Opera commissioned by Opera North
Guardian.co.uk Photography: Robert Workman 10/01/2012
The most striking work by far was one which has been played numerous times in Europe, composed–oh horror!!–in the century before this one. But Belize-born Errollyn Wallen gave her ballet Horseplay, which has been performed numerous times since 1998.
The four movements, originally for four male dancers, take the horse-related words “brooding”, “swift”, “rocking” and “race”, though hardly literally. (Probably the dancers usually supply the images.) After more consciously cerebral pieces last night, it was a pleasure to hear Mr. Wallen play with more familiar aspects. Her hunting horn duos were as mysterious as the dark introductions to the other movements. The jazzy second section had a Sonny Rollins-style sax solo, montaged first against strings and then the lower brass. The finale, “race” was no galop: it was a subtle crescendo, so nuanced that one was drawn into it almost subconsciously. Read More
ConcertoNet.com Harry Rolnick 26/09/2009
|WORLD AIDS DAY
The finale by Errolyn Wallen is an exultant spiritual, with soloists Rebecca Bottone and Roderick Williams leading the congregation like Baptist preachers. Read More
The Guardian Alfred Hickling 04/12/2008
|WALLEN at Tête-à-Tête Festival
Among the highlights of the eclectic Tête à Tête Festival is Errollyn Wallen's family-inspired show. She tells Time Out about how she and her brother turned blood into music.
... With over 30 shows to choose from, the only problem is deciding which three to see each day. One that stands out is 'Wallen', a collaboration between siblings Errollyn and Byron Wallen - the classical composer/songwriter and her jazz trumpeter brother. Read More
TimeOut London Jonathan Lennie 07/08/2009
|Errolly Wallen and Friends at Le Poisson Rouge
Rated Top Live Show - (Le) Poisson Rouge; Tuesday 14th July 2009
Born in Belize, Errollyn Wallen skipped out on her studies at the Dance Theater of Harlem to pursue a composer’s career in England. Wallen, whose oeuvre touches on everything from chamber-music serenity to African-chant bliss, is shamefully obscure here in the U.S., but here’s your chance to catch up; her marquee-name friends in tonight’s program, titled “Are You Worried About the Rising Cost of Funerals,” include local toy-piano marvel Margaret Leng Tan and British alt-folk maverick John Wesley Harding. Read More
TimeOut New York Steve Smith Issue 719 : Jul 9–15, 2009
|Private Lives at Hampstead Theatre
The staging of the inter-couple fighting is masterful; one watches with glee. Katrina Lindsay's sets are seductively elegant and Errollyn Wallen's music, composed for the show, is dangerous in exactly the right way - full of eloping notes. Read More
The Observer Kate Kellaway 01/02/2009
The laughs survive - but they are often uneasy, just like Errollyn Wallen's splendidly turbulent piano score which punctuates the action. Private Lives has suddenly become a play that makes you feel as well as laugh. Read More
The Telegraph Charles Spencer 30/01/2009
|Tête-à-Tête Festival (Errollyn Wallen Songbook)
The first night closed with the multi-talented classical composer and singer-songwriter Errollyn Wallen playing a selection from her ‘Songbook’ at the piano. In a smouldering jazzy voice and with lightning fingers, she whisked us through her witty and wacky world. She even had a special guest to play the cello sonata she wrote for him – that’s right, the ubiquitous Matthew Sharp.
Time Out London Jonathan Lennie 31/07/2008
The evening closed with songs composed and sung, to her own piano accompaniment, by Errollyn Wallen, whose fractured sense of rhythm, harmony and melody ensured that the results never coalesced into merely easy listening. Titles such as My Hitler and Magritte Man provide a hint of her verbal imagination.
Evening Standard Nick Kimberley 01/08/2008
The week's second premiere was Shobana Jeyasingh's Faultline, which from its opening - a choppy back-projection of Asian youths engaged in enigmatic street business - seems to shudder with tension. Its creative starting point was Gautam Malkani's 2006 novel Londonstani, whose characters communicate in a blurred patois of text-speak and Punjabi, and Jeyasingh's danced exchanges clearly reflect these mixed influences.
As her eight dancers stalk and prowl, they intercut the hand gestures of hip hop with challenging finger clicks and the lotus and butterfly spreads of bharat natyam. The vocabulary of martial arts is also in evidence, but this is less combative than self-assertive; a community under scrutiny, Jeyasingh seems to be saying, cannot afford to let its guard down. This watchfulness extends to the duets, whose potential for tenderness is repeatedly undercut by macho ritual.
Over this, Jeyasingh draws an extraordinary score. Soprano Patricia Rosario appears, singing material composed by Errollyn Wallen alongside a manipulated recording of Rosario's voice by Scanner. This lends further layers of incident and complexity, skilfully drawn together in the final passage, a thrilling ensemble statement of rhythm and order contained in a single off-centre square of light. In synthesis, Faultline tells us, is resolution.
The Observer 11/03/2007
|The Silent Twins
4 Stars Almeida, London
Tuesday July 10 2007
Drawn from Marjorie Wallace's book of the same title, April de Angelis's libretto for Errollyn Wallen's new opera tells the enigmatic story of identical twins June and Jennifer Gibbons. Born in 1963 in Barbados but brought up in south Wales, their intense relationship separated them from their parents and community, and eventually saw them incarcerated in Broadmoor in 1982 following a chaotic and seemingly exhibitionistic crime spree. It ended within hours of their release 11 years later, when June, the elder of the two, suddenly and mysteriously died. In between, it consisted of love, rivalry and hatred.
The twins not only baffled their parents, but also various schools, social agencies and eventually psychiatrists. Declining to speak to others, they focused exclusively on each other. Their self-published teenage literary productions were prodigious.
Wallen's score seizes the opportunity of defining the twins' isolated, self-created world through music that is immediate without being obvious. She is aided by two remarkable performances from Alison Crookendale as Jennifer and Talise Trevigne as June. Not only do they resemble twins, but their body language is eerily suggestive of mutual identification as well as mutual mistrust.
The alternately florid and frenetic instrumental writing - vividly performed by the Almeida Ensemble under conductor Tim Murray - is perfectly complemented by vocal lines that impress with their sharply etched character. There are deft parodies of 1970s pop styles in scenes that celebrate the hectic imagination of the twins' literary creations, full of edgy behaviour and disco-dancing. Wallen revels in the possibilities here, with a mock-Saturday Night Fever sequence in which the absurdly sensational aspects of the twins' fantasies are almost redeemed by their sheer energy. Their ghastly attempt to win affection from a couple of boys by having sex with them in a church is realised in another tragicomic episode.
Five other singers share a dozen supporting roles. La Verne Williams offers a sumptuous voice and infinite concern as the twins' mother, Gloria. Devon Harrison is priceless as Mark, Jennifer's tongue-tied pen pal, whose arioso, I Live in Wokingham, is a gem. Throughout, the composer and librettist pull off a feat of ambiguity by combining comedy with desperation while avoiding sentimentality; the scenes in Broadmoor are painfully funny.
Martin Constantine's production, visualised in Peter McKintosh's straightforward designs, is assured. The show's weak point is diction, which is ironic given that the piece is all about communication. The opera itself is an unequivocal hit.
To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited Music site, go to music.guardian.co.uk
|Concerto Grosso performed by Academy of Saint Martin in the Field||CLASSICAL COMMONWEALTH Part 2||Errollyn Wallen Composer of the Week Jan 3 - 7 2022|
|Watch this thrilling performance of Concerto Grosso in a filmed performed by ASMF and conducted by John Butt. Live on Facebook and YouTube at 7.30pm January 21st 2022.||Errollyn Wallen unravels more stories of how classical music fused with local musical traditions across the British Commonwealth, speaking to acclaimed South African double-bassist Leon Bosch, Canadian indigenous composers Cris Derksen and T. Patrick Carrabre, and the Jamaican musical polymath Peter Ashbourne, who works across the genres of classical, jazz and reggae.
Errollyn explores the remarkable hybrid musical identities at play in the nations of South Africa and Jamaica - and tells the fascinating and complex story of how the music of Canada's indigenous communities has been celebrated by a new generation of composers and performers seeking to capture their cultural "in-between"-ness in sound.
Errollyn is also joined by the music historians Stephen Banfield and Wayne Weaver, as well as the Thai-American cellist and researcher Jon Silpayamanant, to explore challenging questions around our reception (and sometimes neglect) of this music in a postcolonial era. In celebrating and championing this repertoire - how much do we also need to confront ideas of musical colonialism? What does this all tell us about how musical culture was disseminated - and sometimes imposed - across the British Empire? And what should we make of it today?
An Overcoat Media production for BBC Radio 3
Producer: Steven Rajam
|Donald Macleod chats to composer Errollyn Wallen about her heritage and musical upbringing.
Belize-born British composer Errollyn Wallen has been called a “renaissance woman of contemporary music”. She’s a remarkably versatile and prolific composer, pianist and songwriter and one of our most in-demand musical voices today. She was the first black woman to have a piece performed at the Proms. In 1998, her music opened the 2012 Paralympic games. She's even been performed in space, aboard Nasa’s STS115 mission. Wallen writes in a kaleidoscopic range of styles; her music constantly crosses and re-crosses musical boundaries and it brims over with a sense of adventure and delight. All this week, Donald Macleod gets to know Errollyn as she dials into his studio from her Scottish lighthouse where she retreats to concentrate on her work.
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