Paul Henley

Paul Henley is from Worcester and trained at Birmingham School of Music (now the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire) where he studied Composition with Andrew Downes and also worked with Robert Simpson. He also studied Piano, Trumpet and Singing, graduated with Honours in 1983 and that year was co-winner of the Birmingham and Midland Institute Prize for Composition. The earlier part of his career was as a freelance singer and he is widely experienced in Opera, Concert and Recital work. Some of the opera companies he has sung with include Mid Wales Opera, Pavilion Opera, Surrey Opera, Lyon Opera and London Opera Players. As a singing teacher his appointments have included Mountview Theatre School, East 15 Acting School and Dauntsey s School.

Paul began composing in his teens, one of his earliest works, Love came down at Christmas being written in 1978. His output includes three Cello Sonatas all written for his wife Ruth, and all premiered by her. As well as writing in the more traditional forms, Paul also writes in a theatre style and this includes the Christmas Musical, Bethlehem Junction.

Paul is now working primarily as a composer. The traditional foundations of music - melody, harmony, rhythm and form are important to him and he believes that without them, music is either anarchic or merely an intellectual exercise. It is also important to Paul that composers find their individual voice. Recent works include the String Quartet No.1 and a song cycle for soprano and piano entitled Maiestas et Mysterium . His Prelude for Orchestra was shortlisted for the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra´ s Composers´ Day 2017 with Mark-Anthony Turnage who highly commended the work. Paul's recently completed work, The Firmament on High was commissioned by the Bridgnorth Sinfonia and is due to receive its premiere in December this year. Other commissions this year include the Piano Trio for the Odora Trio and, most recently , To the Gentle Light, a work for strings for the Shropshire Chamber Orchestra, due to be premiered next spring.  



" authentic 'voice' and such an evident need to communicate. The language is immediately accessible.....original and absorbing.....qualities of urgency and reflection are well conveyed."
     (Howard Skempton, Composer) was very compelling, often beautiful music ..This was a marvellous evening..

     (Angela Goodall, 'Words and Music')

" from which rises serene simplicity. The substance of what Henley has to express here is large in scale.....There are many delightful ideas here and they are collegiate in spirit.....It's all very English and most approachable."

     (Rob Barnett, Music Web International)

“This affecting Elegy…..harmonic elements impart a timeless quality….The many shifting modulations are beautifully handled….. a beautifully crafted and deeply personal musical tribute.”

     (Chris Symons, former Director and Founder, Oswestry School International Recital Series)

"When I first read through Paul's Sonata, I felt I related to the music straight away"

     (Anna Roberts, (1954 - 2011 ), Pianist)

It is a great privilege to be the dedicatee of Paul's Cello Sonatas nos. 1 and 2. Though very different, they both demonstrate his highly individual voice. The music covers a range of expression from great drama to intense emotion via fun and ebullience, and amply repay the effort of overcoming the considerable technical challenges. These however always arise from the needs of the music and not from any attempt at cleverness. I have given several performances of these works, and audiences and performers alike have derived great pleasure from them.

    (Ruth Henley, formerly Principal Cellist with Mid Wales Opera)  

"I sang for Paul in December 2018 as The Angel in his production of Bethlehem Junction. I found his music to be uplifting and a joy to sing."

    (Joanne Mayling, Soprano, formerly with English National Opera) 

..there is a considerable talent evident in his works.

    (Andrew Downes, Composer)

"Having worked with Paul on Bethlehem Junction, the highest accolade I can give is that I wish I had written many of the melodies myself.  They are truly well-crafted and memorable."

     (David Gaukroger, Composer)

It is a sensitive, spiritual piece for soprano, flute and string quintet. The strings provided an ethereal frame for solo passages of flute and soprano in answering phrases. After a hypnotic sequence of soft, repeated chords, the soprano soared above the strings reaching an electrifying climax at the word 'Alleluia' .

      (Moira Dixon, Salisbury Journal)

Paul Henley's music has the rare and prized quality of achieving powerful effects and telling contrasts with minimal fuss and maximum communicative directness. Generous melodies and tangy harmonies combine with a striking rhythmic ingenuity to create works loaded with infectious energy and suffused with vibrant emotional warmth. He is a composer whose work is to be wholeheartedly enjoyed by the listener, but also has the craftsmanship to amply satisfy and stimulate the performer.

      (Duncan Honeybourne, Pianist and Lecturer)




CCA Composer of the Month: NOV 2015-March 2016

Paul Henley is our most recent CCA colleague to feature in our series of Central Composers' Alliance's COMPOSER OF THE MONTH. He has only just joined the Alliance so we are pleased that he has been...

CD - 'Bethlehem Junction'