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The City worker who changed his tune

Jane Clinton talks to Paul Fincham, who gave up corporate finance to become a composer

15 June, 2018 — By Jane Clinton

Paul Fincham: ‘I think lots of people are having more than one career’

HAVING one successful career is impressive, but when the chance came for Paul Fincham to return to his first love – music – the decision was simple. And at the end May he had his last day at work in the City, after some 33 years, to become a full-time composer.

“I think lots of people are having more than one career,” he says from his home in Islington, an area he has lived in since 1987. “My father lived until he was 102 so I am hoping for a fair few years in this new one.”

Paul studied music at Cambridge, where he was director of music at Footlights and coaxed a song out of, among others, fellow student Dame Emma Thompson, in the Christmas production of Aladdin. But the thought of an existence as an impoverished young composer did not appeal so he did a conversion course and went into corporate law.

In recent years he worked in corporate finance but for the past two he has been working part-time while he continued to build up his composing career.

It didn’t take long as he had already been offered a composition job for a film… although, as is often the way with film, it did not come off. But he was quickly offered another film – Reason to Leave, starring Claire King. For this he went on to win the best original score award at the London International Filmmakers’ Festival in 2017.

He was up and running.

His first ever Christmas carol, Ring the Bells, was premiered by the London Philharmonic Choir at none other than the Royal Albert Hall last December.

And later this month his choral piece, Awen, specially commissioned by the British Museum, will have its world premiere there along with his violin piece, Suilven (a stunning evocation of the Scottish Highlands).

“Awen” is the ancient Welsh/Breton/Cornish word for poetic inspiration. As well as taking inspiration from the British Museum’s Celtic collection, Paul was keen to reflect the fact that the first concert on June 21 coincides with the Summer Solstice.

“It is such a magical time of year and, of course, hugely important to ancient civilisations,” he says. “I mooched around the museum’s magnificent Celtic exhibition and was looking at Welsh mythology, especially the Four Ancient Books of Wales. It’s a thrilling mixture of graphic, blood-curdling episodes intermingled with not always very subtle sexual imagery, and even the occasional dragon – a bit like Game of Thrones.”

There will be two concert performances and will take place in the museum’s Great Court. His choral piece will be sung by the London Philharmonic Choir, a choir which he has performed with for the past 30 years.

Paul, who was born in south London has long had links with north London. Not least as his grandfather, Rupert Frederick William, was mayor of St Pancras from 1923-24 and again from 1935-37. He is also buried in Highgate cemetery.

While Paul tends towards choral and film composition, he admits he would also love to compose music for theatre as well as, one day, create a full opera.

Aside from his composing, Paul (whose brother is Peter Fincham, the former head of ITV) holds musical evenings at his home where he invites young up-and-coming musicians to perform to an invited audience. He also has a home studio where he has recorded works.

He is toying with the idea of taking a diploma in performance. But that may well have to wait, as his next commission is to write a youth opera for Garsington Opera.

“It’s all very exciting,” adds Paul. “When I left to compose full-time there were some longing looks from some of my more musical colleagues.

“I am just pleased and lucky I can have another career doing something I love after all these years.”

The Summer Concert with the London Philharmonic Choir will take place on June 21 and 23. Tickets are £24. For details of the concert on June 21 go to: https://tinyurl.com/y7bvam7r
For the concert on June 23 go to https://tinyurl.com/y7rwqvg8
For more about Paul Fincham go to www.paulfincham.com

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