George Newson was born in London in 1932. At fourteen years of ages he was awarded a piano scholarship to the Blackheath Conservatoire of Music in London. Nine years later, he won another scholarship to study composition at the Royal Academy of Music with Alan Bush and Howard Ferguson. Post-graduate studies took him to the Dartington and Darmstadt summer schools during the late 50’s and early 60’s where he worked with the Americans Cage and Carter and the Italians Berio, Maderna and Nono.
In 1967 he was given a Winston Churchill Fellowship to research electronic music in the United States of America. He worked principally with Robert Moog in Trumansburg and at the University of Urbana. There he made his first tape composition, Silent Spring. Afterwards he was in the studio of RA1, Milan producing Canto 11 for Clarinet and Tape (1968); it was performed at the Venice Biennale in 1969. In the same year he worked in the studio of the University of Utrecht making his third tape composition, Genus11.
From 1972/77, Newson was the Cramb Research Fellow in Composition at Glasgow University. From 1978/81 he was Composer-in-Residence at Queen’s University, Belfast. Other major awards include grants from the Arts Council in 1965 and 1988, and two British Council tours: the first to Hungary/Romania in 1977, the second to Bulgaria in 1991. In 1984, Boulez invited George Newson to work at IRCAM in Paris; he was then commissioned to compose a work for the EnsembleInterContemporain: I will Encircle the Sun (Aphelion/Perihelion); It was performed by them in 1989.
Newson’s large output includes commissions from many leading orchestras and ensembles; two works for the LSO, the Scottish National Orchestra (1976), Ulster Orchestra (1981) and Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra who gave the world premiere of his Concerto for Two Violins in 1994. The BBC commissioned Arena for the 1971 Proms conductor Boulez), Songs for the Turning Year for the 1992 season and various chamber and ensemble works. Praise to the Air was commissioned to celebrate the BBC’s 50th Anniversary in 1972; the text for the piece was written by the distinguished poet, George Macbeth. Other eminent poets Newson has collaborated with are Fleur Adcock, Edward Morgan, Paul Muldoon (who wrote the libretto for Newson’s opera, The Dead), and Peter Porter, and Alan Sillitoe adapted his story The General in 1980 for a one-act music/theatre work for actors and Brass Band. Other commissions include his one act opera Mrs Fraser’s Frenzy (1994) for the Canterbury and Cheltenham Festivals. Sonograms 1 & 11 (1995) for Orchestre National de Lille and Songs and More Songs in Exchange (1994/99), an exhibition/recital of art works exchanged by each participating artist for a song; forty two in all. In 1998 George Newson completed his second full opera. The Winter’s Tale, and Concerto for Percussion (Both Arms) was commissioned by Evelyn Glennie for the 2002 Canterbury Festival. His most recent large scale work is Cantiga for Piano Trio. This received its premiere at the 2004 Rye Festival of Music and the Arts. His Double Violin Concerto was given its UK Premiere as part of BBC Encore series in 2006.