Gavin Higgins was born in Gloucestershire
in 1983 and grew up in Whitecroft in the Forest Of Dean where he first began
playing tenor horn with his local brass band. He entered Chetham's School of
Music as a French horn player and jointly studied horn with Peter Francombe and
composition with the present writer at the Royal Northern College of Music from
2001 to 2005, continuing his studies at master's level with Kenneth Hesketh at
the Royal College of Music from 2007 - 9.
The works that first brought Gavin to public attention are driven, aggressive, punchy, and exciting; visceral in a word. The grooving Coogee Funk (2005 for wind band) set a new standard for innovative wind orchestra writing which was followed by the British Composer Award-nominated A Forest Symphony (2007 for brass band) which itself led to number of high profile commissions and performances of vigorous, daring brass band pieces including Freaks (2007), Tango (2008) - both recorded by Black Dyke Band's principal trombone Brett Baker - Fanfares and Love Songs (2009) for the National Children's Band of Great Britain) and Destroy, Trample, As Swiftly As She (2011), which created a huge impression when premiered by the Tredegar Town Band at the 2011 European Brass Band Championships in the Stravinsky Hall, Montreux, Switzerland. In the orchestral work, Dancing At The Edge Of Hell (2010), premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Gavin released music of extraordinary elemental power that is always at the service of an estimably controlled and disciplined formal framework; a real achievement that also contains a rare and subtle use of distant radios!
On the other hand, Gavin's While Time Quietly Kills Them (2010) for chamber orchestra - a Manchester Camerata commission - wrong foots by beginning as a work of some aggression before almost immediately transforming itself magically into a soundscape of extreme sensual beauty. This is the other side of Gavin's musical world also audible in the growing collection of chamber and small scale works such as Three Broken Love Songs (2006) for clarinet and piano, written for his friend and colleague Mark Simpson and released on the NMC CD Prism (2011), and the saxophone quartet Endgame, a Cheltenham Festival Commission in 2011.
Involvement in the world of theatre and dance in particular seemed an almost inevitable progression for one whose music is so highly evocative and immediate so Gavin's appointment as Rambert Dance Company's inaugural Musician-in-Residence came as little surprise. This appointment has led to number of successful and well-received collaborations culminating in What Wild Ecstasy (2012 - choreographer Mark Baldwin), commissioned for the New Music 20x12 Project as part of the London Cultural Olympiad.
© Gary Carpenter [used with permission of the author]