Header images of John Billing
John as a baby I was born in 1952 at Pond Hall in Hadleigh, Suffolk, UK.

My father gave me a guitar for my 15th birthday in 1967; just in time for the Summer of Love.
John in 1968
John in 1969 In 1968 I began a Foundation Year at the Medway College of Art in Rochester. I taught myself some folk and blues, played rhythm for friends playing lead but soon advanced to improvising my own lead by co-opting my long-suffering sister to play interminable 12 bar blues for me. Over the next few years it became obvious I had found my 'calling' and, I am told, I was the toast of Maidstone Folk Club for a while. John and hat in 1969
By 1973 I had moved to more serious guitar playing after borrowing a friend's tape of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, which I listened to while painting my attic flat in Southampton. This 'Damascene moment' prompted me to teach myself to read and write music and to learn some classical playing. I re-learnt classical guitar playing several times, once with the help of Simon Kunath.
John sketching in 1972 I shared life in a student hostel in Winchester with, amongst other people, Johannes Steuck. We were both at Art College there and were also in a band together. (The band had some small success after Johannes and I had left). John in 1977 Through Johannes, I knew about the Camphill Movement and in 1976 I first met the modern lyre at Thornbury. While at Thornbury I gradually moved from carer to music teacher and director. My first instrument was still the guitar, the lyre remaining an anthroposophical accessory for some years.
In the early '80s I studied music therapy in Berlin and also gave guitar and other music lessons. One day on my way to Kreuzberg on the U-Bahn, I was absorbed in composing music and only on my arrival did I realise that I had left my guitar on Nollendorf Platz, never to see it again. I had developed a daily practice routine of playing scales first thing in the morning and so, to avoid music-withdrawal symptoms, the next morning I did my practice on an old second-hand lyre (an alto lyre by Gartner). I was hooked.
I moved to Australia in 1984, initially teaching music at Mount Barker Waldorf School. In the first two years there, feeling the lack of music composed specifically for the lyre, I composed my 24 Preludes; a turning point in my compositional career. John at Mt Barker
Lyre workshop Between 1989 and 1993 I studied Composition and Music Theory at La Trobe University in Melbourne. To my great good fortune, Graham Leake began a Performance Art unit during this time, which enabled me to learn, in a university context, skills such as the organisation and planning of performance, relating to audiences and so on.
Soon after completing my BA(Mus) I decided to launch my full-time career as a touring musician. At the time my main lyre was a Gaertner from Berlin, but on hearing my plans Peter Biffen, luthier, musician and good friend, said he would make me a special lyre. As good as his word, he designed and built my magnificent concert lyre. John's Concert Lyre
Since then I have toured extensively in Europe, Australia, Japan and the USA.
Between 1997 and 2006 I lived in Northern Ireland working in various Camphill Communities as music teacher when I wasn't touring. In that time the Celtic Lyre Orchestra, of which I was the conductor, grew into being. The orchestra was made up of people with disabilities playing stringed instruments of my design, and co-workers/carers from the Camphill Communities and local people playing lyres, flutes, violins, guitars etc. Professional musicians and other groups were invited to perform with the orchestra for special concerts like the Karl Koenig Centenary concert in Dublin's Concert Hall in 2002. John conducting the Celtic Lyre Orchestra
John playing his new lyre John with Johannes Steuck in 2007 John through his lyre John playing the fool
The first picture on the left is my newest lyre, designed and built for me in 2008 by my very dear friend Murray Wright. It was sad to relegate my Biffen lyre to 2nd place but it has had a long and happy career. Second from left is a fairly recent photo of me with Johannes Steuck and a mosaic portrait by Johannes of me in the late 1970s.

Promotional photos for organisers can be downloaded here