Lyell Cresswell was born in Wellington, New Zealand, on 13 October 1944. He studied in Wellington, Toronto, Aberdeen and Utrecht. After some teaching at Glasgow University he joined Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff as Music Organizer (1978-80). He returned to Scotland as Forman Fellow in Composition at Edinburgh University until 1982 and spent the next three years as Cramb Fellow in Composition at Glasgow University. In 1978 he won the Ian Whyte Award for the orchestral work Salm, and in 1979 received the APRA Silver Scroll for his contribution to New Zealand music. His works have been recommended by the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in 1979, 1981 and 1988. At present he is freelance composer based in Edinburgh.
Cresswell has been a featured composer at Musica Nova, (Glasgow, 1984) the Sonorities Festival (Belfast, 1985), the Asian Music Festival, (Tokyo, 1990), New Zealand International Festival of the Arts (1990, 1994), Musica Insieme (Bologna, 1992) and Academy Now! (Glasgow, 1993), Middelburg Festival (Netherlands, 1993), 'Lyell Cresswell is Fifty' Festival (Tramway, Glasgow, 1994), and in February 1996 at the Concerti Aperitivo, Teatro Comunale, Modena. He has been a guest of the Warsaw Autumn Festival (1985), the Philippine-Asian Music Festival (Manila, 1988), Festival of the Asian Composers' League (Taipei, 1994) and guest lecturer at L'Accademia de Brera, Milan (1987) and L'Accademia di Belle Arti (Bologna, 1994). In 1989 his Speak for us, great sea was featured at the London Proms, and in 1995 Dragspil for accordion and orchestra received its first performance at the Proms (for which it was commissioned).
His most recent large-scale work - Concerto for Orchestra and String Quartet - was premiered by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Yggdrasil Quartet of Aberdeen in February 1996.
Work in progress includes a work for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and a concerto for the Swedish trombone player Christian Lindberg and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.