While still in his teens, Denis Betro came to the UK from New Zealand to study music at the Royal College of Music. He supported himself in this endeavour by busking on the streets of London for two years. He went on to master orchestration and had his first piece, Concerto for Electric Guitar, performed with the Kensington Symphony Orchestra with himself performing the solo part.
In 1989, he founded Orchestra of the Twentieth Century, a fully professional body which gave its first performance at the Mermaid Theatre, London. Betro’s Symphony No. 1 was premiered at this concert conducted by Lionel Friend. (You can hear a recording of this performance on the Audio page of this website.)
In 1999, Betro was appointed Composer in Residence for the Oxford Orchestra da Camera. His association with them produced three world-premières of major orchestral works in 1999, 2000 and 2001, with Benjamin Zander conducting Back at Charlie’s House eleven times during a European tour by the orchestra.
Other notable works include Seascapes for chorus and orchestra, which creates a wonderful evocation of four salty periods from New Zealand’s maritime history. It is an accessible work and is dedicated to the people of New Zealand. It is in four movements with the following titles: Kupe, Captain Cook, Whalers and Sealers, Auckland: City of Sails. The first movement is sung in the Maori language and features Maori instruments.
Kitchen Koncerto was written for the percussion ensemble Brake Drum Assembly. It was voted the best piece at the 2005 All Ears Festival in London.
In 2010, Betro began to write a challenging new musical based on anecdotes and experiences of the Palestinian people living under occupation. Daughters of Abraham (see Video page) was showcased in 2011 at the Jermyn Street Theatre in the West End and received overwhelming praise from the audience via the returned questionnaires. It also attracted the attention of the Egyptian, Lebanese and Jordanian embassies which sent their respective Cultural Attaches to offer support.