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the website of composer Nigel Hess
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Welcome to the official Nigel Hess website!

We hope you enjoy exploring this site, whether you want to find a piece of music, listen to some recordings or watch some film clips. The site is being constantly updated, but please feel free to get in touch via the 'Contact' button above if there's something else you'd like to know. Meanwhile, here's the latest news:


Nigel was deeply honoured to be amongst the twelve composers commissioned by His Majesty The King to write new pieces for the Coronation at Westminster Abbey on May 6th. A range of musical styles and performers blended tradition, heritage and ceremony with new musical voices of today, reflecting The King's life-long love and support of music and the arts. His Majesty personally commissioned the new music and shaped and selected the musical programme for the Service.

Based on one of His Majesty's favourite hymns, Be Thou my Vision - Triptych for Orchestra was a commission from a trio of composers, Nigel Hess, Roderick Williams and Shirley J Thompson, who each created contemporary musical responses to the Irish hymn and skilfully wove them together into a single work. Nigel begins the piece with an opening horn call inspired by the acoustics of Westminster Abbey which introduces a stirring rendition for the full orchestra. This gently subsides into a slow rhapsody by Roderick Williams based on the iconic shapes of the Slane melody of the hymn, concealing a musical cryptogram of His Majesty’s name. A sparkling fanfare launches the final section, by Shirley J Thompson, with undulating triplets supporting variations of the melody that are intricately woven throughout, leading to a triumphant and celebratory ending.

Nigel's previous royal commissions include the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra written in memory of the Queen Mother, and a ballet based on The Old Man of Lochnagar, a short story written by The Former Prince of Wales in 1980.

In 2018 Nigel was honoured to be asked to arrange and conduct the music for the after-dinner entertainment at King Charles' 70th birthday celebration at Buckingham Palace, with Christopher Luscombe directing and Guy Unsworth producing. The company included Renee Fleming, Joshua Bell, Alfie Boe, Gary Wilmot and the London Welsh Male Voice Choir.

The same creative team had previously devised the entertainment for Her Majesty the Queen's private 90th birthday celebration at Windsor Castle in 2016, which was attended by the entire Royal Family and close friends. On this occasion the company included the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain, Nina Conti, Julian Ovenden, Scarlett Strallen, and trumpeters from the RAF Central Band.

For both shows the versatile orchestra, directed by Nigel from the piano, was provided by Andy Barnwell Musical Co-ordination Services.


This Orchid Classics album is the latest collection to celebrate Nigel's music with world premiere recordings and new versions of favourite compositions, turning the spotlight on works written primarily for the concert hall or without onscreen images in mind. The Way of Light – The Music of Nigel Hess features a stellar cast of performers, among them pianists Piers Lane and Nicholas McCarthy, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the BBC Singers and Sir Derek Jacobi, with rousing contributions from the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. It comprises everything from a bold ballet suite to the sublime Arise My Love, a haunting setting of words from the Song of Solomon, and the equally seductive Live With Me and Be My Love. Think of it as the ultimate Nigel Hess mixtape!

Every year Classic FM asks their listeners to vote for their three top classical music pieces. Once voting closes, they count and collate the votes, and broadcast the top 300 over a dedicated weekend.

Never out of the Hall of Fame since their respective releases, 2023's chart again included Nigel's acclaimed film score Ladies in Lavender at number 116 (up 93 places from the previous year) and his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (up 65 places to number 179). Ladies in Lavender also clocked in at number 14 in CFM's 2023 Movie Music Chart.

"Nigel Hess' main theme for this 2004 film starring Maggie Smith and Judi Dench is simple and beautiful. Performed by award-winning violinist Joshua Bell and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, it is one of the most enduring film scores of recent years." (Classic FM)

"As modern piano concertos go, Nigel Hess' has to be one of the most revered. Originally commissioned by the Prince of Wales as a tribute to the memory of the Queen Mother, it has since been recorded by the likes of Lang Lang — testament to its status as a performers' concerto." (Classic FM)


The Food of Love project started as a CD collection of Nigel's scores for the Royal Shakespeare Company in new orchestrations performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Due to the success of the album the RPO suggested a live performance, and, with a script written by Nigel, the concert version of The Food of Love was first performed at Cadogan Hall with narrators Dame Judi Dench and Sir Patrick Stewart. As well as Nigel's music, other composers featured included Craig Armstrong, Patrick Doyle, Henry Purcell, William Walton, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Stephen Warbeck, with Shakespeare being brought vividly to life as the Bard’s most famous speeches and scandalous backstage anecdotes created a night to remember. Subsequent performances, including a 'command' performance at Buckingham Palace, have featured guest presenters Robert Lindsay, Dame Diana Rigg, Zoe Wanamaker and Gemma Arterton.

The most recent performance of The Food of Love with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra took place at London's Royal Festival Hall on April 16th, 2019, and was presented by Sir Derek Jacobi and Frances Barber.

September 2015 saw Nigel reunited with director Christopher Luscombe when he composed the score for a new play at Shakespeare's Globe, Nell Gwynn, by Jessica Swale. It was Nigel's fifth production at the Globe, having previously scored The Merry Wives of WindsorRomeo and JulietHenry VIII and The Knight of the Burning Pestle

The production transferred to the Apollo Theatre in London's West End and played there until April 30th 2016, starring Gemma Arterton in the iconic role of Nell, where it won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. The show then undertook a national tour starring Laura Pitt-Pulford and finished back at its original home - Shakespeare's Globe. In September 2018 Nell Gwynn received its North American Premiere at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. 


"It is much helped by Nigel Hess's score, which sets bawdy lyrics to seductive melodies and sends the audience out humming Nell's: "I can dance and I can sing / And I can do the other thing"." Michael Billington, The Guardian ****

"Composer Nigel Hess's gorgeous compositions co-exist organically with a cast who light up the stage." Mark Shenton, The Stage *****

"The play is infused with beautiful music by Nigel Hess." Laura-Jane Foley, London Theatre *****

"Blessed with some ripe comic ditties from Nigel Hess." Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard ****

"Nigel Hess's Purcell-like songs hit every musical target." Warwick Thompson, Blouin ArtInfo

"To have musicians performing live throughout a play is such a luxury; the music performed throughout, written by Nigel Hess, creates the most excitingly magical of atmospheres....I found myself singing as I left the theatre." Andrew Tomlins, West End Frame *****

"The songs (with music composed by Nigel Hess) are inspired....a big hit with the audience." Michaela Clement-Hayes, West End Wilma *****

"Nigel Hess has provided quite fabulous music to bolster the joys here. The tunes are bright, snappy, catchy and exuberant. They feel like they might be sending up the style of the time, in a sort of Spamalot fashion, but it is more than that: the song and dance sections seduce the audience, liven them up and set them up for the darker parts of Gwynn’s tale. The musicians play superbly and the attack of the cast is faultless. For a company of actors, the harmonies are beautifully conveyed, the diction excellent, the style exactly right." Stephen Collins, Live Theatre UK *****

Nigel's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra received two performances at the 2018 George Enescu Festival in Romania. The soloist was Vassilis Varvaresos and the Bacau Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Cristian Lupes. The performances were on September 20th in Bacau and September 22nd in Bucharest. Nigel attended the Bucharest performance.


"Destined for the classical charts as soon as it hits the shops, this is an immediately affecting work whose three movements, 'The Smile', 'The Love', 'The Duty', sum up three aspects of The Queen Mother's character. The first two are pictorial and tuneful; the third, recalling the Blitz, starts grittily but ends triumphantly. Lang Lang plays with great conviction." - Classic FM Magazine

"As modern piano concertos go, Nigel Hess' has to be one of the most revered. Originally commissioned by the Prince of Wales as a tribute to the memory of the Queen Mother, it has since been recorded by the likes of Lang Lang — testament to its status as a performers' concerto." - Classic FM Hall of Fame 
"I think the second movement is one of the most beautiful slow movements you can find for the piano." - Lang Lang

Nigel was delighted to team up again with director Christopher Luscombe and designer Simon Higlett for the recent Royal Shakespeare Company production of Twelfth Night which played at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. 

Composer Nigel Hess has turned the play’s songs into full-blown musical numbers, sung with gusto, and given the whole thing a cinematic score. [Natasha Tripney, The Stage]

...with supportingly evocative lush compositions from Nigel Hess... [Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph]

This is also a musical - Nigel Hess's Victorian-influenced score is the perfect accompaniment. [Neil Masuda, Sunday Mirror]

Nigel Hess’ music score gave the play a vibrant energy which punctuated the highs and lows of emotion that ripple throughout the play, both in evocative interludes and bright Elizabethan ditties. It is not in the habit of the English theatre audience to erupt in rapturous applause midway through a performance, however, the musical numbers, particularly Ade Edmondson’s ‘Please One and So Please All’, was fuelled by the audience’s enthusiasm and encouragement as each pause brought a sea of laughter and applause. [Holly Reaney, Redbrick]

The new RSC production of Twelfth Night is visually stunning and musically opulent. This, the play by Shakespeare that has most reference to music and its powers, has a lovely and almost non-stop score in the background and foreground throughout. Composer Nigel Hess invokes the musical hall/Gilbert and Sullivan D’Oyly Carte popular entertainments of the late 19th century. Beautiful to look at, lovely to listen to (both the text and the music). [Mel Cooper, Plays To See]

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