Errollyn Wallen is a Belize-born British composer and the first black woman to have a work performed at the BBC Proms.
Errollyn Wallen is a respected singer-songwriter of pop influenced songs and composer of contemporary new music. She has been commissioned by outstanding music institutions from the BBC to the Royal Opera House and performed her songs internationally.
Wallen gave up her training at the Dance Theatre of Harlem to study composition at Goldsmiths’ College and earned an MPhil at King’s College, Cambridge.
She has written songs, chamber music, stage works and operas and released three solo albums. Her two albums ‘Meet Me at Harold Moores’ and most recently ‘Errollyn’ feature her songs in her own voice/piano performance alongside outstanding jazz artists.
Her opera ‘The Silent Twins’, about the love-hate relationship of black twin girls, was commissioned by Almeida Opera and first performed in July 2007. It is based on real life events as depicted in the book by Marjorie Wallace and was composed on a libretto by the acclaimed playwright April de Angelis.
Her quality as a writer for the human voice becomes apparent in her more classical vocal works. ‘Are You Worried About the Rising Cost of Funerals’ is a song cycle for soprano and string quartet commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and recorded on her classical solo album ‘The Girl in My Alphabet’ which received rave reviews at its release.
Her works ‘Principia’ and ‘Spirit in Motion’ were commissioned for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games, watched by a capacity audience of 80,000 people and broadcast to a billion people around the world.
Her most recent work ‘Mighty River’, performed at the 2017 New Music Biennial in Hull, explores themes of slavery and freedom, combining contemporary classical techniques with spirituals, which were introduced to Hull in 1871. The piece, written for orchestra, takes its inspiration from William Wilberforce the English politician, philanthropist and native of Hull who led the movement to abolish the slave trade.
Wallen was awarded an MBE for her services to music in the Queen’s birthday honours list in June 2007.
Communication forms the centre of Errollyn Wallen’s work, which engages audiences by speaking directly to hearts and minds. She founded her own Ensemble X to give concerts she would like to go to herself. Its motto, ‘we don’t break down barriers in music… we don’t see any’, reflects her free-spirited approach and eclectic musicianship.
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