Douglas Coombes was born in Bristol and read music at St Paul’s College, Cheltenham and Dartington College of Arts, Devon, where he studied, in particular, composing and conducting.
Douglas is a prolific composer and among his compositions are two concertos one for clarinet and organ and the other for oboe. five masses, a requiem, an Easter Oratorio, two symphonies, two ballets, orchestral and chamber music, church music and music for children.
On leaving the BBC to devote more time to composing and conducting he immediately founded The New English Concert Orchestra, a professional orchestra. In 1997 the orchestra became the orchestra of The Battle Proms was booked for the first Battle Proms concerts and has played in every concert since. These summer concerts take place in the grounds of stately homes of the UK. The main feature of these concerts is the performance of Beethoven’s Battle Symphony as the composer intended, namely with 193 cannons and mortars and with muskets. In August 2018 the orchestra played their 100th concert; Douglas has conducted every Battle Proms Concert since they began and he is now thought to have conducted Beethoven’s Battle Symphony more times than anyone else in music history.
Douglas Coombes studied music at St Paul’s College, Cheltenham and at Dartington Hall, Devon. He a received some inspiring conducting lessons from Imogen Holst, the daughter of the composer Gustav Holst. However, from an early age in his home city of Bristol, he will always be indebted to his private piano teacher, Horace Paull, who opened his eyes and ears to so much music and was the first to encourage his compositions.
For 20 years, Douglas was a music producer, writer and broadcaster for BBC Education working mainly on two popular programmes – Time and Tune and Singing Together – which reached over 2,000,000 young people weekly. He also arranged all the hymns for Come and Praise Book 1 and when he left the BBC in 1988 he arranged two more BBC hymn books – Come and Praise 2 and Come and Praise Beginnings for which he composed over 50 hymn tunes.
His work has taken him abroad to many European countries, Hong Kong, South Korea, the USA and throughout Europe. He has conducted a number of the leading UK orchestras and has conducted and led concerts for Barnardo’s, a leading UK children’s charity in many cathedrals and concert halls throughout England. He is also the Chairman of Adjudicators for the Barnardo’s National Choir Competition.For ten years Douglas was the music consultant and music director of BBC’s Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year Competition. He is one of the Patrons of the British Kodaly Academy. He has also accompanied his wife, the soprano Carole Lindsay-Douglas, in many recitals in the UK and abroad.In October 2008 he was made an honorary life member of the Schools Music Association of Great Britain for services to music in education. In November 2010 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music by Gloucester University, and in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list of June 2012 he was awarded the MBE for services to music. He was presented with the award in December 2012 by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. In November 2013 he conducted, in the Royal Albert Hall, London, the largest ever ocarina ensemble of 3081 players in his composition written for the occasion Ode to a Joyful New Star, thus beating the previous record held by a Chinese ensemble of 831. This new world record was verified by the Guinness Book of World Records.From January to June in 2019 he directed the Homerton Charter Choir (Cambridge University) while the regular conductor was on a sabbatical. On October 4 2019 Douglas was appointed an Associate Fellow of Homerton College. For a hobby he conducts three choirs The Amici Singers, The Homerton Singers and The Ensemble of Friends and when he has the time he enjoys watching two games that he once played, rugby and cricket, the latter he once considered playing professionally – but music won!