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Nigel Keay

Performer, Composer

Born: 1955 Website  


Nigel Keay was born in Palmerston North, New Zealand in 1955 and has been working as a freelance composer and viola player in Paris since 2001, having moved to France in 1998. He writes primarily for orchestral instruments, from small ensembles to larger orchestral groups, and also composes for voice.

In New Zealand, Nigel Keay held the composer-in-residence position, the Mozart Fellowship, at the University of Otago in 1986 and 1987. He has been a Composer-in-Residence with the Nelson School of Music (1988 and 1989), and with Auckland's fulltime professional orchestra, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (1995).

Between 1983 and 1995 he received several grants from the Arts Council of New Zealand (now known as Creative New Zealand) for various commissions including his one-act opera At the Hawk’s Well. His music has sometimes been driven by literary and philosophical ideas. Throughout his career he has wherever possible played in or directed his own works. He became an Associate-Violist with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in 1994. Between 2003 & 2005 he gave multiple performances of his String Quartet No.2 in Europe with his own group, Quatuor Aphanès.

Nigel Keay's works have been broadcast on Radio France on several occasions; a commission in 2002 to compose a work for the programme Alla Breve in which the resulting work, Tango Suite was broadcast on its France Musiques and France Culture stations, and in October 2013 he was featured guest on Bruno Letort's new-music programme Tapage Nocturne broadcast on Radio France Musique.

His Serenade for Strings has been performed by several Parisian formations; the premiere by Ensemble Polymnia in 2004, Orchestre à cordes Idoménée in 2005, and Orchestre 2021 at the Fondation des États Unis, Paris in 2006. Between 2006 and 2009 Orchestre 2021 performed several of Nigel Keay's other works in Paris; Diffractions, Diversions and Tango Suite for String Quartet...

In 2010 Nigel Keay was co-producer of the Blumlein Records CD Diversions - Autour du hautbois, the music of five composers for or with oboe. This CD included his own Diversions for Quintet.

In December 2011 Blumlein Records released five of Nigel Keay's chamber music works on the CD Music for Small Groups. This production received a grant from the New Zealand / France Friendship Fund.

In 2013 he was admitted to the catalogue of the Documentation Centre for Contemporary Music (CDMC) located at the Philharmonie de Paris.

In April 2015 the CD the dancer leads the procession containing six of Nigel Keay's works is released.

Nigel Keay's works are increasingly being presented in prestigious concert venues in Europe and further afield. These include; Diversions for Quintet at the Graz Opera, Austria, at Casa da Música, Porto, Portugal, at the Paris Oboe Festival. His Introduction and Tarantella was premiered at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York City by Eugenia Choi and Svetlana Gorokovitch.

In 2016 two works were released on separate compact discs; the Oboe Sonata (Créations, Continuo Records, Italy), and Moderato à cent d'huîtres (on La Cuisine à l'alto by the Polymnie label, France). Other works are in preparation for future releases; String Quartet N° 2 (Blumlein Records, Germany), and Prelude for Cello & Piano (Atoll Records NZ).

Recent activities have included a commission in 2017 from Musique à la Ferme for their production Loup es-tu là? and a premiere in 2018 of Nocturne, Havrincourt 1918 at Église Saint-Merry in Paris by the Parisian ensemble Traces d'Aujourd'hui.

In 2019 Nigel Keay began collaborating with the saxophonist Daniel Kientzy. A studio version of the work Tectonics was produced at Kientzy's Nova-Musica Studio, followed by a second work, Maungarei in 2021.

Musicians who have played his music include Marika Lombardi, Nathalie Dang, Jean-Marc Fessard, Dora Cantella, Quatuor Leonis, Jennifer Lee, NZTrio, Quinteto Contraste, Franck Chevalier, Quatuor Diotima, Korutet, Alice Fagard, Elm Ensemble (Philharmonie de Graz), Pierre-Henri Xuereb, Julien Darbonville, John-Paul Muir, Andrea Mundy, Joseph Spooner, Kathryn Mosley, Jeffrey Grice, Cyprien Busolini, Simone Roggen, Paolo Vignaroli, Delphine Latil, Anastasiya Filippochkina, Jean-François Bescond, Eugene Lee, Thomas Hutchinson and others ...

Composed (45)

Adagietto Antique

trio for clarinet, viola and piano, 16m


for solo clarinet, 3m 10s

Derivation 3

for solo violin, 6m


for piano and orchestra, 10m

Diversions 1, 2 & 3

for winds and strings, 15m

Diversions 1, 2 & 3

for mixed chamber quintet, 15m

Double Jeu

for two violas, 7m

Fanfare for Orchestra

for large orchestra, 3m

Four Piano Pieces

for piano, 8m


for piano, 5m

Le Loup et l’Agneau

for piano and narrator, 9m 23s

Little Tango Suite

for piano, 4m

Moderato à cent d'huîtres

for viola and piano, 4m

Nocturne, Havrincourt 1918

for baritone saxophone and double bass, 10m

Piece for Judith Clark

for piano, 2m 16s

Prelude for Cello and Piano

for cello and piano, 7m

serenade pour cordes/ Serenade for Strings

for string orchestra, 17m

Sextet (Introduction and Allegro)

for flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, bass trombone, violin, viola and double bass

Sitting in the Ruins

for two oboes and bassoon, 6m 15s

Souffle coupé

for wind quintet, 11m

String Quartet No. 2

string quartet, 17m

Suite for Orchestra

for string orchestra

Symphony in Five Movements

for orchestra, 24m

Tango Suite

for string quintet

Tango Suite

a suite for contralto, string quartet and double bass, 10m

Tango Suite

for string quartet, 10m

Terrestrial Mirror

for flute, viola and harp, 15m


for violin, cello and piano, 9m 1s


for trumpet, horn and trombone, 9m


for piano, 11m

Variations for Piano

for piano, 10m

Variations on a Theme from "At the Hawk's Well"

for violin, cello and piano, 9m

Viola Concerto

for viola and orchestra, 24m

Visconti Variations

for violin and viola, 10m


for soprano, vibraphone and string trio

Voices of the Air

for mezzo-soprano and piano, 2m

Arranged (1)

Suite for Orchestra

for string orchestra