Errollyn Wallen - 'renaissance woman of contemporary British music' (The Observer) - is as respected a singer-songwriter of pop influenced songs as she is a composer of contemporary new music. Communication is at the centre of both worlds: engaging the audience, speaking directly to hearts and minds.
Born in Belize, Errollyn Wallen gave up her training at the Dance Theater of Harlem, New York to study composition at the universities of London and Cambridge. She founded her own Ensemble X, and its motto “We don’t break down barriers in music: we don’t see any” reflects her genuine, free-spirited approach and eclectic musicianship. She has been commissioned by outstanding music institutions from the BBC to the Royal Opera House and performed her songs internationally.
Errollyn Wallen’s quality as a writer for the human voice becomes also 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 the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and recorded on her classical solo album The Girl in My Alphabet which received rave reviews at its release; Fairy Scary comprises song settings of fairy stories for voice and small instrumental ensemble and was commissioned by the Wigmore Hall; the Dunedin Consort commissioned and world-premiered “Comfort Me with Apples” for soloists and instrumental ensemble with words from The Song of Songs in September 2006.
Other chamber works include a quintet for flute and string quartet All the Blues I See premiered by Emily Beynon and the Brodsky Quartet, Romeo Turn for viola, cello and double bass, Dervish for cello and piano, and a series of piano duets and piano solo pieces, Errollyn Wallen’s very own instrument. The Schubert Ensemble commissioned and premiered Music for Tigers, a piano quintet, in October 2006.
Errollyn Wallen’s 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 live events as depicted in the book by Marjorie Wallace and was composed on a libretto by the acclaimed playwright April de Angelis. Other stage works include the ballet Horseplay which was commissioned and choreographed by Tom Sapsford for the Royal Ballet. Horseplay is also used in a new ballet, Tempest choreographed by James Bailey which was first performed by Leipzig Ballet in April 2007; for this occasion Leipzig Ballet commissioned a one orchestra version of Spirit Symphony to form part of the music for this dance piece. Errollyn Wallen and Scanner were the composers for the score of choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh’s Faultline which has been touring internationally since its premiere and is on the GCSE Dance syllabus.
Her film Falling (made with Dan Farberoff ) was broadcast on Australian ABC television and Channel 4 in 2009. Her hit opera for children, Caautionary Tales was commissioned by Opera North for 2011, touring in 2012. YES was the groundbreaking opera commissioned by the Royal Opera House in 2011 with a libretto by Bonnie Greer. Her original music for the 2012 BBC drama One Night won the 2013 FIPA d’Or for Best Original Music in a Television Series. Her works Principia and Spirit in Motion were commissioned for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games and their premiere was watched by a capacity audience of 80,000 people and broadcast to a billion people around the world. Current projects include a collaboration with David Pountney and a new work for Welsh National Opera to be premiered in 2014.
Errollyn Wallen was awarded an MBE for her services to music in the Queen’s birthday honours list in June 2007.