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Errollyn Wallen
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Errollyn Wallen    

Cautionary Tales
Cautionary Tales was commissioned by Opera North and premiered in 2011, touring in 2012. Adapted from the Hilaire Belloc Cautionary Tales for Children published in 1907 with director Pia Furtado, the opera was approved with the full endorsement of the Belloc family who attended the first performance.

Cautionary Tales is an opera specifically aimed at children and their families and lasts approximately an hour. It has a cast of four singers (soprano, mezzo, tenor and baritone). The ensemble comprises piano, double bass doubling electric bass and electric guitar and percussion.

The verses adapted for the stage by director Pia Furtado with extra text by Pia Furtado and Errollyn Wallen were Jim, Henry King, Matilda, George and Rebecca.
Exploring both humour and darkness, magic and mayhem, the work's musical drive is about the handling of constantly changing textures and tessituras available in four solo voices and their ability to create an ever-changing dramatic sonority.

Two Works for the Opening Ceremony of London 2012 Paralympic Games

Commissioned for the opening ceremony of London 2012 Paralympic Games, PRINCIPIA is a four minute work for massed choirs and symphony orchestra.
Errollyn Wallen wrote both the text and the music. The brief from directors Bradley Hemmings and Jenny Sealey was to explore the Enlightenment, human rights, developments in science with emphasis on Stephen Hawking, who also took part in the ceremony. The work was to be performed by six amateur choirs from across London (Barts Choir, The London Chorus, Hackney Singers, London Gay Men's Chorus, Lewisham Choral Society, Hackney Empire Community Choir) and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Charles Abell.
The work is called PRINCIPIA after Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. Using the musical forces to the extremes of their dramatic capabilities, using dissonance and congruence in all their varieties and employing the fullest range of choral and orchestral techniques PRINCIPIA seeks to give expression of the collective human endeavour and aspiration. The work was performed on 29 August 2012 in the Olympic Stadium to 80,000 people including Her Majesty the Queen and was televised to a billion viewers around the world.

This work was also commissioned for the opening ceremony of London 2012 Paralympic Games. It was a song to athletes, assembled after their parade into the Olympic stadium.
Scored for soprano (Denise Leigh) and symphony orchestra (London Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Charles Abell) the work honours the achievements of the athletes. Words and music are by Errollyn Wallen. The work lasts approximately 4 minutes 37 seconds.
Spirit in Motion is in stark contrast to PRINCIPIA and is lyrical, using orchestral textures for translucence and warmth.
Spirit in Motion was performed on August 29th 2012 in the Olympic Stadium to 80,000 people including Her Majesty the Queen and was televised to a billion viewers around the world.

London 2012 Paralympics
Diamond Greenwich
Diamond Greenwich is a ten minute cantata composed for the Queen's arrival in Greenwich in April 2012. This commission – from Greenwich Council and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance – was to commemorate Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee, the re-opening of the Cutty Sark and the fact that Greenwich had been granted royal status. Errollyn Wallen wrote both the text and the music which was performed in front of the Cutty Sark by a choir including hundreds of schoolchildren and a large orchestra made up of students from Trinity Laban. Diamond Greenwich was broadcast on the national lunchtime and evening news and later featured in an ITV documentary, Royal Greenwich, presented by John Sergeant. A specially bound score of Diamond Greenwich was sent to The Queen.
Set to a libretto by Bonnie Greer, YES is a groundbreaking state-of-the nation opera inspired by Bonnie Greer's appearance on BBC's Question Time with the leader of a right-wing nationalist political party in 2009.

Commissioned and produced by ROH2, and directed by John Lloyd-Davies, then Head of Opera Development at the Royal Opera House, YES is an OperaShot: an initiative giving artists established in their own fields and renowned beyond the world of opera the chance to experiment with the form, as part of the Royal Opera House's ongoing opera development programme

Errollyn Wallen's music gives resonance and amplification to a series of eclectic scenes reflecting on these pertinent themes. Emotions, hopes and fears of individual British citizens in challenging environments underpin Bonnie and Errollyn's operatic response to this provocative modern media event. An ensemble of seven musicians, including an electronic soundscape with the recorded voice of Errollyn Wallen, accompanies a cast of nine singers, and Bonnie herself, to communicate the emotional and political disorder. Directed by John Lloyd-Davies (also Co-Set Designer and Lighting Designer), the cast features Alison Buchanan, Marie Vassiliou, Clare McCaldin, LaVerne Williams, Mark Le Brocq, Mike Henry, Omar Ebrahim, Richard Morris and Nikolas Winters. Conducted by Gerry Cornelius, the Repetiteur is Lindy Tennent-Brown, Co-Set and Costume Designer is Anna Hourriere and Mandy Demetriou is Movement Director.

Our English Heart
Our English Heart marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. It is a dramatic cantata cast in a single movement that falls into several sections. Errollyn approached it as if she were making a film: the cantata moves from scene to scene, and from one emotional state to another. She wanted to depict the drama in its actual, imagined moment and to convey the atmosphere and sensation of life at sea and the feeling of passion and personal sacrifice. The work was a co-commission from the BBC and George and Janette Wilkins. It was premiered by the BBC Concert Orchestra under Stephen Cleobury (conductor) and featured Catherine Bott, soprano, and the male voices of the BBC Singers at Portsmouth Cathedral on 21 October 2005. The work was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. It is published by Peters Edition.

    The Silent Twins
The Silent Twins is an opera (libretto by April de Angelis) for seven voices and seven instruments. It is based on the true story depicted in the book by Marjorie Wallace.

Two black girl twins are born on a drab Welsh military base. Jennifer and June are children of a family who are keen to be respectable and fade into the bleak background. The twins refuse to speak. They do however make birds’ sounds to each other. They develop a secret language of gesture and sound. No-one can understand them. This strategy later begins to trap and distort the lives of the twins. In an effort to break out of the mediocrity of their surroundings they make a bid to become novelists. Their writing is bold and adventurous but it gets them nowhere. They experiment with boys. Whatever they are searching for – love, acceptance, a thrilling life – they do not find it. In a desperate bid they set fire to a local school one night. They are caught. Their strangeness condemns them and they are sent to Broadmoor where, as June writes in one of her poems, they are like “flowers in hell”. They languish there for ten years.

Their story is, in essence, one of two young girls trying to create a creative identity for themselves but being forced in the end to brutally conform to stereotypes of being “black and daft” as the twins put it. Their poetry and writing, however, transcends the despair of their circumstances.

The Silent Twins was commissioned by Almeida Opera and premiered at Almeida Theatre 5 July 2007.

    Are You Worried About the Rising Cost of Funerals
Five Simple Songs
Errollyn Wallen has written over a hundred songs on her own texts, many for herself to perform, as well as settings of poetry and opera. The texts of Are You Worried about the Rising Cost of Funerals display a wide range of characters. The subject matter often deals with death, but not in a morose or angry way. The songs have a range of references from the biblical language of sinners and the saved in ‘Beehive’ the nursery rhyme ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ in ‘Mary’. The title Are You Worried About the Rising cost of Funerals was suggested by a local council leaflet seen in a window.

The piece was commissioned by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and premiered in 1994 at Adrian Boult Halle in Birmingham.

    Meet Me at Harold Moores
This album of Errollyn Wallen’s songs was made at Snake Ranch Studios in London in 1998 with a grant from the Peter Whittingham Award. Errollyn produced it and performed on it (piano and voice). It marks the beginning of her collaboration with Gerry O’Riordan, sound engineer, who later worked on her album Errollyn. She set out to make an album with the same principles as classical music: the musicians play and react as if in a live situation and in a conversational way. There is no click track or sequenced drum beats in order to capture the natural push and pull of musicians in dialogue with each other. Meet Me at Harold Moores features both classical and jazz musicians (Courtney Pine, Byron Wallen).

    Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra
In three movements
This percussion concerto started life in a room in the inner city and gradually moved away to an imaginary place, full of lush vegetation and enveloping heat. The outer movements are most directly concerned with motion, using dance rhythms from Africa and Latin America combined with elements of jazz and popular music. The percussionist beckons or ‘calls’ to the orchestra, leading it through many rhythmic transformations. In the second movement both soloist and orchestra emerge together from the same world, a world of hidden forests, magnificent processions and birdsong.

The concerto was commissioned by the BBC and Lloyds Bank and was premiered in the 1994 Young Musician of the Year final competition at the Barbican by Colin Currie and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, conducted by Paul Daniel.

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