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Errollyn Wallen: artist in residence

Earlier this month, at an RWCMD Symphony Orchestra celebrating her work, we were delighted to welcome Errollyn Wallen as the College’s artist in residence.

RWCMD Fellow, Composer and Musician, Errollyn is an influential figure and an inspirational role model. The Observer has called her ‘a renaissance woman of contemporary British music.’

‘Her residency is the start of a long journey together.

Errollyn is an artist that embodies our values as a College. She’s changed the perception of what music means to society and we’re looking forward to her inspiring future work from our composers, and that our work will inspire her.’
Tim Rhys-EvansDirector of Music, RWCMD

Over the next three years Errollyn will be a regular visitor to the College, working with staff and students with the ultimate aim of a large-scale commission in 2024.

‘We don’t break down barriers in music… we don’t see any’ is the motto of her modern chamber music ensemble, Ensemble X. This, alongside her ethos, authenticity and genuine passion and love for all music, reflects her free-spirited approach and why we are so excited that she’s our new artist in residence.'

‘Communication is central to Errollyn’s work - engaging the audience, speaking directly to hearts and minds, and creating work that responds to the community and enhances it.

Our job is to train professional listeners and Errollyn is the ultimate example of someone who has deep empathy and care, and that’s the influence and inspiration we want to bring to our students as they train to be the musicians of the next generation.’
Kevin PriceHead of Music Performance
Errollyn Wallen at rehearsals for Chrome RWCMD

Errollyn spent time with students and staff, getting to know the College and the community. Meanwhile, throughout the Autumn term, students had been busy performing Errollyn’s work across the College’s music departments, including our most recent RWCMD Symphony Orchestra concert, performed for Errollyn at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall.

Working with Errollyn

So what was it like to play Errollyn’s own music in front of her?

Georgina Dadson, guitarist and master’s student worked with Errollyn during the guitar class, discussing how best to perform her piece:

Errollyn working with the guitar students
'It was really good fun playing to Errollyn. When speaking about what influences her compositions she emphasised how interested she is about how each performer interprets music very differently; no two performers sound the same.

This made me feel comfortable and excited to play her music to her as her collaborative spirit was very inspiring.’
Georgina DadsonGuitar student

Errollyn spent time in the brass rehearsal, where they were rehearsing Chrome for their forthcoming brass concert celebrating musical diversity.

Brass student Elisabeth Rogers talked about played in front of Errollyn:

'It was a great experience to play for Errollyn and see her reaction to our performance and interpretation of her piece.

I enjoyed the way Errollyn felt the music as she listened to her composition being played, and the information in which she gave on the context of the piece. It was interesting to learn the thoughts behind her music and where the idea initially originated from.'
Elisabeth Rogersbrass student
Errollyn and Tim Rhys Evans taking part in the Q&A with the RWCMD Symphony Orchestra

'It was intriguing to hear Errollyn talk about her background and her family’s involvement in music and how she’s taken her childhood and reflected it in a piece composed for brass band - something that was new to her at the time of composition I believe!'

Fellow brass student Josephine Allen also found it really interesting to hear about where the music had come from, especially how she came to write Chrome.

'I had always assumed that composers have a very clear vision of what the music is about, however Errolyn’s approach was more abstract in nature. She spoke about a flash and car, and I found it incredible how she could create such a diverse piece of music from two ideas.

'Errollyn was so down to earth and kind. She had nothing but praise to offer us, as well as some really insightful and helpful pointers.'
Josephine AllenBrass student

Errollyn's featured in this March '22 Guardian article about Black musicians who get better as they get older!

In it she says, ' My road to success in classical music has not been easy, but I have had such freedom to compose the music I want. Even though I have no record label I feel I have realised my potential in classical music in a way that would have been impossible in pop. The best thing about my career currently is that my music is performed live several times a week and seems to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds.'

We’re looking forward to Errollyn’s next visit, but in the meantime you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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