|Born in Belize, Errollyn Wallen gave up her training at the Dance Theater of Harlem, New York to study composition at Universities of London and Cambridge. She is a composer, musician and performer who does not like to be categorised in any one genre: her eclectic repertoire includes operatic works, symphonies, jazz compositions and pop. She has been commissioned by music institutions from the BBC to the Royal Opera House and has performed her songs internationally.
She has made three albums Meet Me at Harold Moores, The Girl in My Alphabet and most recently Errollyn that features her songs in her own voice/piano performance. Her experience of making Errollyn led her to work with ResCen Research Associate Jane Watt and sound engineer Gerry O’Riordan on an audio publication About Errollyn: reflections on the creator as performer (London: ResCen Publications, 2005). This allowed her to examine the process of developing and recording a solo album in greater detail.
Errollyn’s interest in the human voice is apparent in her more classical vocal works: Are You Worried About the Rising Cost of Funerals, a song cycle for soprano and string quartet commissioned by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; and Comfort Me with Apples for soloists and instrumental ensemble with words from The Song of Songs.
Her 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, premiered the opera in November 2003 at the Linbury Theatre and revived the piece in 2005, including a BBC television broadcast. Another America: Fire was commissioned by Push and was first seen at Sadler’s Wells in September 2004.
Errollyn’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 life events as depicted in the book by Marjorie Wallace and was composed on a libretto by acclaimed playwright April de Angelis. Welsh National Opera have commissioned Carbon 12: A Choral Symphony, an oratorio about South Wales. The librettist is John Binias and the work will be premiered at the Welsh Millennium Centre, Cardiff, in June 2008 with a subsequent tour.
In 2005 Errollyn was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 to compose Our English Heart, a cantata to mark the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar Day and the death of Admiral Lord Nelson; the piece was first performed in Portsmouth Cathedral on 21 October 2005 by the joint forces of Catherine Bott (soprano), the male voices of the BBC Singers and the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Stephen Cleobury.
Other stage works include the ballet Horseplay that was commissioned and choreographed by Tom Sapsford for the Royal Ballet.
Her orchestral work Spirit Symphony – Speed-Dating for Two Orchestras, commissioned by the BBC, was first performed at the final event of the ‘Listen up!’ Festival at the Royal Festival Hall in November 2004 and won the 2005 British Composer Awards in the BBC Radio 3 Listeners’ Award category. The Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins premièred Mighty River, an orchestral work to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery in February 2007 at Holy Trinity Church Clapham.
Her recent chamber works include a quintet for flute and string quartet All the Blues I See premiered by Emily Beynon and the Brodsky Quartet, and Music for Tigers, a piano quintet commissioned by The Schubert Ensemble.
Errollyn was awarded an MBE for her services to music announced in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 2007.