Simon Austin was born and raised in Sussex. His school's Director of Music, Cecil Cope, was a fine composer and this, along with experiencing and participating in a wide range of music in school, drew him towards the discipline and he began to compose for fellow students in his teens.
Simon studied for the BMus at Exeter University and composition under Nicholas Maw. He then completed the PGCE course at Birmingham University, briefly studying with John Casken, before entering the teaching profession in 1978. He came to public notice in 1986 with Epitaphia, a set of four epitaphs written for his wife, soprano Penelope, Alan Brind and Claire McArthur. Earlier works include Three Introits (1984) SATB written for Ian Curror at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, settings of his father, Charles Grainger Austin's poetry and choral arrangements. His style is of pragmatic lyricism.
Forming his own choir, The Sussex Cantorum, in 1991, he has concentrated on the choral repertoire, mainly in collaboration with the author and poet, Nick Nye (seen below left). Their larger choral works have covered social issues arising at the time.
Easter Trilogy (1993) SATB/SAB Soli, In the Night-Time of the Year, (1994) SATB/SSB soli/Orchestra and The Cry of the Unicorn (1997) SATB/Soli/Orchestra deal with Dietrich Bonnhoffer, the Balkans War and St Augustine's conversion of Albion respectively. The Requiem for the Jarawa (2006) SATB/AB soli/Orchestra and The Third Millennium (2012) SATB/Bar solo/Orchestra tackle the concerns for ancient peoples and traditions and the impact of the terrorist activities emanating from 9/11. Sussex Born (2016) SATB/ST soli/Orchestra is a musical portrait of their county of birth and This Human Shield (2018) SATB/Orchestra deals with childhood soldiers within modern military conflict and includes songs associated with World War 1.
Cecilia Who? (2009) SATB/Organ or Orchestra is an humorous take on the Patron saint of Music. Shorter choral works were written for specific events and range from a cappella to unusual combinations. My true love hath my heart (2012) SATB, setting Philip Sidney, is a wedding anthem. He has also arranged music for choir, from well-known songs, for instance Where heart and love are all (2015) SATB/Cel adds a 'cello obbligato to an arrangement of the Londonderry Air to new words by Nick Nye and Spirituals, to Carols, descants and for instrumental groups various. Barnabas (2010) SATB/Recorder trio commemorated the Centenary of Barnabas College; Runnymede (2015) SATB/Recorder trio the signing of the Magna Carta and First Light (2017) SATB/AT soli concerns the circumstances surrounding Martin Luther and his Treatise. Night Music (2018) SATB/B solo/Organ is in memory of Nick Milner-Gulland. The Firebird (2016) SATB/Organ/Orchestra concerns the mythical bird's powers of rejuvenation.
Peter Medhurst, a close friend from school days, has organised a Twelfth Night event for many years and Simon and Nick have written The Beautiful, Savage Star (2014), 8-part male voices/piano, A Wise Man Remembers (2016) Ten/piano and Noblesse Oblige (2019) STTTBB piano for these events as well as Some Unseen Face (2014) B/String quartet for a World War 1 Remembrance concert Peter gave in November 2014. Summoned (2019) S/String 5tet/piano with optional flute takes the theme of the Star drawing the Magi to Bethlehem.
Carols include Sir Christemas (1983) SATB, In Excelsis (2003) Tr/SATB/Organ, Candleround (2008) SATB/Organ, In Rama (2010)SATB, Alleluia, a New Dawn (2016)SATB and The Cow and the Bear or Thus Spake Isaiah (2014)SATB/Organ. Leaving Eden SATB/Organ is in preparation. SATB Arrangements include People look East, Song of the Crib, The Nailsbourne Beast, Three ships, The Boar's Head and others.
Choral arrangements include Where have all the flowers gone, Tip-toe through the tulips, The Honeysuckle and the Bee, Windmills of your mind and others.
His settings of Three Introits (1984)SATB, to a text by Charles Thompson, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis (1993)SAB/Organ, God Bless this House (1998) SATB, Gaudete (2012) SATB/Orchestra, written to celebrate HM Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee to a text by Joan Telfer, Onward Journey (2000)SATB to words by Nick Nye and the arrangement of Jesu dulcis memoria (2018) SSATB are all sacred works.
His instrumental works include a String Quartet (1977), Concertino for Treble recorder (2013), Quart' Exite for Trombone and orchestra (2004), Epilogue for Horn and two 'Celli, (2000), Five Suite Minutes (2011) for solo double bass and His End Was? (2019) for solo flute.
Simon enjoys ensemble recorder playing. The Wealden Recorder Ensemble plays a wide range of musical arrangements, including some of his own but largely by Alan Lane and contribute to concerts given both by Early Music groups and, with more recent compositions and arrangements, chamber choirs.
Growing up on the edge of a golf course, Simon has always loved the sport as well as hockey, cricket and badminton. He and Penelope have two children, now in their 20s and 30s. His twilight years were spent as a Special Needs teacher following nearly thirty years as a class music teacher. On retirement he was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma but through the excellent work of the NHS and family support he has been given a new lease of life and continues to be involved in a great deal of music-making as composer and performer.
b. 17 April 1955, Forest Row, Sussex