Scottish-based composer Sally Beamish's work embraces chamber, vocal, choral and orchestral music, and is performed and broadcast internationally; there are several discs available on the BIS label, with more to follow. She has received commissions from the USA, Japan, Australia, Scandinavia and Europe.
The beginning of her career centred on the viola — she was a member of the Raphael Ensemble, and a large part of her music-making was in the field of chamber music. Much of her work is informed by this intimate experience of interaction between players, and the creation of colours by placing solo instruments in different relationships.
From 1998–2002 she was composer in residence with the Swedish and Scottish Chamber Orchestras, for whom she wrote four major works. Her Knotgrass Elegy was commissioned by the BBC Proms (2001), and an opera, Monster, based on the life of Mary Shelley, was commissioned by the Brighton Festival and Scottish Opera, with a libretto by Scottish novelist Janice Galloway. Her trumpet concerto for Håkan Hardenberger and the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, conducted by Martyn Brabbins, was performed at The Proms in 2003.
Her 2004 concerto for percussionist Evelyn Glennie, Trance o Nicht, received its premiere in the Northern Lights Festival, Tromsø, and her new flute concerto, commissioned by the RSNO, was premiered and recorded by Sharon Bezaly in 2005.
In 2006, in honour of her 50th birthday, the Cheltenham Festival will be staging a major retrospective on Beamish's work, including two new commissions: a concerto for accordionist James Crabb, and a set of songs for the Kings Singers. Both works are supported by her long-term friends and sponsors, Beryl Calver-Jones and Gerry Mattock.
Recent projects include a third viola concerto, for Lawrence Power and the Scottish Ensemble, and concertos for the Rascher Saxophone Quartet, and cellist Steven Isserlis. 2008 sees new works for the Brodsky Quartet, Colin Currie, and actor Sam West. Her 2nd concerto, commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra, will be premiered by Robert Cohen in 2009.
Her stage musical, Shenachie, a collaboration with writer Donald Goodbrand Saunders, reached the finals of the Cameron Mackintosh Highland Quest competition.