Nicola LeFanu was born in England in 1947, the daughter of Irish parents: her mother was the composer Elizabeth Maconchy. LeFanu studied at Oxford, RCM and, as a Harkness Fellow, at Harvard. She has Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Durham, Aberdeen, and Open University, is an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s College Oxford, and is FRCM and FTCL.
She has composed around one hundred works which have been played and broadcast all over the world; her music is published by Novello and by Edition Peters She has been commissioned by the BBC, by festivals in UK and beyond, and by leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists. Many works are available on CD, on the NMC, Lorelt, Naxos, Metier and NEOS lables.
She has a particular affinity for vocal music and has composed seven operas: Dawnpath, (New Opera Company, London, 1977), The Story of Mary O’Neill, a radio opera, (BBC, 1987), The Green Children, a children’s opera, libretto Kevin Crossley-Holland, (Kings Lynn Festival, 1990), Blood Wedding, libretto Deborah Levy (WPT, London 1992), The Wildman, libretto Crossley-Holland, (Aldeburgh Festival, 1995) Light Passing, libretto John Edmonds, (BBC/NCEM, York, 2004) and Dream Hunter, libretto John Fuller, premiered in October 2011.
She is active in many aspects of the musical profession, as composer, teacher, director and as a member of various public boards and new music organisations. From 1994 - 2008 she was Professor of Music at the University of York, where many gifted composers came to study with her. Previously she taught composition at Kings' College London; in the 1970s, she directed Morley College Music Theatre.
Recent premieres include String Quartet no.3, ‘Harlequin Memories’ for Bassoon and string quartet, ‘Wind-blown Seeds’ for string orchestra, and works for voice and for amateur choir.
Nicola LeFanu is married to the composer David Lumsdaine.