Composer Gavin Sutherland, Principal Conductor of English National Ballet, pays homage the five people who have guided his professional and artistic growth.

Photo of Gavin Sutherland

Sir John Barbirolli

My first conducting teacher introduced me to the life and work of English conductor Sir John Barbirolli – a man who inspired unswerving loyalty and respect by orchestras, fellow conductors and audiences alike. This was chiefly due to the investment of love and care that he made in the musicians he worked with, always striving to create an excellent collaboration that communicated his respect for the music he performed. This is a significant quality that I have always tried to present in my own career.

Sir Andrew Davis

Conductor Laureate of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew is perhaps the modern-day equivalent of Barbirolli; he has a sensitive care which is evident in every bar of music he conducts, alongside an urge to connect with audiences and heighten their appreciation of the many kinds of fine classical music the world presents. Added to this is his love of English music – an all-encompassing brand that essentially comprises about two hundred years of work, its evolution just as valid as that of work elsewhere in the world. My own work in this field is inspired by Sir Andrew’s performance and discovery, and it’s always a satisfying feeling to know that such a well will never run dry.

Paul Murphy

Paul is Principal Conductor of Birmingham Royal Ballet and he and I have known each other and worked together for about twenty years. Through my work at English National Ballet I know that the art and skill of conducting for dance is one both Paul and I take extremely seriously, and it’s that joy of being part of a larger collaboration that we both love. I have often talked of how conducting ballet is akin to “a concerto for silent soloists” (the dancers’ feet being about all that one might hear). This connection made over the footlights between a dancer and a conductor is a sensory perception that can seem so easy, and Paul and I have often talked of this in our dealings with this precise art.

Ronnie Hazlehurst

Ronnie’s work as a prolific composer, arranger and conductor, chiefly for BBC Television, introduced me to the life of the all-round musician: Ronnie is capable of contending with anything, from arranging for big band to orchestrating classical piano music for a full symphony orchestra, via conducting anything from a simple ballad to The Rite of Spring (not that I believe Ronnie did that, though I bet he could). His gift was to grab the listener’s attention and hold it from the very first bar (something that all composers/arrangers aspire to) and my busy arranging/orchestrating life owes a lot to his aims and standards. Within my current research for my PhD on Music for British Television, Ronnie’s name features extensively, as the prime example of this unique style of work.

Haydn Wood

The realms of British Light Music are seeing a renaissance, as more and more of this delicate and uniquely British sound finds its way onto recording, broadcast and celluloid. Haydn Wood was one of the most famous of these composers, perhaps with fewer hits than someone like Eric Coates or Robert Farnon, but no less versatile or prolific. One sees a balance in his writing, and in his work I’ve recorded, I see Wood along distinctively serious and lighter lines, but always so beautifully crafted - like all of the best of this genre.


Gavin Sutherland is a conductor, composer, arranger and orchestrator. He was appointed Music Director of English National Ballet in 2008, becoming Principal Conductor in 2010. Most recently, Gavin orchestrated Vincenzo Lamagna’s score for the Olivier Award-winning Akram Khan’s Giselle for the company, which tours to Chicago in early 2019. 

Link to Author(s): 
Photo of Gavin Sutherland