Lawrence Reed biography

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Lawrence Reed's distinctive contemporary music derives from classical training distilled with other musical influences from his past such as punk, folk, progressive rock, new wave and jazz. This creates strong melodic and rhythmic frameworks in tension with complex harmonic explorations and an experimental approach. A strong narrative often defines the work. The result is distinctive, accessible music with some challenges and a contemporary twist.

His work spans solo and ensemble composition, experimentation, community projects, guitar solos and duets. He is also part of a progressive folk/rock trio Pagan Harvest who recently released their second album to critical aclaim.


A grounding in folk and classical guitar


Lawrence’s early compositions were predominately for guitar using distinctive right hand patterns influenced by Davy Graham, Bert Jansch, John Martyn and Nick Drake. He honed his technique while playing on the London pub folk scene and studying with Heather Wells. During this period he spent three years studying classical guitar and music theory at the Watford School of Music under Tom Hartman and Carl Shavitz. Although he was still writing predominantly for steel strung guitar the classical influence added a powerful extra dimension.


Punk and New Wave – fun in the 80s


Punk's initial burst of energy threw most of the rules out of the window and suddenly anything seemed possible. Lawrence found the fresh and innovative music that followed irresistible. It was time to change direction, a simpler approach to music was needed. He subsequently composed and played in a number of bands most notably fronting the 3-piece band ‘State of Play’ and as guitarist for the more reggae/ska influenced ‘The Flats’. State of Play released two singles for the independent record label Shooting Star both receiving favourable reviews in the NME, "A lively and enjoyable debut single from the London three piece band."  Meanwhile, The Flats played regularly across London's pub and club circuit including Ronnie Scott's, The Marquee, The 100 club, Heaven and The Rock Garden with residencies at the lesser know Stapleton Arms (Finsbury Park) and Chats Palace (Hackney).

All composing energies were put into writing for these bands until, frustrated and disillusioned by the direction of popular music, he quit them both. He began to rediscover the depth, range and intricacy of guitar music that he had neglected or forgotten. The legacy of the ‘New Wave’ period clearly remains though in much of Lawrence's work particularly the clear melodic phrases and strong rhythms.


Back to guitar – a period of reflection


As an able player Lawrence’s guitar compositions for solo and duet fully explore the techniques and range of the instrument.

In 2001 he began an important collaboration with guitarist Graham Sims. This culminated in the world premiere in November 2001 at the Michael Tippet Centre of two major solo guitar works ‘Soundtrack 1’ and ‘The Fairground’. The works were well received: "Substantial pieces... with many effective ideas" (Bath Chronicle). Graham went on to record both pieces on ‘The Fairground’ an early CD of Lawrence’s music for solo guitar along with three pieces played by himself on steel strung guitar.

Between 2004 and 2007 Lawrence began a collaboration with Graham Sims and Kevin Byrne . This stimulated the composition of the Fanfarria suite. ‘Fanfarria II’ was premiered by Graham to great reviews at the Assembly Rooms in Bath...

In 2006 the more expansive duets ‘Fanfarria I’ and ‘Prelude’ were premiered by Graham and Kevin on their UK tour including the Tippet Centre and the Bolivar Hall, London. Composed over an 18 month period help and motivation came from Hayley Savage. The resultant piece is one that ambitiously tries to expand the guitar’s repertoire.

In 2005/2006 Lawrence worked with Gary Ryan on designing a revolutionary online guitar tutorial which included many original compositions. In that same year he also wrote guitar music for Matt Bormann including the haunting ‘Romantic Interlude’ premiered at the Assembly Rooms in Bath.


A Masters in Composition - expanding horizons


Lawrence's MA in music composition at Bath Spa University under the tutelage of Professor James Saunders has been influential in developing his distinctiveness, using new often experimental approaches, expanding the scope of the works and writing for new instruments and ensembles.

World premieres have been with Kreutzer Quartet (string quartet), New London Chamber Ensemble (woodwind quintet), Plus Minus (piano, accordion, cello, violin) and Bash Ensemble (percussion quartet). His music for the play Safe in Numbers had a successful two-week run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He has worked with famous artists such as: Roger Heaton (Clarinet), Gary Ryan, Matt Borgmann, Graham Sims,  The Flamenco Thief and Kevin Byrne (Guitar), Bruno Shrecker (Cello), and Christopher Redgate (Oboe).

He is currently writing solo flute and ensemble pieces along with modern solo and duet guitar pieces.


Experimental music – a community dimension


The structure of Lawrence’s community music projects are often ingenious frameworks which allow for a great deal of interpretation by the performers. The result is bringing communities together to make distinctive, accessible music with some challenges and a contemporary twist. Above all, his projects are about having fun.

Lawrence has always been involved in community music. Early years were spent in church and school choirs. He took up guitar at 14 and by 17 he was teaching in local arts and community centres. He could often be seen performing at arts centres and various North London folk clubs. He was involved in the Hackney Musicians Collective in the 1980s and more recently a founder member of The Guitar Circle.

Lawrence's compositions are not restricted to the concert hall. He is researching and composing works that involve whole communities to create a lasting sonic event over generations. In the summer of 2009 he created a 'monumental' music event the ebb of acrophobia in Trafalgar Square conducting over 50 musicians from the 4th Plinth. He was also actively involved in the Larkhall Festival developing original community music events as well as experimental and improvisational workshops in the surrounding schools.


Current performing and recording activity


A few years back he focused on two important guitar duet projects: Fight & Flight with James Douglas and Andalusian Sketches with The Flamenco Thief. Both projects resulted in recording CDs and numerous concerts and both collaborations are still actively involved in composing and recording.

In 2017 he collaborated on the Mercury Sea project with Kat Wojkic creating a series of dystopian modern songs.

In 2005 Lawrence formed the progressive rock/folk trio Pagan Harvest with Jon Bickley (singer/songwriter) and Steve Daymond (electric bass). Lawrence was principally responsible for music composition and arrangement. Their first album was released on Musea Records. Their second album Sacred River was released in 2018 to wide acclaim.


“Sacred River draws on the rich banks of lore around the River Thames… it’s a thoughtful album that’s dramatic, atmospheric and deftly performed… set to fascinating folk-inspired arrangements form Lawrence Reed… this is interesting, clear-eyed prog from a band who deserve to reap what they’ve sown.”

Grant Moon – Prog Magazine


“Pagan Harvest pull together a myriad of musical styles taking the listener off in different directions from folk to dark progressive moments all the way through to the underlying classical influences. The songs throughout this release are varied and certainly unique.”

Andrew Manning – Midlands Rocks


“The result is polarising… you have to applaud their desire to deliver something so leftfield.”

Jerry Ewing – Editor Prog Magazine


“Really good… Clever stuff!”

Dave Pegg (Fairport Convention/Jethro Tull)


“Pagan Harvest delivered a superb album… the story-telling over intricate soundscapes will captivate audiences, keeping them hooked from start to finish.”

Doug Bearne – National Rock Review


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