David Francis Urrows

(b. 1957, Honolulu, Hawai'i).

American composer, now resident abroad, of mostly stage, chamber, choral, and vocal works that have been performed in Asia, Europe and North America; he is also active as a musicologist.

Prof. Urrows had private lessons with, and served as an assistant to, Randall Thompson from 1976–84, and studied composition with Arthur Berger and Harold Shapero at Brandeis University, where he graduated with his AB magna cum laude in 1978. He studied composition with Kenneth Leighton and aesthetics and philosophy with Raymond Monelle at the University of Edinburgh and there earned his MMus in 1980. He later studied composition with Girolamo Arrigo, David Del Tredici and Donald Martino at Boston University, where he earned his DMA in 1987.

Among his honours are the Malloy Miller Composition Prize (1984, for Three Vailima Episodes), a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (1986) and the National Association of Teachers of Singing Art Song Composition Award (1987, for A New England Almanack).

As a musicologist, he founded The Pipe Organ in China Project in 1989, about which he wrote the book Keys to the Kingdom: A History of the Pipe Organ in China (2017, Ferdinand Verbiest Institute, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven). He prepared a critical edition in four volumes of the works of Otto Dresel (2002, 2009, 2015, 2018, A-R Editions). He has contributed articles and essays to numerous publications and co-wrote with C. C. Benser the book Randall Thompson: A Bio-Bibliography (1991, Greenwood Press). He later served as co-editor with Walter Bernhart of the book Music, Narrative, and the Moving Image: Varieties of Plurimedial Interrelations (2019, Brill). He later wrote the book François Ravary SJ and a Sino-European Musical Culture in Nineteenth-Century Shanghai (2021, Cambridge Scholars Publishing).

He is also active in other positions. He was a founding member of the consortium Underground Composers in Boston in 1984. As a choral conductor and organist, he served as music director of the Hong Kong Bach Choir from 1989–91, as musical director of The Cecilian Singers in Hong Kong from 1997–2000 and as assistant organist at St. John's Cathedral in Hong Kong from 1997–2000. Moreover, he served as as dean of the Peninsula/Palo Alto Chapter of the American Guild of Organists from 1995–97. He served as a member of the Music Panel for the Diploma of Secondary Education on behalf of the Hong Kong Education Bureau from 2011–18 and has served as an external examiner for the course Associate of Arts in Media, Cultural, and Creative Studies at HKU SPACE since 2016. He was secretary of the International Word and Music Studies Association from 2015–23 and has been a research fellow of the Instituto Ricci de Macau since 2018.

He taught music theory as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell from 1986–89. He taught analysis, composition, music history, orchestration, and other subjects at Hong Kong Baptist University, first from 1989–91 and later from 2001–18, including as associate professor from 2005–18, where he also served as BA Admissions Coordinator from 2002–13, BA Course Coordinator in 2012–13, Director of Research in 2013–14, and Program Director of MA in Music from 2014–18, and where he has been a University Associate since 2018. In addition, he taught an introduction to Western music and a course in choral conducting at the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts as an adjunct lecturer in 1990–91 and from 2002–06, and taught chorus and music history as an assistant professor at Eastern Mediterranean University in Famagusta, Cyprus in 2000–01, where he also served as acting head of its Department of Music.

He has lived primarily outside the USA since 1989, with a period in the USA from 1991–97.


E-mail address:




Uncle Vanya (incidental music, play by Anton Chekhov), clarinet, guitar, 2 violins, viola, cello, 1977

The Winter's Tale (incidental music, play by William Shakespeare), 2 alto recorders, flute, clarinet, 2 French horns, 2 cellos, percussion, 1978

A Midsummer Night's Dream (opera in 3 acts, libretto by the composer, after William Shakespeare), 13 soli, boys' chorus, 4 on-stage recorders, 4 off-stage natural horns, 4 on-stage viols, large orchestra (piccolo, 2 flutes [2nd + piccolo], 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets [1st + E-flat clarinet, 2nd + bass clarinet], 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, harp, piano, celesta, percussion, strings), 1980–82 (a concert suite was arranged, 1984)

La Folle de Chaillot (incidental music, play by Jean Giraudoux), flute, clarinet, 2 violins, piano, percussion, 1989 (also concert version of some material as Scène de Chaillot)

La Castrata (opera in 1 act with 13 scenes, libretto by the composer, after Eugène Scribe, Mélesville), 6 soli, large orchestra (piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, harp, piano, percussion, strings), 2009

Miss Thompson (opera), 2001–


Suite from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', string orchestra, 1984 (concert suite from opera)

Shaker Song Suite, symphonic band, 2020

In Nomine, symphonic band, 2022 (also version for organ)


Three Studies in Folksong, violin, piano, 1976

String Quartet, 1978

Quintet for Winds, flute, oboe (+ English horn), clarinet, French horn, bassoon, 1981

Sonata for Oboe and Harp, oboe, harp, 1985

Sonata San Angelo, 2 violas, 1986

Sonata for Violin and Piano, violin, piano, 1991 (one section may be performed separately: Prelude and Scherzo)

Scène de Chaillot, clarinet, piano, 2 violins, viola, cello, 2021 (concert version of some material from La Folle de Chaillot)

Dirge for Cecilia, 10 cellos, 2022 (version of some material from The Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia)


Contemplation (text by Anne Bradstreet), 4 female voices, 1977, revised 2023

Toccata (text by Jacques Lacarrière), mixed chorus, piano 4 hands, 1982

Verbum Patris Hodie (text from an anonymous English source from the 15th century), mixed chorus, 1983

Scythe Song (text by J. C. E. Bowen), mixed chorus, piano, 1987

Lycidas (oratorio, text by John Milton), mezzo-soprano/alto, tenor/baritone, mixed chorus, large orchestra (piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, E-flat clarinet [+ bass clarinet], 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, 2 harps, organ, percussion, strings), 1987

O Thou that Art of Purer Eyes (text from the Book of Habakkuk [English translation]), boys' chorus/female chorus/male chorus, organ, 1988

An Hymne of Heavenly Beautie (text by Edmund Spenser), soprano, mixed chorus, organ, 1992

Epiphany Cantata (texts from the Bible, liturgical sources, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), tenor, mixed chorus, organ, string orchestra, 1993

Seven New Tunes for Old Hymns (texts from hymns), mixed chorus, 1974–95

Three Fragments from 'The Tempest' (text by William Shakespeare), boys' chorus/female chorus, piano, 1995

Nova Gaudia (A Carol Sequence for Christmas) (7 Christmas carols, texts from traditional sources, Sabine Baring-Gould, Edmund Sears), mixed chorus, organ, 1997

Joy in Harvest (text by J. S. B. Monsell), female chorus, piano, 1999

Three Songs from 'Birds of Passage' (text by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), mixed chorus, piano, 2002

The Eternal Rose (text by Sheila Kaye-Smith), mixed chorus, organ, 2004

Exaltabo te: Festival Cantata (sinfonia sacra, texts from Psalm 30, Psalm 78), soprano, baritone, mixed chorus, orchestra (2 flutes [1st + piccolo], 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 French horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, percussion, strings), 2005

Prelude and a Psalm of Francis Thompson (text by Francis Thompson), mixed chorus, organ, timpani, string orchestra, 2007

The Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia (oratorio, texts from the Bible, liturgical sources, Sabine Baring-Gould, George Barker), 6 soli, mixed chorus, small orchestra (organ, percussion, cellos, double bass), 2015 (also version of some material as Dirge for Cecilia, 10 cellos)

De radice flos, mixed chorus, 2017

Three Folksongs from Scotland (Caller O'uTrue ThomasThe Overgate) (texts from folksongs from Scotland), mixed chorus, 2018

Magellan (text by George Allan Mackenzie), mixed chorus, piano/small orchestra (flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, 2 French horns, harp, strings), 2021

Two Carols (texts by Lewis Carroll, A. E. Housman), mixed chorus, organ, 2022

The Xitang Mass (Missa Brevis in Commemoratione Ecclesiæ Nostræ Dominæ Montis Carmelis Pekinensis) (text from the Mass), mixed chorus, organ ad libitum, 2023


The Harmonious Echoes (texts by Ekaterina Betekova, Henry David Thoreau, Anne Boleyn, Edna St. Vincent Millay, A. E. Housman), medium voice, piano, 1974

Fünf Eichendorff Gesänge (text by Joseph von Eichendorff), voice, violin, 1976, revised 2016

Five Songs of Countee Cullen (text by Countee Cullen), tenor, piano, 1979, revised 1991

Ecce Puer (text by James Joyce), soprano, flute, 1982

Seven Early Songs (texts by Henry David Thoreau, Edna St. Vincent Millay, A. E. Housman, Marcus Argentarius, William Blake, J. C. E. Bowen), voice, piano, 1974–84, revised 2023–24

Three Songs of W. B. Yeats (text by William Butler Yeats), soprano, piano, 1976–84

Three Vailima Episodes (text by Robert Louis Stevenson), soprano, string orchestra, 1984

A New England Almanack (texts by Robert Frost, R. P. T. Coffin, Anne Bradstreet, R. H. Schauffler, Archibald MacLeish, W. C. Bryant, Richard Wilbur, J. G. Whittier, a traditional source, R. U. Johnson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, e. e. cummings), baritone, piano, 1985 (also version as Five Songs from 'A New England Almanack', baritone, orchestra [2 flutes (1st + piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd + English horn), 2 clarinets (2nd + bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 2 French horns, harp, percussion, strings], 1985)

A Due Voci (texts by Archibald MacLeish, e. e. cummings), 2 sopranos, piano, 1986

Fragment from 'Thyrsis' (text by Matthew Arnold), soprano, piano, 1986

Winterreise (text by R. P. T. Coffin), soprano, small orchestra (flute, oboe [+ English horn], clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, harp, percussion, strings), 1988

Paroles pour musique (peut-être) (text from Clifton's Manual of Conversation), mezzo-soprano, baritone, speaker, piano, 2013

Der Tanz der Götter (3 songs, texts by Wang Shengyu, Li Bai, Ma Xinyi [all translated by Hans Bethge]), mezzo-soprano/baritone, piano, 2019

Shore Pictures (2 songs, texts by A. E. Housman, Emily Dickinson), soprano, piano, 2022


Three Rags, 1974–75 (each of its three sections may be performed separately: A New Leaf; Greene Street Slow Drag; Waverley Stomp)

Five Pieces, 1976–77

Piano Sonata, 1979

Ricordanza dell'Umbria, 1987

Five Pieces, Second Set, 1978–2023


Suite, 1978, revised 2023

Partita: Nun komm', der Heiden Heiland, 1985

Four Brief Pieces, 1992–93

1521–2021, 2021

In Nomine, 2022 (version of work for symphonic band)