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.
After teaching in North Somerset and then being Assistant Music Advisor to Norfolk LEA, he joined the BBC in 1968 as a music producer, working mainly in BBC Education, writing, producing and frequently broadcasting many programs such as Time and Tune and Singing Together which regularly enjoyed audiences of around 2 million listeners weekly. In 1988, wanting to spend more time on composing, conducting and to offer more practical help to teachers and pupils, he left the BBC to become a freelance musician. He founded The New English Concert Orchestra undertaking many performances annually in concert halls and in schools. He also started MUSICWorld a resource magazine for schools.
Douglas is a prolific composer and has written for all ages – professional and non-professional – and his output includes 2 symphonies, a requiem, 5 masses, an Easter Oratorio, 3 operas, 2 ballets, orchestral music, songs, church music and music for children. Many compositions have been supported by grants from the Arts Councils of England and Scotland and a number of his compositions have been set for the Trinity/Guildhall Exams and the Associated Board. One of his latest compositions is Songs from out West (based on North American Songs) for Audley Male Voice Choir (Staffordshire)
Douglas has conducted many of the UK’s leading orchestras including The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, The Scottish Chamber, The BBC Welsh, The London Concert, The Manchester Camerata, The Bournemouth Sinfonietta, The Northern Sinfonia and The New English Concert Orchestra. He has also conducted a number of Choral and Opera societies and is invited regularly to direct choral workshops for choirs in the UK and abroad, particularly in the USA. He has conducted twice in South Korea
During the past few years he has conducted a number of concerts for Barnardo’s and on November 5th 2014 he conducted 1300 children in the Royal Albert Hall and wrote the music for a record attempt on the largest ocarina ensemble to play together. The record was held by China (831) but as a result of this concert, the UK now holds the record, verified by The Guinness Book of Records, which stands at 3081, thanks also to audience participation. He co-founded the Barnardo’s National Youth Choral Competition and he is the Chairman of the judging panel
For the past 19 summers, Douglas has conducted the New English Concert Orchestra in the open-air Battle Prom concerts in England, held in the grounds of stately homes such as Hatfield House.Blenheim Palace and Highclere Castle.
For ten years he was the music director and consultant of the BBC’s TV Songs of Praise Competition to find the Senior and Junior School Choir of the Year and conducted the choirs in all the TV celebratory concerts. He is an adjudicator and has worked in many festivals in this country and abroad including twice in Hong Kong. He is one of the Patrons of the British Kodaly Academy.
On November 19th 2010 in Gloucester Cathedral, Douglas was awarded by the University of Gloucestershire an honorary Doctor of Music for services to music and the University. In 2012 he was awarded the MBE for services to music.
For a hobby he conducts two choirs 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!