Philip Sheppard is a composer specializing in film and television soundtracks, as well as large scale theatre and events. He is a solo cellist and a Professor at the Royal Academy of Music.

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Photo by Nick Knight

Recent films include In the Shadow of the Moon (which won numerous awards including the World Documentary Prize at Sundance),  Henry Mind of a Tyrant for David Starkey’s landmark C4 series, The Tillman Story and Juliette Binoche Sketches for a Portrait. His forthcoming feature Sergio has just been shortlisted for the Oscars.
He is currently finishing major projects for PBS and National Geographic in the US.

He was was commissioned to compose and produce the music for the London 2012 Handover sequence at the Beijing Olympics Closing Ceremony. This included a new version of the UK National Anthem. He recorded and conducted the London Symphony Orchestra playing his Olympic sequence (entitled This Is London), and together with Steve Robson produced a new version of Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis performing Led Zep’s Whole Lotta Love for the culmination of the ceremony.

His stageworks include Sacred Monsters for Sylvie Guillem and Akram Khan and In-I starring Khan and Juliette Binoche.

He regularly writes and plays with UNKLE and has featured as a guest artist with numerous rock musicians including Scott Walker, Jeff Buckley, David Bowie and Jarvis Cocker.

Recordings and collaborations

His early solo albums, ‘The Glass Cathedral’ and ‘The Diver in the Crypt’, featured new compositions devised for site-specific performances.

Playing at Glastonbury
Playing at Glastonbury

The albums received rave reviews on release and are regularly played on Radio 3. The tracks feature a specially commissioned electric cello that has become a cornerstone of many of Philip’s compositions.

Listen to Philip playing his cello solo piece solo Woodwork here: [Audio

Listen to Jasmine here: [Audio

The albums attracted the attention of Scott Walker, who invited him to play at his Southbank Centre Meltdown Festival. They collaborated again on Pulp’s album ‘We Love Life’ with Jarvis Cocker and after that on Walker’s critically acclaimed album ‘The Drift’.

He worked again (as string and choir arranger and conductor) with Jarvis on his recent solo album, and has arranged and recorded strings for David Bowie (Heathen), Jamelia, Sia, Oasis and Suzanne Vega. He also regularly records string arrangements for The Hours, and joined them on tour for the Narcissus Road album tour.

Conducting in Abbey Road Studio
Conducting in Abbey Road Studio

His recent collaborations with Ivor Guest, Brian Eno and Robert Logan have included tracks on Grace Jones’ new album, and cues on the Oscar-Winning documentary Taxi to the Darkside. He appeared as an interviewee and solo cellist in 30th Century man – the recent Scott Walker documentary.

Philip regularly collaborates with James Lavelle and UNKLE. Philip appeared as cello soloist on Never Never Land. Since then, they  have written and produced the album ‘End Titles….Stories For Film’ (with Gavin Clark, Josh Homme, Chris Goss and Pablo Clements) following the success of the recent album ‘War Stories’. This led to the limited edition release of End Titles Redux which was recently performed live by the Cinematic Orchestra.

Philip and UNKLE also reworked the X-Files theme for the recent movie.

Film soundtracks

His first orchestral soundtrack was commissioned for the documentary feature, ‘In the Shadow of the Moon’, which won major awards at the Boulder, Florida, Indianapolis and Sedona film festivals, as well as the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. The soundtrack was released on Lakeshore Records.

Listen to excerpt here: X-15 Jet [Audio poster 381x508

“The film features all-new interviews with the astronauts themselves, still bright and viable after all these years and full of descriptive stories to tell, as well as never-before-seen footage accompanied by Philip Sheppard’s wondrously uplifting score.” GUARDIAN UNLIMITED

Listen to excerpt here: Mare Nectaris[Audio

In 2009 he recorded a score for Sergio directed by Greg Barker which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will shortly be broadcast on HBO and the BBC.

With filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk in Korea
With filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk in Korea

Kim Ki-Duk, the award-winning Korean director recently featured Philip’s compositions in his feature ‘Dreams’.

Live Events

Philip was commissioned to write and produce the music for the Olympic Handover Ceremony, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This marked the point when the Olympic flag passed to London in preparation for the 2012 games.

His composition ‘This is London’ performed by the London Symphony Orchestra acted as an overture to a new version of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, featuring Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis – produced by Steve Robson, Page, Lewis and Philip.This was performed from the top of an unfolding London double decker bus.

Jimmy and Leona on the bus
Jimmy and Leona on the bus

Philip was also commissioned to arrange and direct a new arrangement of the British National Anthem for these events, which has subsequently been used by City Hall in London for its citizenship ceremonies. He also wrote the eight minute sequence for the Paralympic Handover ceremony – (which included a tea break within a hiphop battle).

Listen to the UK National Anthem arrangement here: UK National Anthem Beijing Olympics [Audio

Philip has produced the music for two recent BBC TV live events; The Manchester Passion and The Liverpool Nativity. These have won numerous awards, including the BBC award for Best Music Production of the year, which was awarded to Philip, together with the writer Stephen Powell.

TV scores

Philip has written a set of pieces for Viol Consort, recorded by Fretwork and vocal consort Alamire which forms the soundtrack for Dr David Starkey’s forthcoming series on Henry VIII on Channel Four, broadcast to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry’s accession to the throne.

Listen here to extract: O Dolce Nocte [Audio

Philip wrote a suite for piano, strings and electronics that forms the soundtrack for Robert Winston’s new series, ‘Superdoctors’, shown on BBC1 in the Autumn. His music regularly features in the Horizon strand of documentaries on BBC2.

His piano composition ‘Crystallised Beauty’ has received over 100,000 hits on YouTube after being used as the soundtrack for the ITV Jane Austen Season trailers. Listen to Crystallised Beauty here: [Audio

Dance and Theatre

Philip is proud to have had a long and fruitful professional relationship with dancer Akram Khan. He first joined Akram as an improvising cellist in the Kathak projects ‘Third Catalogue’ and ‘Ronin’, collaborating with Hanif Kureishi and the AK Company for ‘The God of Small Tales’.

Akram Khan and Sylvie Guillem

In 2006, Philip was commissioned to write ‘Sacred Monsters’ for Akram and Sylvie Guillem. He toured with the production until the Summer of 2007, his final performance being at the Herod Atticus Theatre in the shadow of the Parthenon.

Anish Kapoor, Akram Khan, Juliette Binoche, and Philip Sheppard
Anish Kapoor, Akram Khan, Juliette Binoche, and Philip Sheppard

In 2008 he wrote the score for In-I featuring Juliette Binoche and Akram Khan, with stage design by Anish Kapoor, and lighting by Michael Hulls.

Complicite at the Barbican 2003
Complicite at the Barbican 2003

His groundbreaking work for multitracked cellos, Rain Steam and Speed, was featured in Theatre de Complicite’s acclaimed The Elephant Vanishes – based on short stories by Haruki Murakami.

Fashion and Media

Philip has recently written concert works for Alexander McQueen, ShowStudio, Yves St Laurent and Nick Knight. His work Sarabande in Black was performed live by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields as the accompaniment to McQueen’s Paris Fashion week show. Excerpt from the track used in the video here:

Philip improvised a live soundtrack for the 24 hour live transmission devised by ShowStudio for Yves St Laurent, and his concert work Victorian Waltz has recently been used as the soundtrack to a film shot by Nick Knight and Ruth Hogben.

Training and early work

Philip Sheppard studied Cello and Composition at the Royal Academy of Music, during which time he specialised in contemporary music. He worked closely with Hans Werner Henze, Sir Michael Tippett and Luciano Berio during this time as a founder member of The Kreutzer String Quartet.

Whilst a student, Philip made weekly appearances at The Spitz nightclub, playing entirely improvised concerts, sometimes featuring his Piano Quintet – formed with Keith Tippett.

He collaborated with pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, who encouraged him to move away from a conventional musical environment, and pursue his composition. Philip Sheppard as a cellist He went on to pioneer electro-acoustic improvisation joining the Smith Quartet and appearing regularly with the London Sinfonietta.

As a member of the Composers Ensemble he joined Jeff Buckley onstage in the 1995 Meltdown festival, to play continuo cello for Jeff’s performance of Dido’s lament. Article here

After completing a Fellowship, he was made a Professor at the Royal Academy of Music where he is now a Senior Lecturer.

Recent reviews

“In the Shadow of the Moon has no need for overstatement, no time for bombast. Even the beautiful score (by Philip Sheppard) is used to provide punctuation notes, not emotional cues.” PHILADELPHIA NEWS

“British filmmaker David Sington does a superb job of eliciting illuminating anecdotes from the astronauts and mixing them with little-seen archival footage and a soaring symphonic score by Philip Sheppard.” BLOOMBERG DAILY NEWS

“The music from Philip Sheppard, which underscores the great space footage, is just right from popular to classical notes.” HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

‘…this prolific young composer puts his custom built cello through its paces, from birdsong to the groaning of ships’ timbers, from detuned harmonics to weird melodic whistles… this is utterly beguiling music…’ THE INDEPENDENT

Philip Sheppard’s album ‘The Diver in the Crypt’ is a perfect introduction to contemporary music GRAMOPHONE

‘Philip Sheppard… an extraordinary cellist who really does create architectural spaces through music and sensational instrumental technique…’ CLASSICAL MUSIC MAGAZINE

‘The ‘Glass Cathedral’ works beautifully… it’s gripping music.’ GRAMOPHONE


To contact Philip send a message via his managersusing the ‘Contact’ Bar at the top of the page.