Founded by composer Ed Hughes in 1990, early projects included commissions by Michael Finnissy and Howard Skempton, and, in 1992, the first UK performance of John Cage's Europera 5. The ensemble has played many times at major London venues such as St John’s Smith Square, ICA, South Bank, Place and Warehouse. It has presented concerts in the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Brighton Festival, Dartington International Summer School, Rainbow Over Bath, Oxford Contemporary Music Festival, BMIC Cutting Edge and many other prestigious concert series. In addition to major UK festivals and venues, the group has toured to universities including Kings College London, Royal Holloway, Southampton, Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Belfast and Cardiff.
In October 2000 the New Music Players was appointed Ensemble in Residence at the University of York, a major three year residency. In 2000/2001 the group was also a visiting artist at Anglia Polytechnic University in Cambridge. In May 2001 the ensemble appeared in the BBC Music Live festival, in a concert from York broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Hear and Now. In the same month the ensemble presented a rare live performance of Eisler’s Fourteen Ways of Describing Rain to accompany the film (Rain) for which it was written. This was presented alongside a new score, by Ed Hughes, for the same film at the Bath International Music Festival in June 2001.The ensemble completed a world première recording of five recent New Music Players commissions on the London Independent Records label in 2003, funded by the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. The release was very favourably reviewed in ‘Gramophone’ magazine. A concert to mark the launch of the CD took place in the Purcell Room on Friday 6 June 2003. In October 2003 New Music Players was appointed Ensemble in Residence at the University of Bristol and in November gave a concert in the BMIC’s prestigious ‘Cutting Edge’ series at the Warehouse.
The 2004 season included BMIC Cutting Edge tour concerts if music with film in Cheltenham, Leeds and Brighton including a UK premiere by Sam Hayden; two concerts with lecture recitals at the University of Nottingham; recordings for the BMIC of works by Contemporary Voices composers Philip Cashian, Martyn Harry, Michael Zev Gordon and Ed Hughes; and recordings of works by Michael Finnissy for Metier Records for release in 2006.
2005 started with a horn trios concert at the University of Bristol and included concerts at Bromsgrove as part of the 'Mixing It' series, at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music in Glasgow, and at Kettles Yard, Cambridge. On Saturday 14 May New Music Players gave the world premiere of a new score by Ed Hughes for Eisenstein's classic 1925 film Battleship Potemkin at Hove Engineerium as part of the Brighton Festival. Potemkin then toured to the Cheltenham International Festival of Music in July 2005, and to Bath Film Festival, Southampton Turner Sims Concert Hall and Jack Lyons Concert Hall in York in October / November 2005. NMP gave the world premiere of a new arrangement of Ed Hughes’s score for Ozu’s Japanese 1932 silent film 'I was born but...' at the Pacific Film Festival at the University of Nottingham on Saturday 22 October 2005.
On 2 November 2006 NMP premiered four specially commissioned works as part of the British Music Information Centre’s Cutting Edge series at the Warehouse, Theed Street, London SE1. Works by Ed Hughes, Arlene Sierra, Luke Stoneham and Alison Kay. This concert was repeated at the University of Cardiff on Tuesday 21 November with a student workshop and solo works for piano and flute by Carter and Ligeti.
In August 2007 Tartan Video released a DVD of Ed Hughes’s new scores for Eisenstein’s ‘Battleship Potemkin’ and ‘Strike’. The video was produced in 5.1 surround sound and includes a short documentary about the recording sessions featuring New Music Players.
A 6-venue UK tour of Ed Hughes’s new score for ‘Strike’ funded by Arts Council England began at the Barbican Centre, London in June 2007 with further performances in the Cambridge Film Festival, Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton, the British Library in London and De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-sea. 'Strike' was screened with the recorded soundtrack at the Curzon Cinema, Mayfair, on Sunday 7 October 2007 with Battleship Potemkin on Sunday 14 October 2007.
NMP performed works by Edwin Roxburgh, Ed Hughes, Joe Cutler, Dai Fujikura, Alison Kay and Kenneth Hesketh for Edwin Roxburgh's 70th birthday concert at Birmingham Conservatoire on Monday 10 December 2007. The event also featured an afternoon workshop of specially written works by students at Birmingham Conservatoire.
On Monday 27 September 2010 NMP featured in the 'Out Hear' series at Kings Place, performing works exploring music and photography. Includes music by Ed Hughes, Dan Yuhas and Nick Collins, with films by Lizzie Thynne, Adrian Goycoolea, and a new collaboration between Ed Hughes, David Chandler, Photoworks and the Imperial War Museum.
The BFI released a DVD of Ozu's 1932 film 'I was born but...' in January 2011. The film features a new score by Ed Hughes performed by New Music Players.
NMP made a welcome return visit to the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in November 2011 with fantastic performances of A Colone and Medea, two classic works by Xenakis for choir and ensemble. They performed works by Arlene Sierra, Ed Bennett, Joe Cutler, James Wood and Ed Hughes at Cardiff University on Tuesday 6 March 2012 and gave a workshop for student composers at Oxford University on Thursday 8 March as part of their New Music Week. NMP gave the world premiere performance of 'When the Flame Dies', a new video opera by NMP Artistic Director Ed Hughes, at the Canterbury Festival in collaboration with Sounds New on Wed 17 October 2012 and gave a workshop at Oxford University in January 2013. A critically acclaimed recording of 'When the Flame Dies' by Ed Hughes was released on CD and DVD by Divine Art in 2013.
Pianists Richard Casey and Joseph Houston toured to Paris, Brighton, Belfast, Oxford and Durham between January and March 2015 performing a programme of works for piano and electronics including the world premiere of Ed Hughes's 'Night Music', and members of the ensemble workshopped specially written works as part of Oxford University's New Music Week in February 2015. NMP performed two new works with silent film by Ed Hughes at The Warehouse, London for future DVD release.
2015 saw the launch of the Orchestra of Sound and Light, a quintet of musicians based in Brighton and East Sussex. The vision of Orchestra of Sound and Light is to share the excitement of live music-making with moving images through participatory projects ranging from primary schools to major Festival commissions. OSL has presented workshops and performance projects across East Sussex and Brighton and Hove, including major performances at the Brighton Festival in 2016 and 2018. Please see separate website.
NMP were featured on the DVD ‘Symphonic Visions’ released on Divine in 2017 performing works for silent film by Ed Hughes.
In 2018 NMP premiered eight new works inspired by Thomas Tallis at the University of Sussex’s Tallis Festival, performed Ed Hughes’s new ‘Sinfonia’ at the Warehouse and took part in an AI conference in London, performing works by Oded Ben-Tal and Derri Lewis.