Berkhamsted man who was given weeks to live beats the odds to create music for orchestras

The 69-year-old has written 43 symphonies and four string quartets

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 9:53 am
Updated Thursday, 18th November 2021, 9:54 am

A man from Berkhamsted who was told in 2016 that he has just weeks to live has been battling the odds and recording and creating music for orchestras.

When Julian Ashbourn - who was diagnosed with advanced metastatic cancer - was told he had weeks to live, he decided that would not be the case.

For the past four and a half years the 69-year-old has been at the Kilfillan House Care Home in Berkhamsted and, in that time, he has written 43 symphonies, four string quartets and some other 'odds and ends'.

When Julian was told he had weeks to live he decided that would not be the case

Julian said: "In 2016 I was sent to the Hospice of St Francis, who were excellent, and I was then transferred here.

"I have cancer, and I should not be here, I also have steatosis (liver disease), arachnoiditis, neuropathy and a hiatus hernia. I've been told on numerous occasions that I have just weeks or months to live but I'm still here.

"My music has kept me busy, I have been recording performances of the Hemel Symphony Orchestra, various Concert Bands and others and making them available for them to listen back to.

"I make these recordings in high-quality stereo sound and my book on audio engineering, (Audio Technology, Music and Media) published by Springer, has been well received. The composer really appreciated that.

Charity concert in support of the Paul Strickland Scanner Centre at the Civic Centre in Berkhamsted

"I have also recorded for Pete Cooper, who is the best fiddle player in the country on various occasions.

"I try to support local people, organisations and charities wherever I can.

"I have always been interested in music, I enjoy listening to it, composing, as well as playing.

"I discovered how music was produced for films and how they put sample pieces together and I thought you could do the same with classical music, so I started doing that.

"I obtained samples of orchestral instruments and put them together, line by line, in order to create music. I have been doing that and I have been getting better and better with time.

"I have written a piece for the Paul Strickland Scanner Centre which, I believe, will be made available on the centre's website.

"I am currently working on piece number 44, I really enjoy doing it. If anyone wants me to compose music for charity I will happily help.

"It is a difficult and time consuming process, as you have to play each part separately and then pull them together as a coherent whole.

"Any orchestra or traditional music group can get in touch and I will gladly compose something for them, especially if it is for charity.

"Similarly, if anybody would like me to record a performance or event for them, especially for charity, I will gladly do it."

On Sunday, December 5, there will be a charity concert in support of the Paul Strickland Scanner Centre at the Civic Centre in Berkhamsted.

The centre is a specialist medical imaging centre working to improve the lives of people affected by cancer and other serious conditions.

Doors will be open from 7pm and entertainment will be provided by the Berkhamsted Ukulele Random Players (BURP).

Julian added: "They centre have no NHS funding but they perform an essential service for our community. They are amazing, I have been there regularly for MRI scans and can attest to their professionalism and skill.

"Like many charities, they have struggled during the pandemic. Many of our local residents have benefitted from this service.

"The amazing BURP are performing at the concert, it should be a really great and fun event.

"I think my example shows that there is life after diagnosis."

Julian has been uploading the scores of some of the symphonic works onto his website for people to download and use.

For more about Julian and his music visit: