Nigel Keay was born in Palmerston North, New Zealand in 1955 and has been working as a freelance composer and viola player in Paris since 2001, having moved to France in 1998. He writes primarily for orchestral instruments, from small ensembles to larger orchestral groups, and also composes for voice.
In New Zealand, Nigel Keay held the composer-in-residence position, the Mozart Fellowship, at the University of Otago in 1986 and 1987. He has been a Composer-in-Residence with the Nelson School of Music (1988 and 1989), and with Auckland's fulltime professional orchestra, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (1995).
Between 1983 and 1995 he received several grants from the Arts Council of New Zealand (now known as Creative New Zealand) for various commissions including his one-act opera At the Hawk’s Well. His music has sometimes been driven by literary and philosophical ideas. Throughout his career he has wherever possible played in or directed his own works. He became an Associate-Violist with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in 1994. Between 2003 & 2005 he gave multiple performances of his String Quartet No.2 in Europe with his own group, Quatuor Aphanès.
Nigel Keay's works have been broadcast on Radio France on several occasions; a commission in 2002 to compose a work for the programme Alla Breve in which the resulting work, Tango Suite was broadcast on its France Musiques and France Culture stations, and in October 2013 he was featured guest on Bruno Letort's new-music programme Tapage Nocturne broadcast on Radio France Musique.
His Serenade for Strings has been performed by several Parisian formations; the premiere by Ensemble Polymnia in 2004, Orchestre à cordes Idoménée in 2005, and Orchestre 2021 at the Fondation des États Unis, Paris in 2006. Between 2006 and 2009 Orchestre 2021 performed several of Nigel Keay's other works in Paris; Diffractions, Diversions and Tango Suite for String Quartet...
In 2010 Nigel Keay was co-producer of the Blumlein Records CD Diversions - Autour du hautbois, the music of five composers for or with oboe. This CD included his own Diversions for Quintet.
In December 2011 Blumlein Records released five of Nigel Keay's chamber music works on the CD Music for Small Groups. This production received a grant from the New Zealand / France Friendship Fund.
In 2013 he was admitted to the catalogue of the Documentation Centre for Contemporary Music (CDMC) located at the Philharmonie de Paris.
In April 2015 the CD the dancer leads the procession containing six of Nigel Keay's works is released.
Nigel Keay's works are increasingly being presented in prestigious concert venues in Europe and further afield. These include; Diversions for Quintet at the Graz Opera, Austria, at Casa da Música, Porto, Portugal, at the Paris Oboe Festival. His Introduction and Tarantella was premiered at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York City by Eugenia Choi and Svetlana Gorokovitch.
In 2016 two works were released on separate compact discs; the Oboe Sonata (Créations, Continuo Records, Italy), and Moderato à cent d'huîtres (on La Cuisine à l'alto by the Polymnie label, France). Other works are in preparation for future releases; String Quartet N° 2 (Blumlein Records, Germany), and Prelude for Cello & Piano (Atoll Records NZ).
Recent activities have included a commission in 2017 from Musique à la Ferme for their production Loup es-tu là? and a premiere in 2018 of Nocturne, Havrincourt 1918 at Église Saint-Merry in Paris by the Parisian ensemble Traces d'Aujourd'hui.
In 2019 Nigel Keay began collaborating with the saxophonist Daniel Kientzy. A studio version of the work Tectonics was produced at Kientzy's Nova-Musica Studio, followed by a second work, Maungarei in 2021.
Musicians who have played his music include Marika Lombardi, Nathalie Dang, Jean-Marc Fessard, Dora Cantella, Quatuor Leonis, Jennifer Lee, NZTrio, Quinteto Contraste, Franck Chevalier, Quatuor Diotima, Korutet, Alice Fagard, Elm Ensemble (Philharmonie de Graz), Pierre-Henri Xuereb, Julien Darbonville, John-Paul Muir, Andrea Mundy, Joseph Spooner, Kathryn Mosley, Jeffrey Grice, Cyprien Busolini, Simone Roggen, Paolo Vignaroli, Delphine Latil, Anastasiya Filippochkina, Jean-François Bescond, Eugene Lee, Thomas Hutchinson and others ...
trio for clarinet, viola and piano, 16m
for solo clarinet, 3m 10s
for solo violin, 6m
for piano and orchestra, 10m
for winds and strings, 15m
for mixed chamber quintet, 15m
for two violas, 7m
for large orchestra, 3m
for piano, 8m
for piano, 5m
for piano and narrator, 9m 23s
for piano, 4m
for viola and piano, 4m
for baritone saxophone and double bass, 10m
for piano, 2m 16s
for cello and piano, 7m
for string orchestra, 17m
for flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, bass trombone, violin, viola and double bass
for two oboes and bassoon, 6m 15s
for wind quintet, 11m
string quartet, 17m
for orchestra, 22m
for string orchestra, 15m
for orchestra, 24m
for string quintet
a suite for contralto, string quartet and double bass, 10m
for string quartet, 10m
for flute, viola and harp, 15m
for piano, 9m
for violin, cello and piano, 9m 1s
for trumpet, horn and trombone, 9m
for piano, 11m
for piano, 10m
for violin, cello and piano, 9m
for viola and orchestra, 24m
for violin and viola, 10m
for soprano, vibraphone and string trio
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