Russell Pascoe Composer


Russell Pascoe (Born 5 June 1960) is a composer, conductor and teacher. He was born in Cornwall and educated at Helston School and Bristol University, where he studied composition with Derek Bourgeois. In 1987 he founded the Cornwall Youth Chamber Choir and was awarded the Gorsedd prize. Pascoe has also worked with the Cornwall Male Voice Choir and Duchy Opera where he has been repetiteur and chorus master.

Recently he has taught composition for the South West Music School. In 2000 he was nominated as one of Classic FM's Music Teachers of the Year. He was runner-up in the South West Teacher of the Year 2004. Pascoe was made a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd in 2000.


On leaving Bristol University he composed Cornish Fanfare, a celebratory work for soloists, choir and orchestra, commissioned by Cornwall Music Service and performed in Cornwall Coliseum. Soon after Parc an meyn los was written for Nicholas Jones, cello and Gayle Light, piano for their Purcell Room debut.

His Four Cornish Folksongs for voice and piano was written at the request of Benjamin Luxon. This work has proved popular and was used (in the orchestrated version) to close the first 'Daphne Du Maurier Festival'. In June 1997 his orchestral work The Martyrdom of An Gof (commissioned by Keskerdh Kernow 500) received its premier at the Barbican Centre, London performed by the Cornwall Youth Orchestra. It was subsequently performed in Truro Cathedral. More recently Pascoe has written 'Trezion' for the orchestra as part of a project based at the Tate St Ives, on the works of the artist Ben Nicholson.

Pascoe's opera The Murder of Charlotte Dymond, commissioned by Music Theatre Kernow, to a libretto by Christopher William Hill and was performed in the Hall for Cornwall in 1999. It tells the claustrophobic story of the dairy maid, Charlotte Dymond who lived at Penhale Farm. It explores the relationships she had with her fellow workers and her mysterious murder on Bodmin Moor in 1844. Cornwall Sinfonia, in its inaugural year, provided the orchestra. In 2007 his orchestral piece, Yseult of the White Hands was commissioned and performed by the Cornwall Sinfonia conducted by David Frost in the Hall for Cornwall.

Due to the rich heritage of male voice singing in Cornwall, Pascoe has composed much for this genre. Exiles was written for the first Cornwall International Male Voice Choral Festival and 'My heart is like a red, red rose' for the International Male Voice Choir Festival in 2011.

His Fantasia on Cornish Songs, for audience, choir, soloists and orchestra formed the second half of the annual Cornish Last Night of the Proms. In 2003 the last movement, an arrangement of Trelawny, the Cornish anthem,was performed in the Sydney Opera House during the Kernow Choir's tour of Australia.

Pascoe has developed a fruitful partnership with St Mary's Singers. This has resulted in two commissions, Love's Agonie - Three Medieval Lyrics, and Salmow Kernewek a setting of three Psalms. The latter was composed for St Mary's Singers and three local schools, Truro School, Truro High School and Richard Lander School. It was premiered in November 2006.

Pascoe's Pader an Arluth, a setting of the Lord's Prayer, in the Cornish language was written to celebrate the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Cornwall to bless the new translation of the Bible into Cornish. This began a close working relationship with Christopher Gray and the Truro Cathedral Choir and Pascoe has subsequently written a Missa Brevis, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis and many anthems for use in their daily liturgy.

'The Harrowing of Hell' a work for four soloists and organ was composed in 2011 as part of Amnesty International's 50th Anniversary celebrations. This cantata juxtaposes the triumph of the risen Christ with the fate of the Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust.

Keskan, a work for solo violin and seven instrumentalists was written to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Cornwall County Music Festival and Music! for Truro Choral Society in celebration of their 50th Anniversary.

In 2012 Pascoe worked in collaboration with Miracle Theatre and English Touring Opera (ETO) on the music for the play TIN. It was commissioned by Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. This project combined a large number of young singers for eight secondary schools, members of male voice choirs and Benjamin Luxon in one of his first acting roles. It toured throughout the county and was selected as one of Art Council England's (ACE) cultural highlights of 2012.

March 2013 will see the first performance of Pascoe's Secular Requiem which has been commissioned by The Three Spires Singers, conductor Christopher Gray with soloists Catherine Wyn-Rogers and Stephen Roberts. The work is a contemporary response to loss and is structured around the key phases of grief through poems that do not require any specific faith, but does not exclude it. The text was assembled by Professor Anthony Pinching and draws on the poetry of John Donne, Thomas Hardy, Rabindranath Tagore, Dylan Thomas, Hitomaro, Stephen Anderton, Walt Whitman and Anthony Pinching.

Russell Pascoe