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. The Firmament on High was commissioned by the Bridgnorth Sinfonia and received its premiere last year. Other more recent commissions include the Piano TrioTo the Gentle Light, a work for strings for the Shropshire Chamber Orchestra, that was due to be premiered in April of this year, Convergence for harpsichord for Richard Silk and also Piano Sonatas for Nafis Umerkulova and Duncan Honeybourne and a Nocturne for the pianist, Veronika Shoot. The most recent commission Paul has received is from the Mexican soprano and harpist, Claraliz Mora and is a song for that combination entitled Por siempre seran amadas / You are forever loved  



"Paul Henley is much concerned with communication, and his music is natrually melodic in a way that is uncommon amongst contemporary serious composers.....His is an individual voice and.....deserves to be better known."

     (David Matthews, Composer)

" 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)

Paul Henley is a fine composer with an ability to communicate with performer and listener alike. Being a baritone singer himself, Paul has a particular aptitude for composing for the voice. His lines are smooth, logical and lyrical, and the songs are very pleasant to listen to, and rewarding to sing. The instrumental music combines melodic lyricism with strongly defined rhythmic vitality. The Sonata for Cello and Piano is a particularly fine work.

    (Andrew Downes, Composer and President of the Central Composers' Alliance)       

He was commissioned in 2019 to compose a work for Bridgnorth Sinfonia, and created 'The Firmament on High' - a beautiful score, evocative, rich in musical ideas, demonstrating a close understanding of the musicians for whom it is written. The musicians responded enthusiastically to Paul Henley's music, which is also a pleasure to conduct, and I can recommend his work highly.

    (James Ross, Conductor) 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) 

"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 is a most imaginative composer whose work exhibits considerable expressive power and remarkable rhythmic ingenuity. His attractive music makes a strong emotional appeal, blending fine and subtle craftsmanship with a strong artistic individuality, ready lyricism and pungent harmony. This is music that really has something fresh and interesting to say, and it is always a pleasure to play and listen to Henley's works - which deserve a much wider listenership.

      (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'