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Wallen, Errollyn

Errollyn Wallen (b.1958)
Errollyn Wallen has been described as ‘the renaissance woman of contemporary British music’ (The Observer). She is respected both as a singer-songwriter of pop-influenced songs and as a composer of contemporary concert music, winning the Ivor Novello Award for Classical Music in 2013. In 2007 she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Honours List for services to music.

Born in Belize, Wallen gave up training at the Dance Theater of Harlem, New York, to study composition in London and Cambridge and has since written music for a variety of settings, from ballet to orchestral concertos, music for piano and voice. Her classical solo album The Girl in My Alphabet (Avie 0006) was highly acclaimed when it was released in 2004 and features works including Are You Worried About the Rising Cost of Funerals?, a song cycle for soprano and string quartet, and Dervish, for cello and piano. Errollyn (Avie 0049) and Meet Me at Harold Moores both feature her own vocal and piano performances and Wallen’s Daedalus also features on the Brodsky Quartet’s album Moodswings, alongside Björk, Elvis Costello and Sting. In 2009 she contributed to the NMC Songbook CD. The Errollyn Wallen Songbook comprises twelve of her celebrated songs for voice with piano accompaniment.

Recent works include All the People of the World (text by Jackie Kay) for chorus, soloists and orchestra, performed by the Hallé Orchestra at Bridgewater Hall in 2008, the oratorio Carbon 12 - A Choral Symphony commissioned by the Welsh National Opera and premiered at the Millennium Centre, Cardiff in 2008, before touring in June 2009. She has also been commissioned by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (English Folk Songs: From Eleanor to Sweet William), Orchestra of the Swan (Cello Concerto and Concerto Grosso) and Almeida Opera (The Silent Twins). Spirit Symphony, commissioned by the BBC in 2004 and first performed at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the ‘Listen Up!’ Festival, went on to win the BBC Radio 3 Listeners Award at the 2005 British Composer Awards, and Another America: Earth, commissioned by the Royal Opera House in 2003, was broadcast on BBC television. Mighty River was premiered by the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2007 and recorded for broadcast by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 2014.

The world premiere of Triptych, for solo organ, was given by Thomas Trotter in June 2012 to mark the 21st Anniversary of Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Wallen’s music also featured in the opening festival for the new London venue Kings Place in Autumn 2008 and her works Principia and Spirit In Motion were commissioned for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Wallen was Composer-in-Association with Orchestra of the Swan for the 2006-7 season and has also held the posts of Composer-in-Residence at Dartington International Music Festival, Huddersfield Festival and Trinity College of Music, visiting Composer-in-Residence at Birmingham Conservatoire and Research Associate at Middlesex University’s ResCen, contributing to the book Navigating the Unknown: The creative process in contemporary performing arts, published in 2006.


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