Julian’s fanatical support of Arsenal puts him in the good company of many football-mad composers



To know Julian is to know that he is an ardent supporter of Arsenal Football Club. It turns out that Julian is far from being the only composer to suffer from this affliction. Fellow Arsenal fan Mark-Anthony Turnage includes a terrace chant in his orchestral piece Momentum. Celebrated Celtic fan James MacMillan includes traces of terrace chants in the football rattles in his Britannia, an orchestral work from 1994. The first-ever football chant written by a great composer was by Elgar in 1898, whose devotion to Wolverhampton Wanderers is commemorated with a plaque at the club’s Molineux ground. Elgar was so inspired by a phrase he read in a newspaper report of a match, “he banged the leather for goal,” that he set it to music.

Dmitri Shostakovich was one of classical music’s most fanatical football fans. His love for Zenit Leningrad meant that he could often be found hollering from the terraces. He even qualified as a football referee, and wrote a whole ballet, ‘The Golden Age’, about a Soviet football team that falls victim to match rigging and imprisonment. Bohuslav Martinu’s Half-Time, a Rondo for Large Orchestra, was composed in 1925 after the composer saw some serious Benedictine monks revelling in a game of football. George Butterworth put to music AE Housman’s famous poem, Is My Team Ploughing. And critic, musicologist, and radiophonic guru Hans Keller wrote a book called Music, Closed Societies and Football.

When it comes to being a football fan, Julian is in excellent company.


In memory of Emma Daly

When you sit next to the same person for over a quarter of a century at Highbury and at the Emirates Stadium watching your team Arsenal at their home matches, you can strike up a close relationship. That’s precisely what happened with me and Frank Prickler.  Over the years we became firm friends.

Sadly, Frank’s and Kay’s daughter Emma passed away in January 2015 after fighting a 10 year battle with cancer.  Through all her difficulties she loved life.   During her illness she was never the ‘girl who had cancer’.  Rather she was a fun girl with a big personality, who just happened to have a terrible illness

Emma spent a lot of time in the dedicated chemotherapy suite, known as the Pine Therapy Unit, at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent. The unit consists of sixteen treatment chairs for chemotherapy and supportive care, three day beds, and a complementary therapy room. It also has two gardens where patients and family can relax in comfortable surroundings.

At the Concert of my music at the Forge Arts Venue on January 13 2016 , the Holywell String Quartet played the slow movement of my string quartet in memory of Emma. The proceeds of the concert were donated to the Pine Therapy Unit  at the Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent in gratitude and appreciation for the special work they do with cancer patients and their families.


There was an old man with a Beard

There was an old man with a beard,
Who said,
‘It is just what I feared!
Two owls and a hen,
Four Larks and a Wren
Have all built their nests in my beard!’

No prizes for spotting that this is a nonsense limerick penned by Edward Lear. In 2003, when Julian Dawes was working on a theatre production about Victorian Eccentrics at the Riverside Studios London, he put this particular limerick to music for a humorous and light song, in a version for two voices and piano.

Not that many people know that Edward Lear was not just the populariser of nonsense poems, songs, short stories, recipes and alphabets. He was also an artist (see his rendering of Mt Masada in Israel), illustrator, draughtsman – and musician. He played the accordion, flute, guitar and piano. He composed music for many Romantic and Victorian poems, including musical settings of Tennyson’s poetry. Lear also composed music for many of his nonsense songs, including “The Owl and the Pussy-cat.”

Julian’s Limericks From Lear for Voice and Piano is available from:


Q: What do Julian Dawes, Julian Bream and Princess Di have in common?

A: They were all taught by Professor Hubert Dawkes.

 Professor Hubert Dawkes was a supremely skilful keyboard player. Born at Andover, Hampshire to a railwayman father, Professor Dawkes was educated at Andover Grammar School, and studied organ at Winchester Cathedral. He was the recipient of Hampshire county council’s first music scholarship, and in 1935 he entered the Royal College of Music as a Scholar, winning multiple awards and prizes before he left in 1938.

Among his illustrious students were the guitarist Julian Bream and Lady Diana Spencer (later Princess Di) when she was a pupil at West Heath School. For over four decades, Professor Dawkes was a much loved and highly respected keyboard professor at his alma mater, the Royal College of Music, where he taught Keyboard Harmony, Ensemble Piano and Accompaniment. Between 1961 and 1964, Julian was a student of Professor Dawkes at the RCM. Julian remembers Professor Dawkes’s inspired teaching, outstanding musicianship, and great sense of humour. In later life, Dawkes and Dawes became great friends.

After Professor Dawkes’ retirement in the 1990s, he returned to his native Andover, where he died in 2012 aged 95. Since then, the Hampshire Young Musician of the Year has been held in Andover, with schools from around the county invited to submit young people to take part in the evening where they perform their pieces. The judges then have to immediately give them feedback in front of a packed audience. Prizes are awarded, and the Hubert Dawkes Trophy is presented to the most promising up-and-coming candidate.

Julian has been on the judging panel since the competition’s inception, and in February 2016 he will be again on the panel at the Hampshire Young Musician of the Year.


My Musical Credo

As a composer, my aim is to write music that has integrity, music that has relevance for the times we live in, and music that is accessible. Basically, I write the kind of music that pleases my own ear. Rather than following any particular school of thought, I aim to write music which delights, comforts, moves, inspires and provokes. My composition is guided predominantly by a combination of personal experience and conscience.

I strongly believe that as a composer, I have a responsibility to speak for my fellow human beings. I want to add something to people’s lives in a way that will be satisfying. I want to offer music which delights, comforts, moves, and inspires, and at the same time is thought provoking and meaningful.

I often tend to write for specific occasions, and many of my compositions have been commissioned. I have earned a reputation for writing ‘gratefully’ for instruments, and often for writing for particular musicians. My keen eye and ear for dramatic gesture are evident in the large number of commissions I have received to compose music for theatre, television and film.

The style of my music is versatile, neo-romantic, and with a modernistic flavour. While a significant number of my works are large scale in form, they also tend to be smaller in terms of musical resources. My compositions have a distinctive tonal-modal idiom which encompasses an eclectic palate and a wide range of influences.

I believe that musicologist and critic Malcolm Miller got it right when he described my musical influences thus:

“Amongst his 20th century English influences are the pastoralism and extended tonality of Herbert Howells, the richness of Walton, the elegant delicacy of Berkeley and the jazzy impetus of Rodney Bennett; wider European influences include the caustic irony of Shostakovich and Kurt Weil and the rhythmic impetus of Prokofiev and Stravinsky. Yet Dawes welds from his influences an individual voice that is distinctive and refreshing, displaying assured craftsmanship and characterful invention.”


Pesach Cantata

My new Pesach Cantata will be performed at the New London Synagogue on Sunday 10th April 2016 at 7.30pm.  It is dedicated to Cantor Jason and the Shul.  An inspired libretto by Rabbi Roderick Young has a Grandfather relating the story of Pesach to his Grandchild, and illuminated by three other characters, Miriam, Aaron and Rabban Gamliel (a Talmudic sage who is featured in the Haggadah).

The Hebrew Bible has long been a source of inspiration, and many of my works are based on biblical passages. An oratorio setting the Book of Ruth, and verses from the book of Proverbs and major prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, have all served as the motif for music in the form of vocal and choral works, and purely instrumental pieces.

One particular theme which has been a recurring in my work is the story of The Exodus. My cantata, Shirat Hayam (The Song Of The Sea) was commissioned by the Alyth Choral Society and first performed in December 2013.

The Death of Moses (P’tirat Moshe), first performed in 2003, is a cantata for spoken narrator, chorus and chamber ensemble, and is based on a sequence of poems from the Near East written between the 8th and the 11th century. The poems imaginatively and dramatically describe what the experience of death might have been like for Moses, particularly given that he did not reach the Land of Israel.

 All the familiar themes of the traditional Seder experience make their appearance in the Pesach Cantata. As Rabban Gamliel explains, it is an evening of “listening and telling the endless beautiful cycle.” The Grandfather describes the different aromatic dishes that diverse Jewish communities around the world use at their Seder Table: “These are the scents of Jewish homes on the eve of Pesach. Each scent curls around a point on the map, the map of our wanderings.” The 10 plagues, the 4 Questions, and the 4 Children all make their appearance in Roddy Young’s evocative libretto.

The role of the Grandfather will be sung by Cantor Jason Green, the Grandchild by Zev Green, Miriam by Martha Jones, Aaron by Mark Nathan and Rabban Gamliel by Julien Van Mellaerts. The chorus will be our very own New London Singers, supplemented by eight professional singers, and the instrumental parts will be played by The New London Chamber Ensemble, led by Sophie Lockett and Conducted by Vivienne Bellos.

Please come and help make this performance a memorable precursor to Pesach.

 Tickets £15 (£10 New London Synagogue Members) obtainable at