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Trinity Laban honours Steve Reich

Wed 6 November 2019

London’s Creative Conservatoire has awarded an Honorary Fellowship to prolific minimalist composer Steve Reich in recognition of his contribution to music.

The celebratory event at our Faculty of Music opened with a performance of Reich’s iconic three-movement work Electric Counterpoint arranged for electric viola by Head of Strings Nic Pendlebury.

Originally written in 1987 for live guitar accompanied by pre-recorded electric and bass guitars, the hypnotic piece was first recorded by guitarist Pat Metheny.

Following the breath-taking recital, multi-awarding winning composer Reich gave Pendlebury a standing ovation and embraced him warmly, commenting: 

“The idea that Electric Counterpoint would be bowed had never occurred to me. I want to thank Nic for a beautiful surprise.”

Pendlebury’s Smith Quartet has played many Reich works, including a memorable version of Different Trains in a 2005 BBC film marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, filmed on location at the concentration camp.

After the performance Head of Composition Dominic Murcott invited the American icon to the stage to take part in an interview and informal Q&A with students, where he shared unique insight and advice:

“Write pieces for a combination of people you know in the music community you’re in, things will grow from that point.

Write something so moving and magnetic they want to hear it. Music should absolutely rivet you so you’re just in it – if not the composer or performer has failed you.”

The intimate afternoon concluded with the awarding of the Honorary Fellowship, presented to Reich by Director of Dance Sara Matthews.

The award citation, read by Principal Anthony Bowne, included the following tribute –

“The impact that Steve Reich’s work has had on today’s music making can hardly be overstated. He is routinely described as one of a few living composers who has altered the trajectory of music, or more simply: America’s greatest living composer. He is responsible, perhaps more than anyone, for widening the audience of today’s classical music.”

Reich was in London for the UK premiere of his new piece Reich/Richter at Barbican Centre. The new 37-minute work for large ensemble is for a film by renowned painter Gerhard Richter, created in collaboration with filmmaker Corinna Belz. Future performances have been scheduled across Europe.

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Image: Trinity Laban composition students with Steve Reich (credit Tas Kyprianou)

About Steve Reich

Born in New York in 1936, Steve Reich studied Philosophy at Cornell University, before studying Composition at The Juilliard School, New York and Mills College. Continuing his musical studies, he studied drumming at the University of Ghana, Accra and Gamelan at the American Society for Eastern Arts, Seattle and at Berkeley, California. In 1966 he founded his own ensemble which has toured the world since 1971 and his work has now been played by the world’s major orchestras. His path has embraced not only aspects of Western Classical music, but the structures, harmonies and rhythms of non-western and American vernacular music, particularly jazz. He has received commissions from the Barbican, Holland Festival, San Francisco Symphony, Vienna Festival, the Kronos Quartet and the Brooklyn Academy to name a few. Several choreographers have created work to his music including Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker, Jerome Robbins, Laura Dean, Siobhan Davies and Lucinda Childs. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including two Grammys and a Pulitzer Prize and he holds honorary awards from the finest institutions in Europe and the USA.

For a full biography and list of works please visit

About Trinity Laban Honorary Fellowships

Trinity Laban Honorary Fellowships are awarded each year to distinguished artists, practitioners, educators and professionals in the fields of the performing arts and education. Previous recipients have included dance artists Sir Matthew Bourne, Merce Cunningham and Emma Gladstone, musicians Chi-Chi Nwanoku OBE, Gary Crosby OBE, the Kronos Quartet and Ravi Shankar, and leaders in the arts such as Gillian Moore CBE, Jude Kelly CBE and Sir Cameron Mackintosh.