the discography of English song … [and] … an essential purchase for all collectors who appreciate English song …”  

John Quinn  (Musicweb International). 

For John Quinn’s review please click HERE

This latest CD for Signum Classics brings together a collection of premiere recordings of the composer’s songs and song cycles. The centrepiece of the disc is a recording of Remember This – a cantata for soprano, tenor and piano quintet performed by Mary Bevan, Allan Clayton, the Carducci String Quartet and pianist, Graham J Lloyd. The linking ‘theme’ throughout the album is that ‘Love’ is eternal and that it transcends our earthly life. At this difficult time is hoped that the music may bring some consolation to those who listen.

To BUY and LISTEN to ‘taster’ tracks on the album please click the following link – or  go to Presto Music’s online shop at ––ian-venables-love-lives-beyond-the-tomb

Robert Hugill Interviews Ian Venables

Everything comes from the words: composer Ian Venables talks about his approach to song writing

To read Robert Hugill’s recent interview with the composer please click on the link above.

An online interview with the composer for ‘Reader’s Digest’

What’s it like being a 21st Century Composer? 

Three contemporary composers were each asked this question. 

To find out what they said please CLICK the following link Reader’s Digest online article Reader’s Digest online article