He is a percussionist, tympanist, conductor and teacher born in Bebington, Cheshire, England.
His first lessons in music came when he started to learn to play the piano when he was eight. This was followed in 1964 by his studies the harpsichord at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 1965 he changed his courses and concentrated on percussion and this would become his main musical interest.
In 1967, after graduation, he started working with various British orchestras until 1970 when he became the Principal Tympanist for the English Chamber Orchestra . He was very highly thought of in his field, to the fact that he would act as a consultant for Benjamin Britten when he wrote his works Death In Venice, Rejoice the Lamb and Owen Wingrave.
In 1976 he became the Principal Percussionist for the Philharmonia Orchestra and over the following years he would also be heard accompanying many ensembles and orchestras including the Martin Best Medieval Ensemble, World Orchestra for Peace, the Guildhall Percussion Ensemble, Christopher Hogwood’s Academy of Ancient Music, Barbican Percussion Ensemble, Martin Best Consort and the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble .
On his numerous albums such as the soundtracks for Big Country and Dreaming of Joseph Lees, Britten: Choral Music, The Greatest Christmas Show on Earth, Thje Ultimate Christmas album with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa , and Llibre Vermell’s Pilgrims Songs and Dances, he can be heard performing with many acclaimed musicians and conductors such as Sir David Wilcocks, John Williams and The King’s Singers and on the 1988 Grammy Award winning recording of Bartok’s “Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion” where he accompanied Sir Georg Solti, Murray Perahia and Evelyn Glennie.
Adding an extra branch to his career he moved into music education in 1975 and took the post of Professor of Timpani at the Guildhall School of Music, where was awarded with a Fellowship in 1987.
Martin Best Consort recordings
Alle Psallite (13th Century French Anonymous)
Nimbus NI 5445 (CD: Forgotten Provence)
The Bach Choir Recordings
O Come All Ye Faithful (John Francis Wade/Frederick Oakley)
London 417 898-2
Conductor – Sir David Willcocks
Ensemble – Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
Organ – John Scott
Percussion – James Blades/David Corkhill
Here he is playing a fence offstage as percussion in a performance of Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus”…
Here here is not so much playing but giving a quick talk on percussion instruments for Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony ….