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Life as a London classical music composer

By way of introduction, I am Shirley Ly, a classical music composer born in London, UK with Chinese and Vietnamese heritage. I've lived in London all of my life! Here's just a short blog post about my life as a London classical music composer.

London classical music composer

London classical music composer, Shirley Ly
London classical music composer, Shirley Ly

I feel very lucky to live in London - it's really the place to be for music lovers! When I finish my day job in financial services, I find myself with plenty of musical options - I can go to a dazzling concert hall and listen to grand orchestral works by Tchaikovsky, sit and ponder over some bittersweet pop music, relax with some smooth jazz, dance to passionate Latin music, vibe to dreamy melodic techno and more. As a composer, I draw many influences from different types of music and there's definitely no shortage of musical influences in London! It is so easy to be able to connect with many musicians focusing on different genres.

London's classical music scene is world-class and there's so much talent in the city. This is partly due to the fact that the world's top music schools are in this city. I rarely struggle to find gifted musicians who would be available to record or perform with me, also on request at last minute! There are plenty of recording studios here, ranging from very affordable ones (I use the amazing Hackney Road Studios) to the renowned ones like Abbey Road (I do hope to be able to record there one day). There are many venues available who would let you perform there for free, particularly churches. Note that some venues are stricter than others in terms of the programme of music that they allow you to play, and I've been told that my original classical music compositions do not align with the venue's music requirements many times. If you have more of a budget then you can easily look into hiring grander venues i.e. the Royal Albert Hall, Conway Hall, Carnegie Hall.

Yes, London can be hectic and very busy (the commute to work is not stress-free in the mornings), and I find myself in constant battle with the fast-paced ways of life. Getting away from London, particularly to places surrounded by nature helps, and such breaks bring me closer to earth. The breaks also provide me with lots of musical inspiration, then I think back to these when I come back to London to compose. As a composer, the most important thing I find is making sure I have time to do composing. I tend to work around my day job, and spend most evenings on weekdays composing or the whole of weekends where I stay up till early hours of the morning with limited sleep. On 1 - 2 weeks prior to recording music, I would not arrange any social plans.

Note that I am not a full-time musician and therefore do not know what life is like as a full-time classical composer in London. London is super expensive to live in (rent prices are through the roof at the moment), and I can imagine that it would be difficult if I did not have another role.

I hope you enjoyed my insights. I actually wrote a piece about London called London Strive which aims to encapsulate my vision of London. 'A grey fog casts across London's cityscape - rain pattering and wind hissing. Despite this, we strive as in this city, there is full of opportunity.' Feel free to check out, and you can download using the below link too.

Feel free to down Feel free to london-classical-music-composer

1 Comment

Musical Works
Musical Works
6 days ago

Thanks for sharing about Life as a London classical music composer. You did a great job providing an insightful and realistic portrayal of a classical composer's life in London. The writing is engaging and captures the creative process as well as the practical realities of the profession. Well done!

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