I was born with a double curvature of the spine. Though this was a disability in school cross-country it did not stop me from playing the piano; I even took my eleven-plus school exam, at age eleven, standing up due to a Milwaukee brace that I had to wear at the time.
After undergoing a surgical operation to insert a metal rod against my spine I then went on to Kings Norton Grammar School, Birmingham and then to Pates Grammar, Cheltenham where my father became Head Caretaker; my father was Ukrainian and my mother English; I have written an orchestral Requiem for them called Pro Defunctis.
A minor accident during a brief sojourn in engineering brought me to my senses and I started to practice more seriously on the piano. This paid off because I went on to win several classes in the Cheltenham Competitive festival – the Open Challenge Class, Composition Class & the Accompaniment Class.
A Bid for Freedom, for piano solo, written at this time helped me to secure a place at the Birmingham School of Music (now Conservatoire). This fantasy-type solo piano work seemed to show enough potential to impress both the local grant officer and Frank Wibaut, head of keyboard studies at the school. I was therefore accepted on the piano-performing course.
And so the college years began. Surrounded by music life was heaven.
On discovering the music of Shostakovich I became very excited about composition and now with a more formal training I started composing a string of works. Five Songs from the Lord of the Rings, Never till the sun fails (for organ solo), Piano Sonata No1, String Quartet 1, Sonatina (for Trumpet in Bb and piano), Lamentation of Jeremiah (for SATB choir and piano), Violin Sonata 1, Deathdance (for chamber group based on a painting by Felix Nussbaum), Three Studies in Time (for chamber group), and Harlequin and the Secret of Life, a school opera.
In 1986 John Ogdon came to the college and my piano teacher and friend, John Humphreys, introduced him saying, “John is going to play your Piano Sonata no1 in a lunchtime concert today!”
John Ogdon’s playing was magnificent. I later wrote an Elegy (published in A Natural Selection) for solo piano in memory of him; my Piano Concerto, is also dedicated 'John Ogdon in memoriam'.
Whilst at music college I won the Burke Trophy for Advanced Piano, the John Ireland Chamber Music Prize and the Birmingham Midland Institute Composition Prize.
After graduating from college in piano and composition (with distinction) in 1986, I began teaching. Composing was still very important to me and I began composing a new piano sonata, Spirits of our age II, based on a painting by Hieronimus Bosch. At this time I was also working on the Piano Trio for Anne Frank, Het Achterhuis, inspired by Anne's Frank's Diary and Greg Tricker’s batik paintings of Anne’s life in the attic.
Art continues to be an influence on my music.
The Cosmic Mandala for full orchestra, influenced by Messiaen’s Canyons of the Stars, received it’s premiere at this time in Birmingham with a student orchestra. Messiaen had begun to interest me in his use of harmony and colour.
After several years of teaching instruments in schools I moved to Norfolk where I began work as a professional musician playing keyboards and singing in Haven, Pontins and Summerfields holiday parks.
On return to Cheltenham I began to give many piano recitals, including performances of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto and Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, and including my own works whenever possible.
My composing began again more seriously when I attended the University of East Anglia. Here I started a second symphony; my first, The Gloucester Symphony, involving triple wind was begun shortly after leaving college.
The Cheltenham Symphony is dedicated to Nigel Jones MP and the final movement is marked ‘Gustav Holst in memoriam’. It contains a Ukrainian folk tune taught to me by my relatives when I visited them in the post-Soviet Ukraine. The symphony speaks of the Cotswold Hills and dales.
A working cruise in Asia playing jazz piano made me realise just how important serious contemporary music was for me. I had had enough of the ‘entertainment’ world.
Back home in England I continued with my compositional work completing three more piano sonatas, a second violin sonata, many piano works, chamber pieces and song cycles, to name but a few.
Realising just how much music I had already written I then started the process of arranging concerts, recordings and further commissions that still continues to the present day.