B. P. Herrington, composer
A (Useful) Personal Biography
I was born and raised in the Big Thicket of eastern Texas, in the small town of Silsbee. My musical life has been mostly shaped by family background. My father’s people came from Mississippi and settled around Bessmay (a lumber town in Jasper County, now a ghost town). They were country Baptists and many of them were fine singers in that tradition: when my grandmother, Eddie Darlene Biscamp, was a child, her mother took her around to the neighboring backwoods churches to sing “specials” for them. Though I lost my grandmother in 2003, her high, tense country voice still rings in my ears. Obviously, the Biscamps come from German stock.
My mother’s people are ornery Scots-Irish folk from a part of the Big Thicket called Caney Head. These are mostly sojourners from Appalachia and other Southern states who came through and quite literally got stuck in the Thicket.* My mother’s people were far from Baptists: they were Holy Ghost sanctified Pentecostals. I grew up with country Pentecostal music, which is an odd amalgam of honky-tonk and gospel. My father was the “song leader” at our church on the outskirts of Silsbee. I remember him pounding the pulpit to the beat, eyes closed, singing out in a high tenor. He also played guitar at church. We sometimes had singings at our house on Sunday nights: my other played piano by ear and sang alto.
The greatest influence on my piano writing was one of our preachers, Brother James West, who played the piano like Jerry Lee Lewis. When he “got the Holy Ghost” his playing became increasingly barbaric, which produced some very interesting harmonies.
My output surely reveals the difficult relationship I have with my religious upbringing. There were elements of the fervent religion that quashed freethinking. I’ve made my own kind of peace. Spirituality is personal, so all I’ll say is that I still draw on the inspiration of my childhood, and without irony.
Composer B. P. Herrington was born in the Big Thicket, in 1976. His works have been performed by artists such as soprano Tony Arnold, conductor James Baker, Ensemble Linea, El Perro Andaluz, the London Sinfonietta, the Royal Academy Symphony Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, the BBC Singers, in venues such as Rothko Chapel, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Carnegie Hall, and London’s Purcell Room. He is founding director of Intersection New Music Collective based at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas, where he teaches composition and analysis.
Composition awards include the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize, Morton Gould Award (ASCAP), Leo Kaplan Prize (ASCAP), First Music Award (New York Youth Symphony) and two composition awards from the Royal Academy of Music. His music has been selected for performance at ACO/Berkely Symphony EarShot Reading Session (2014), June in Buffalo (2013), Wellesley Composers Conference (2013), the Cleveland Composers Recording Institute (2013), Pharos Arts Festival in Cyprus (2012), the Soundscape Festival in Italy (2011), UMKC Cello Days (2010), the OMMAGIO memorial concert for Berio in London (2004), the Royal Festival Hall Organ Recital Series (2002), and the British Society for the Promotion of New Music (2001).
Herrington earned a Ph.D. in music composition at the Royal Academy of Music, London, where he studied with Simon Bainbridge (2001-2004). He also studied with Marc Satterwhite and Steve Rouse at the University of Louisville (1998-2000), and with Frank Felice at Lamar University (1994-1998). He has attended composition masterclasses with Brian Ferneyhough, Mario Davidovsky, Eric Chasalow, Melinda Wagner, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Karel Husa and Donald Erb. Herrington also attended masterclasses with Helmut Lachenmann, Beat Furrer and Georges Aperghis at the Darmstadt International Summer Courses in 2006. In addition to studying trumpet and piano at the undergraduate and graduate levels, he studied conducting privately, in graduate seminars and in masterclasses (Craig Kirkhoff).
Pictured: My grandfather L.G. Ard and his father Ike Ard, in an area of the Texas Big Thicket called Caney Head.