BARBARA THOMPSON'S COMPLETE BIOGRAPHY
July 27th 1944
Born Barbara Gracey Thompson in Oxford, England . Her father, David Richard Thompson, was the Registrar of the Court of Criminal Appeal, and his father, William Thompson was an accomplished pianist. Her grandmother on her mother’s side, was also an accomplished cellist. Bosworth, the famous music publishing company, was owned and run by Albert Bosworth, who was her great uncle on her mother’s side.
1949 learnt recorder at primary school, Highbury Corner played at school assembly and learnt to read music
1955-1962 Queen’s College, Harley Street. Learnt clarinet with Miss Collingwood and piano with Miss Greenslade.
1957 passed Grade 8 on clarinet with distinction. Miss Collingwood told her that she would have to pass her onto a more advanced teacher, so she took private lessons from Hale Hambleton. From the age of 13 – 17 she played in the London Schools Symphony Orchestra.
1960 passed 0’levels in French, Latin, English Literature, English language,& Maths.
1962 passed A Levels in Music & English
1962-1963 Queen’s Secretarial College, South Kensington
1963 secretarial work – in the meantime took up the alto saxophone.
1964 May-September, joined the Ivy Benson All Girl Band for a season in the Isle of Man.
1964–1967 was accepted and given a grant for the performer’s course at the Royal College of Music. Studied clarinet with Syd Fell, flute with John Francis, & piano with Peter Element at the RCM and saxophone with Charles Chapman outside. During this time she played in many student bands run by people such as Gordon Rose, Bill Geldard, Alan Cohen, and Graham Collier. She was particularly helped and encouraged by Don Rendell, Art Themen, Bill Le Sage, Mike Gibbs, Jon Hiseman and especially by Neil Ardley. During this time played with the all girl pop group ‘The She Trinity’ playing gigs abroad as well as in the UK, supporting ‘the Who’ on three occasions. Joined the New Jazz Orchestra led by Neil Ardley where she met future luminaries of the British Jazz Scene including Dave Gelly, Ian Carr, Mike Gibbs, Trevor Watts, Paul Rutherwood, Michael Garrick, Jack Bruce and of couse drummer Jon Hiseman, whom she married in 1967. Throughout this period she was busy gaining experience with Graham Bond, Georgie Fame, John Mayall, Mike Taylor, Ian Carr and many others.
1967-1968 Played in the on-stage band with the show ”Cabaret” at the Palace Theatre, London. This was such a shocking experience that she vowed to play creative music at any cost and from then on wrote her own music and started her own bands. – the money from this show enabled Jon to put together his band Colosseum
1972 Gave birth to Marcus James Philip Hiseman
1975 Gave birth to Anna Gracey Hiseman
The Bands she has worked with include:
1964 on - New Jazz Orchestra
1969 Bill Le Sage Trio – resident for many years with him & Art Theman at the Bull’s head, Barnes.
1970 Don Rendell & Barbara Thompson Quintet played at Ronnie Scott’s opposite Oscar Perterson
1974 John Dankworth
1975 Greatest Swing Band In The World (Stan Reynolds) played for a week at Ronnie Scotts
1975-2006 “The United Jazz & Rock Ensemble”. A 10-piece group including: Wolfgang Dauner, Ack Van Rooyen,Ian Carr, Kenny Wheeler, Jon Hiseman ,Albert Mangelsdorf and Charlie Mariano. Barbara originally played Tenor sax and Flute but Christof Lauer took over from Charlie and they swapped saxophone chairs, him playing tenor sax and she alto.
1975-83 Barbara Thompson’s Jubiaba (9 piece Latin/Rock band)
1975-2006 Barbara Thompson’s“Paraphernalia” – the currently working band starting off with Colin Dudman on keyboards, Dill Kattz on bass & Harold Fisher on Drums. Current members of the band are Billy Thompson on violin, Peter Lemer on keyboards, Dave Ball on bass & Jon Hiseman on drums
1976 –Manfred Mann’s ‘Roaring Silence’ - Manfred had heard Barbara’s solo on Neil Ardley’s ‘Kalaidoscope of Rainbows’ and asked her to solo on this album. This was to be the beginning of a long ,musical collaboration and she has been featured on most of his subsequent albums including ‘2006’ the most recent. Incidentally ‘Roaring Silence’ went gold.
1978 Barbara was signed by MCA and recorded 5 albums at Morgan Studios, London
1978 – met and worked with Andrew Lloyd-Webber for the first time. This musical relationship lasted for many years, recording and playing live on a variety of Andrew’s works including Variations, Requiem, Cricket, Cats, Starlite Express & Tell Me On A Sunday.
1988- Freiburg Festival – 1st performance of her Saxophone Concerto with the Freiburg Festival Orchestra and subsequently broadcast in the Autumn with the Hannover Radio Symphony Orchestra.
June 1991- Songs From The Centre of the Earth – album featuring solo saxophone recorded in the medieval Abbeye du Thoronet in Provence. Subsequently used for the main title theme of “A Touch of Frost”, one of the most popular TV series in the UK.
Sep 1991 “Breathless”, Paraphernalia’s 7th album climbed to no.4 in the German CD Jazz Charts.
1989-1994 “Moving Parts” Barbara Thompson’s 19 piece big band including musicians such as Derek Nash, Dave O’ Higgins, Nigel Hitchcock, Scott Garland, Mark Nightingale, Noel Langley and members of “Paraphernalia” The band performed at festivals in Freiburg, Folkestone, and the Bristol Harbour Festival, where she was commissioned to write the Bristol Harbour Suite. In July, 1992, the band was featured on BBC Radio Two’s Jazz Parade.
1993- ‘Sans Frontiers’ an international group organised by Barbara as part of the European Festival featuring Enrico Rava(Italy), Michael Urbaniak(Pol/USA), Jasper Van Hof(Hol) Bo Stief(Den) and Jon Hiseman, played a 10 date UK tour
1993-96 the Medici String Quartet – they first met Barbara in August 1993, when she played soprano sax with them on a recording of her composition “les Barricades Mysterieuses” for an album produced by George Martin released Sep 95 on the Classic FM label. Subsequently they had a three year collaboration making another album ‘Barbara Song’ released on the Virgin classics label and were featured on ‘Love Songs in Age’ commissioned by Radio 3 and broadcast live from the Queen Elizabeth hall in 1995.
1995 Evelyn Glennie- Theatre Royal, Norwich performing Barbara’s 50 min. composition “Rhythms of the Gods”
1995- Featured with Sax Appeal at the Cork Festival
2006 – performed at Sydmonton, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s summer festival, with the Medici String Quartet playing the Barbara Song program.
2003-2006 Colosseum - when Colosseum’s saxophone player Dick Heckstall-Smith was taken ill in the Autumn of 2003, Barbara was asked to stand in at short notice, and now with Dick’s unfortunate demise, she has become a regular member of the band. In 2007 there are plans for touring in Japan, Italy, Austria & Germany.
1996 Was awarded the MBE for services to Music
Commissions as Composer
3 Commissions for Jazz in Britain, produced by John Muir for BBC Radio 4 including ‘The Awakening’ 1972
1988 Freiburg Festival – 1st performance of her Saxophone Concerto with the Freiburg Festival Orchestra- subsequently broadcast in the Autumn with the Hannover Radio Symphony Orchestra.
1992 July, Bristol Harbour Suite
1995 ‘Rhythms of the Gods’ commissioned by Norwich Arts Centre, and performed at the Theatre Royal by Evelyn Glenne on percussion, Barbara on saxes/recorder, and Phillip Smith on grand piano.
1995 ‘Love Songs in Age’ for Radio 3
2001 the Apollo Saxophone Quartet commissioned Saxophone Quartet no 1 for the Brighton Festival
2002-2003 Big Sky, 100 voice choir rehearsed & performed ‘Journey to a Destination Unknown’ commissioned by Norwich Arts to sell out performances in Norwich and St John’s Smith Sq., London
Freiburg commissions & premieres;
Concerto for 3 Saxophones June 21st 1992- Freiburg Festival – 1st performance of her Saxophone Symphony featuring 3 saxophones and chamber orchestra 'From Darkness Into Light'
NDR Hamburg: The NDR big band have recorded just about all Barbara’s Big Band arrangements including an 0rchestral version of ‘the Selfish Giant’ in 1980, Saxophone Concerto in 1988, and her Tuba Concerto for solo tuba and big band in 2004
Apollo Saxophone Quartet Commissions
2001- Saxophone Quartet No.1
2004- Concerto No. 1 for Saxophone Quartet & String Ensemble
Leaslowe Festival Commission ‘The Fly ‘with lyrics by William Blake
Camerata Bern Commission 2004 ‘Mirages’ Concerto No. 2 for Saxophone Quartet & String Ensemble
Nowich Arts Centre -Journey to a Destination Unknown
Other Activities:Workshops in improvisation and contemporary music involving small groups and big band music in Austria, Switzerland ,Germany and the UK. Writing for film, radio & television including the 2 hr BBC film ‘Sweet Nothing’, she also played the role of Sadie the saxophone player, whose saxophone gets run over in full view by a bulldozer! She also wrote the music for the film Zischke, premiered in Berlin and shown throughout Germany. Other programmes include ‘Cat’s Eyes’, ‘A Touch of Frost’ starring David Jason, and numerous projects with Director Peter Tabern for the school’s programmes for Thames TV.
2006-2007 She is currently composing with a view to recording a follow up to the recently released Three Quartets Album(Celestial Harmonies), this time featuring three of her recent concertos. Tours are planned both with Colosseum and Paraphernalia. Freiburg Festival 2007 are planning a 20th anniversary celebration, and will feature some of Barbara’s music. A DVD of Paraphernalia’s tour in Germany during November 2005 will be released in 2007, plus live albums from both Paraphernalia and Colosseum.