JOHN HEARNE was born in Reading, England in 1937, his parents having come from Wales. Since 1970 he has lived in Scotland. He studied in St Luke’s College, Exeter, and at University College of Wales, Aberystwyth where he gained a First Class Honours degree and a Masters degree. For a time he taught music in Iceland, and for 17 years was a lecturer at Aberdeen College of Education.
He was the first Chairman of the Scottish Society of Composers, and was the Chairman of the Scottish Music Advisory Committee of the BBC from 1986 to 1990. He is now a free-lance composer, singer and conductor, and was Chairman of Gordon Forum for the Arts in Aberdeenshire for three years. He was District Councillor for East Scotland for the Incorporated Society of Musicians for six years and was a member of the Executive Committee of the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain prior to its absorption into the British Academy. He was Warden of the Performers and Composers Section of the ISM (1999-2000). John Hearne was a member of the Board of Enterprise Music Scotland from 2005-2011.
Recent commissions include a TRUMPET CONCERTO for Nigel Boddice and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and a big FESTIVAL FANFARE for the opening ceremony of Aberdeen International Youth Festival, both of which were premiered in 1991. His anthem LÆTATUS SUM (Ps.122) was joint winner of the Gregynog Composers’ Award for Wales in 1992 and was performed by the William Byrd Singers at the Gregynog Festival. His wind band overture DE PROFUNDIS was commissioned for the Aberdeen University’s 500th anniversary in 1995, and he has recently completed a commission – BOTTOM’S DREAM – for the Hebrides Ensemble, premiered in October 1995, and a cantata for the 150th anniversary of St Margaret’s School for Girls, Aberdeen, which was performed by the whole school in June 1996. A revised version of this piece for soloists, adult and children’s choruses, and chamber orchestra was premiered in Aberdeen in December 1998. His QUINTET for Alto Saxophone and String Quartet for Colin Hunter and the Aberdeen Chamber Players was premiered in February 1998. In April 1998 John Hearne again won the Gregynog Composers’ Award for Wales for SOLEMN AND STRANGE MUSIC for Piano Duet which was performed in the Gregynog Festival in June by Harvey and Helen Davies.
In 1985, his suite for Brass and Percussion, THE FOUR HORSEMEN, was premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It was voted the best new work heard on the Fringe that year and the composer received the Festival City Radio Trophy from Radio Forth. This work has since been performed many times by a number of different groups, including the BBC Scottish Brass Ensemble and The Wallace Collection.
In the summer of 1998 he wrote a piece for Michael Brewer’s chamber choir Laudibus. It is a setting of the first verse of Isaiah 60, in Icelandic, and is scored for 16 voices. In the 1999 Eton Choral Course his award winning anthem Lætatus Sum was featured, and performed by singers from all over the UK.
In 2000 John was commissioned by Dundee Orchestral Society to write an overture to commemorate the launching of RRS Discovery in March 1901. Captain Scott’s ship is now preserved at ‘Discovery Point’, Dundee, and in March 2001 Dundee Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere of Hearne’s overture Into Uncharted Seas in the Caird Hall, exactly 100 years after the ship was launched from Dundee on its maiden voyage to the Antarctic.
In June 2001 Inverurie Choral Society performed another new commission by John Hearne, conducted by the composer. This was The Ben, a cantata for soprano and baritone soloists, children’s chorus, SATB chorus, and instruments. The text, in the Doric dialect of Aberdeenshire, was another collaboration with the poet William Imray, celebrating the familiar landmark in North-east Scotland, the mountain Bennachie. The performance took place in the Chapel of Garioch, under the shadow of the mountain itself. A further performance was given in May 2003 in Stonehaven in a new version with string orchestra.
In July 2003, John Hearne was a guest composer at the Victoria International Arts Festival in Gozo, Malta. His choral song The Seagull, based on a folksong from Skye, was featured by the National Youth Choir of Great Britain in their 2003 tour of Australia and Singapore, and was a spectacular success.
John Hearne was recently (2004) awarded the degree of Doctor of Music (D.Mus.) from the University of Wales, the first time this degree has been conferred in more than thirty years. The award was based on a portfolio of his compositions. He graduated in Aberystwyth in July 2005.
In November 2010 John won the Caledonian Hilton Audience Prize in the Waverley Trust competition for a new carol. “There’s a Song in the Air was published by OUP in 2011 in ‘Carols for Choirs 5′. For more information go to www.waverleycare.org
In July 2012 John Hearne took members of the Stonehaven Chorus to Iceland for a four-day concert tour, performing in Reykjavík, Stykkishólmur, Reykholt and Borgarnes.
In May 2014 John stepped down as Conductor of the Stonehaven Chorus to become ‘Conductor Emeritus’. He conducted his ‘retiral’ concert in Stonehaven on 11 May in a programme that included the premiere of “Dream Riders”, a new suite of four lyric pieces for chorus and orchestra to poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Steven, Thomas Dekker and E.V. Rieu. The programme also included John’s Icelandic folk-song suite “Summernights in the Fjords” and several a cappella choral pieces, some by contemporary composers that John has introduced to audiences over the past 25 years.
John Hearne now offers a full professional copying service using the Sibelius music notation programme.