|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.