My songs spring upon me almost incidentally and they are a part of my daily life. When working on a large commission for huge forces (as in the case of my recent work, Carbon 12, for Welsh National Opera), having a song to turn to at the piano is a lovely thing. I write these songs in the same way I wrote my opera Another America: Earth (directed brilliantly by Bill Bankes-Jones). The words and music spring spontaneously together from the same source, from a desire to communicate all the interesting and imagined things I find in the world around me. It’s a delight to be part of the Tête-à-Tête festivities again this year; do come and see My Feet May Take a Little While, the staged version of my songs at the Arcola Theatre August 15 & 16th.
The songs I sing and play tonight are taken from The Errollyn Wallen Songbook, published by Peters Edition, and from my CDs Meet Me at Harold Moores and Errollyn plus a few new ones. Here they are, not necessarily in order: What Shall I Sing/Magritte Man/My Hitler/Guru/My Feet May Take a Little While/North/What’s up Doc?/Rain/I Wouldn’t Normally Say/Sheba’s Shopping/Tree/Off the Map
Belize born 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.
Recent works include the opera The Silent Twins for Almeida Opera in 2007, Mighty River, premiered by the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2007, and Spirit Symphony, commissioned by the BBC and winner of the BBC Radio 3 Listeners/ British Composer Award in 2005. Her recent Cello Concerto and Concerto Grosso (both premiered this year) were commissioned by Orchestra of the Swan with whom Errollyn is Composer in Association. Her film Falling (made last year with Dan Farberoff and choreographer Henri Oguike) has been shown on Australian ABC television and will be broadcast on Channel 4 in August.
Other recent works include a new 50 minute oratorio Carbon 12 – A Choral Symphony commissioned by Welsh National Opera with a libretto by John Binias and conducted by Carlo Rizzi and Gerry Cornelius. For massed choirs, soloists, brass band and orchestra, this hugely successful work premiered in June at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre then toured to Birmingham and the Welsh valleys. It will tour again next year in a reduced version. Canciones, a new solo guitar work for Tom Kerstens premiered at the Wigmore Hall this month and plans are being made for its recording. English Folk Songs commissioned by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group will be premiered in 2009 and Errollyn is currently writing an orchestral work for the Hallé Orchestra.
The on-going operatic project Another America is an exploration into the black condition, past, present and future: The Royal
Opera House and Nitro commissioned Another America: Earth, premièred it in November 2003 at the Linbury Theatre reviving it in 2005, including a BBC television broadcast. Bill Bankes-Jones was the director. Another America:Fire was commissioned by Push and first seen at Sadler’s Wells in September 2004.
Errollyn was Composer-in-Residence at Dartington International Music Festival, Huddersfield Festival and Trinity College of Music. She is currently visiting Composer-in-Residence at Birmingham Conservatoire and is a Research Associate at Middlesex University’sResCen, contributing to the book Navigating the Unknown: The creative process in contemporary performing arts, published in 2006.
Errollyn Wallen has released two albums of songs: Errollyn (Avie 0049) with her own voice/piano performance and Meet Me at Harold Moores in collaboration with outstanding jazz artists. The classical solo album The Girl in My Alphabet (Avie 0006) received rave reviews at its release. She also appears on the Brodsky Quartet’s album Moodswings alongside Bjork, Elvis Costello and Sting. The Errollyn Wallen Songbook published by Peters Edition comprises twelve of her celebrated songs for voice with piano accompaniment. A staged version My Feet May Take a Little While (directed by Daniele Guerra) will be premiered at the Arcola Opera Festival August 15th and 16th.
Errollyn Wallen was awarded an MBE in 2007 for services to music – www.errollynwallen.com