Biography — Costas Fotopoulos
Costas is based in London and works internationally as a composer and arranger for film, the stage and the concert hall, and as a concert, silent film and jazz pianist. He is an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM).
FILM MUSIC COMPOSITION/EXPERIENCE
Costas has scored numerous short films, most recently the 28-minute animatic, Bedward Story (2015), directed by Lee Guilliland. For this film, Costas created a full orchestral score also featuring choir, and consisting of almost continuous music which he programmed, mixed and recorded himself. It received its highly successful premiere screening at the Covent Garden Hotel in May 2015. Costas has also scored the modern silent, The Projectionist (2012), directed by established British director Jamie Thraves and premiered to much acclaim at BFI Southbank in October 2012. Previous films that Costas has scored include Nape of the Neck (2004, directed by Martin McDonnell), which was selected for the Raindance, Greenwich and Clerkenwell Film Festivals.
In February 2007 Costas travelled to Berlin as a finalist in the Volkswagen Score Competition, held within the context of the Berlin International Film Festival 2007. There, his scores for three short film clips were recorded by the Babelsberg Film Orchestra (please click here to view two of these clips).
Costas has also worked as an assistant to film composer Trevor Jones (In the Name of the Father, Mississippi Burning etc.), preparing synthesizer demos and short scores for orchestration. In July 2006, Costas played piano and keyboard in an orchestral concert of Trevor Jones’s film music conducted by the composer, which formed the highlight of the Soncinemad Film Music Festival held in Madrid. The concert, which featured the RTVE Symphonic Orchestra, was broadcast on Spanish radio and television and took place in the Teatro Monumental.
Costas completed his Master’s degree in the composition of music for film, television and multimedia at the Royal College of Music, London, passing with Distinction. He studied as a scholar supported by the College, the Vaughan-Williams Trust and the Concordia Foundation. In June 2002 he conducted his music live to a section of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in a film composition masterclass held at the Bafta Theatre and taken by director John Madden and film composer Gabriel Yared. Later that month he participated in the International Film Music Biennial in Bonn.
Costas also studied composition with Melanie Daiken at the Royal Academy of Music, and he has written numerous solo, chamber and orchestral works as well as commercial songs and arrangements.
Very successful performances have been given over the years of many of Costas’s concert works, the most recent being that of his orchestral piece, Sylvan Reflections, in February 2014. This was commissioned by Benenden School, Kent, to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Hemsted Forest Youth Orchestra, and it was inspired by the theme of the forest. Costas’s piano solo piece, Hommage à Chopin, was given its world premiere by the composer himself at Lampeter House, Wales, in August 2010. He gave further performances of this piece in major London venues including Fairfield Halls, in October 2011. His St Paul’s for unaccompanied choir, a setting of words from the poem of the same name by William Wordsworth, was commissioned by the City of London School to be premiered by the School's Chamber Choir in November 2009 at its annual Prize Day held at Guildhall, London, with a second recorded performance taking place at the School's Autumn Concert during the same month.
Costas premiered his Toccata (piano solo) at the Swiss Church, Covent Garden in April 2002, recorded it for YouTube as well as his piano solo album (Costas Fotopoulos Piano) and he has performed it internationally at many venues since. Other performances of Costas’s works include his Three Impressions (accordion/piano), premiered at St. Martin-in-the-Fields on Christmas Eve 2004 with further performances having taken place in Hanoi, Vietnam and in London, his Elegiac Romance (cello/piano) at the Wigmore Hall, his Variations on La Seguedille (mezzo-soprano/cello/piano) at the Purcell Room and his Faith, Hope and Love Cantata (two sopranos/chamber orchestra) at St. Nicholas Church, Chiswick, where he was presented with the Serena Nevill Award. The latter two works were commissioned by the Concordia Foundation.
In 2011 Costas worked as an orchestrator for acclaimed film and TV composer James Brett, on his music for the Batman Live World Arena Tour beginning in July 2011. The music is scored for full symphony orchestra plus mixed choir.
In 2005 Costas arranged, programmed and co-produced the music for Thalidomide!! A Musical by Mat Fraser, which opened at the Battersea Arts Centre in September 2005 and toured the UK. In December 2006 he wrote a new, original arrangement of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" for an ensemble of solo singers, children’s choir, saxes, horn, percussion, Hammond Organ and strings, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 as the finale of The Charles Hazlewood Christmas Show on Christmas Day.
SILENT FILM IMPROVISATION
Costas has now been working for many years as an improvising silent film pianist at BFI Southbank, London, and he has also accompanied silent films at the Barbican Centre, the Prince Charles Cinema, Riverside Studios, Chelsea Arts Club, the National Film and Television School and the Birkbeck Cinema among other venues.
In October 2002 he accompanied the UK premiere screening of The Life and Works of Richard Wagner (1913) at the Barbican, and in November 2002 he was invited by the Concordia Foundation to accompany Hitchcock’s silent classic, The Lodger (1926), in a special screening at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center, New York. In October 2003/04 he participated in the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, Italy, performing for a number of films and co-ordinating a series of masterclasses. In May 2004 he performed a live piano and harpsichord improvisation for the British film Masks and Faces (1917) based on themes composed for the film by the late Michael Kamen, as the main Gala event for that year’s RADA centenary celebration at BFI Southbank. The event was introduced by Richard Attenborough, Anthony Minghella and Alan Rickman. In August 2005 Costas was invited by the Concordia Foundation to accompany another British film, Piccadilly (1929) at the Off On European Film Week in Warsaw, Poland, as part of his presentation there on music in film.
Costas has also accompanied silent films at the London Film Festival for a number of years, most recently providing music for a collection of rediscovered Laurel and Hardy shorts at the 2015 festival. He also provided a highly-acclaimed accompaniment to Dziga Vertov's Soviet classic, Man With a Movie Camera (1929), at the 2010 festival. Previous films include the Norwegian epic, Laila (1929), at the closing night of the 2009 Festival, the Henry King feature film, Tol’able David (1921) in November 2006 and Four Chaplin Keystones (1914) in October 2004.
In March 2007, Costas provided a piano improvisation to sections of Gordon Brown’s Budget Speech of that year (in the silent film style), which was aired on the BBC Radio 4 Programme, Broadcasting House. The sections of the speech, together with descriptions of them, were read out by the conductor, Charles Hazlewood. The programme was presented by Patrick O'Connell.
CONCERT PIANO PERFORMANCE
Costas has made numerous appearances as a concert pianist, giving concerto performances in Britain and both solo and chamber performances there as well as in Austria, Italy, Greece, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Nigeria.
His debut solo album, Costas Fotopoulos Piano, featuring works by Rachmaninov as well as his own Toccata, was released in February 2009 on the JCL Records label. He has recorded a Chopin Nocturne for the BBC Radio Worldplay, Hitler in Therapy (aired in January 2005), and chamber repertoire for BBC Radio 2 and 3. He has also recorded the piano solo work, Cross hands, for a CD of music by British composer Nicholas Sackman, released on the Metier label.
Costas studied with Hamish Milne at the Royal Academy of Music, obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Performance with First Class Honours and a Master’s Degree in Performance with Distinction. For the third year of his Bachelor’s Degree he studied with Oxana Yablonskaya at the Juilliard School, New York on an exchange programme.
Costas won a Scholarship Award at the International Johannes Brahms Competition 2012 and was a keyboard finalist in the 2001 Royal Over-Seas League Competition. He has also performed and recorded as a jazz pianist, keyboard player and Music Director.