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Errollyn Wallen: Hawks and Horses  

This August will see the premiere of Hawks and Horses, a new Peterborough-inspired work by internationally acclaimed composer Errollyn Wallen, the “renaissance woman of contemporary British music” (The Observer), best known for her works Principia and Spirit in Motion which featured in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games

Commissioned by music education charity Peterborough Sings!, the work was written for the city’s award-winning choirs Peterborough Male Voice Choir, Peterborough Voices and Peterborough Youth Choir, who will perform it for the first time with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at St John’s Smith Square in London on Sunday, 30 August. The regional premiere at Peterborough’s Broadway Theatre will follow on Sunday, 6 September as part of Classical Spectacular with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Respected as a singer and writer of popinfluenced songs, as well as a composer of contemporary new music, Wallen has created an extraordinarily broad repertoire of work, including operas, orchestral works, ballets, films, pop songs, chamber music and more. She has been commissioned by outstanding music institutions from the BBC to the Royal Opera House, and her music has been performed all over the world in diverse settings, from the grandest concert halls to Latitude Festival and London 2012, watched by a capacity audience of 80,000 people and broadcast to a billion more! She was awarded the MBE for services to music in 2007 and was the first woman to receive the Ivor Novello Award for classical music. She teaches at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and is Visiting Composer-in-Residence at Birmingham Conservatoire, where her students have included the singer-songwriter Laura Mvula. She was recently elected an Honorary Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford, in recognition of her outstanding achievements as a composer and her distinguished contribution to scholarship in the field of contemporary British music.

Known for her originality and unique voice, Wallen was commissioned by Peterborough Sings! because of her genuine, free-spirited approach, eclectic musicianship, and her commitment to engaging with the audience and to breaking down barriers in music – or rather, her refusal to acknowledge them in the first place. She sees the project very much as a collaborative venture: “The finished score is only a beginning. I am always fascinated to see how my music and words become 3D… I love working within a team and learning about the different responses to what I’ve created.”

As part of her research, Wallen spent time in Peterborough, visiting landmarks including the Cathedral, Flag Fen, Ferry Meadows and the Lido, as well as watching the choirs rehearse and meeting community groups. This experience of the city has informed her work, a setting of Shakespeare’s celebrated Sonnet 91, from which it takes its name. “A commission simply means I am paid for being me,” she says. “I really feel it’s a composer’s duty to try to write music that is genuinely truthful emotionally – I’ve always done that. I want to make a difference. I want to bear witness to our time and to tell untold stories.

“I think somehow, somewhere we lost sight of writing music for music lovers,” she continues, “and that doesn’t necessarily mean only people who are academics or musicologists or specialists. I think it’s important for a broader range of people to get involved in classical music. We seem to see contemporary classical music as a very specialist subject and it doesn’t feel open to everyone. Time to open up!”

Where and when
The regional premiere of Hawks and Horses will be at Peterborough’s Broadway Theatre – home of Peterborough Sings! – on 6 September as part of Classical Spectacular with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; a rare opportunity to see the ‘nation’s favourite orchestra’ on home turf. Hosted by BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Jane Smith, conducted by Will Prideaux and with performances by the city’s award-winning Peterborough Male Voice Choir, Peterborough Voices, Peterborough Youth Choir and special guest soloists, Classical Spectacular will be an unforgettable celebration of popular classics, showcasing favourites including O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, The Blue Danube, Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, Candide Overture, Flower Duet from Lakme, Pomp and Circumstance March, Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves and many more! Peterborough Sings! gratefully acknowledges financial support from Arts Council England, the PRS for Music Foundation, Roythornes Solicitors, Vivacity, and the Vaughan Williams Trust.

Classical Spectacular 
Sunday 6 September, 7.30pm, Broadway Theatre, Peterborough
Tickets from £14 at Peterborough Visitor Information Centre, on 0333 666 3366 or at www.

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