Buxton Daeblitz Orr was born in Glasgow in 1924 and died in Herefordshire in December 1997. He gave up a career in medicine in the early 1950s to become a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he joined Benjamin Frankel's composition masterclass and studied conducting with Aylmer Buesst.
He wrote with a very individual voice, devising his own serial technique using 12-note rows, but always embracing a more traditional harmonic and melodic language. His early professional work was in films ('Suddenly Last Summer' several horror films, some with Boris Karloff) and theatre (the original production of 'Flowering Cherry'). Later his compositions included several song cycles, two string quartets, a string trio, three piano trios and other chamber music, many works for brass and wind band, orchestral music and a one-act opera 'The Wager' staged by the New Opera Company at Sadlers Wells in 1961 and subsequently broadcast from Glasgow by Bryden Thomson and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 1970. In 1965 he joined the staff of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he founded the Guildhall New Music Ensemble. For ten years he conducted the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra (founded by Barry Guy), touring Britain and Europe and taking part in the 1972 Berlin Jazz Festival.
Buxton Orr received commissions from Glasgow University, the Saltire Society, the Park Lane Group, the BBC (1979 Bath Festival) Radio Scotland, the City of London Festival and Merseyside Arts. His interest in music-theatre led to his writing 'Unicorn', 'The Last Circus' and 'Ring in the New', the last during his period as Composer-in-Residence and Associate Director of the Music Theatre Studio Ensemble at the Banff Centre for Find Arts in Canada, for which he and Michael Bawtree were awarded the Seagrams Prize of the American National Music Theatre Network in 1988.
He gave up regular teaching in 1990 when he moved to Herefordshire to devote himself fully to composition. During the last year of his life he completed his String Trio, 'Sinfonia Piccola' for full orchestra and the last two of four operatic fantasies for 'cello and piano, but sadly his two-act opera based on 'The Alchemist', although complete in piano score, is left only partly orchestrated. However, 'Narration' is a sketch of some of its musical ideas in the form of an instrumental précis of the drama, its principal events, characters and its overall design and can be heard on the Doyen Wind Band Series (DOYCD118).
Photo Credit: Philip Price