Olivia Murphy is a multi-award winning composer, conductor and improviser based in South-East London, originally from Peterborough. After studying jazz saxophone at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Olivia has found composition her main focus and an important emotional outlet. She thinks of herself as a story-teller, enjoying weaving melodic lines with varied textures and ensemble improvisations to bring her ideas and memories to life, and over the last few years has been busy crafting musical stories for various jazz and new music ensembles.
Most recently, Olivia stepped in as guest conductor for the Calum Gourlay big band, MD’ing the band through her compositions at the Vortex Jazz Club during the EFG London Jazz Festival. She was also recently commissioned by The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire to reimagine a Mike Gibbs composition in celebration of the legendary composer’s 85th birthday. The performance in December featured a fourteen piece large ensemble and Julian Argüelles as featured soloist.
Olivia always feels the most joy standing in front of a big band, conducting her own original music. In 2021, she was awarded the Peter Whittingham Jazz Development Award, allowing her to establish a 21-piece jazz orchestra under her own name and perform a sold out performance of original material on Birmingham’s Symphony Hall Stage. The performance was filmed and recorded, resulting in her debut Jazz Orchestra EP “Somewhere, Not So Far Away (live)” which she self-released in October 2022. London Jazz News described the recording as “full of texture and dynamic variation… brimming with emotion and ideas”.
From 2020 to early 2022, Olivia was the composer-in-residence for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra as as part of this, she arranged two sets of iconic Amy Winehouse songs, completely reimagined for the 23-piece big band for a 25-date UK tour. She MD’ed the band in venues and festivals such as Ronnie Scott’s, Oxford Town Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall and Derry Jazz Festival. She now enjoys working for NYJO in an educational setting, running composition classes in Durham and Cumbria as well as working with the London-based junior ensembles.
Olivia’s trio with Becca Wilkins (vocals), Olly Chalk (piano) and herself on woodwinds allows her to explore composition on a smaller scale, while also being a vehicle for herself to play saxophone/ clarinet and improvise. Their second EP “Moonrise” used lyricism and intertwining lines and textures to explore a distant dreamworld over one night’s sleep. The project was supported through the Jazzlife Alliance Young Composer Award and was released on Lyte Records in July 2022. Jazzwise called the recording “ethereal” and “rich in detail”.
Over the last few years, Olivia has also been commissioned by The University of Birmingham Jazz Orchestra, Around The Houses Festival and Stoney Lane Records and recently had her first US performance of her work for solo vibraphone “four” by American percussionists Hannah Weaver.
The Time Has Come (Mike Gibbs arr. Olivia Murphy) (7 minutes) - Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Performed at Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham. December 2022.
The Air We Breathe (75 minutes) - University of Birmingham Jazz Orchestra. Performed at the Elgar Hall, Bramall Building, Birmingham. September 2021.
Tomorrow Songs (20 minutes) - Stoney Lane Records & Around The Houses Festival. (Soprano Saxophone, Voice, Piano). Online Premiere via Jazzwise in August 2020
There Is A Hill (5 minutes) - National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Recorded in isolation for NYJO education programme
Eucalyptus Trees (20 minutes) - IMPASTO (String Quartet, Harp, Soprano Saxophone, Voice, Piano, Bass, Drums). Performed at the LAB, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, March 2020.
artwork by Bex Lycett (IMPASTO) based on (using photosynthesis) Olivia Murphy's Eucalyptus Trees