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Douglas Coombes has conducted every Battle Proms Concert since they began in 1997. He is now thought to have conducted Beethoven’s Battle Symphony more times than anyone else in music history.

He studied music at St Paul’s College, Cheltenham and at Dartington Hall, Devon where he was a composition pupil of Richard Hall. He also 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 which is still used by the majority of schools throughout the UK. 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.


The reason for leaving the BBC was mainly to devote more time to composing and conducting. Douglas is a prolific composer and amongst his compositions are two concerti - one for oboe for Bryan Shaw the NECO’s late principal oboist, and another for clarinet and organ for Gillian and Trevor Hughes, two other regular members of the orchestra, which was performed again with the orchestra in June 2017. Other compositions include five masses, a requiem, an Easter Oratorio, two symphonies, two ballets, orchestral and chamber music, church music and music for children. One of his most recent works is a Mass for Peace composed for the Ulsan Metropolitan Professional Chorus, one of South Korea’s leading choirs. Prior to this he composed a work in memory of Mandy Hallam, one of the orchestra’s violinists who sadly died in 2016. This was the choral suite Songs from the Old West which was performed in May 2018 by the Audley Male Voice Choir, with whom Mandy often performed and accompanied and which is conducted by Mandy’s mother Sue.


His work has taken him abroad to many European countries, Hong Kong, South Korea and the USA. He has conducted a number of the UK orchestras including The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Manchester Camerata, Northern Sinfonia, London Concert Orchestra and Bournemouth Sinfonia particularly specialising in family concerts. In recent years he has conducted and led concerts for Barnardo’s in many cathedrals and concert halls throughout England. He is also the Chairman of Adjudicators for the Barnardo’s National Choir Competition.


He has conducted the New English Concert Orchestra in every Battle Prom since they started in 1997.  He is now thought to have conducted Beethoven’s Battle Symphony more times than anyone else in music history.


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 and recently was one of the conductors celebrating 50 years of the Academy in the UK in a concert at St. John’s Smith Square, London. 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.


For a hobby he conducts two choirs The Amici 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!