Richard Ayres was born in Cornwall. In 1986 he followed Morton Feldman's classes at the Darmstadt and Dartington summer schools, and after this experience decided to make music a full-time occupation.
Ayres studied composition, electronic music, and trombone at Huddersfield Polytechnic, graduating with Distinction in 1989. He then moved to Den Haag to study with Andriessen on the postgraduate composition course at the Royal Conservatoire. He decided to settle in Holland permanently and since 2006 has taught at the Amsterdam Conservatoire.
A series of NONcertos for solo instrument and ensemble/orchestra form the bedrock of Ayres’ oeuvre. Theatricality also plays a large part in Ayres work: No 36 NONcerto for Horn requires staging to allow the soloist to run between two ‘mountain peaks’ and a narrative projected behind the musicians. No 42, ‘In the Alps’, is described by Ayres as an animated concert. Written for soprano Barbara Hannigan and the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, the piece was toured throughout Holland in 2008, and receives its UK premiere by the London Sinfonietta in spring 2010.
Ayres was awarded the International Gaudeamus Prize for composition in 1994 during the Gaudeamus Music week, and in 1999 No.31 NONcerto for Trumpet was awarded a recommendation at the Unesco Rostrum of Composers in Paris. In 2003 Ayres was awarded the Vermeulen Prize, the highest award for a composition in the Netherlands. He was Featured Composer at the Huddersfield Festival in 2003.
Ayres is currently working on his second opera, Peter Pan. His first opera, The Cricket Recovers, was a chamber opera based on a story by children’s author Toon Tellegen, commissioned by Aldeburgh Almeida Opera in 2005.