Errollyn Wallen is as respected a singer-songwriter of pop-influenced songs as she is a composer of contemporary new music. Born in Belize, she gave up her training at the Dance Theater of Harlem, New York to study composition at universities of London and Cambridge. She founded her own Ensemble X: its motto, 'we don't break down barriers in music... we don't see any', reflects her free-spirited approach and eclectic musicianship.
Errollyn's song Daedalus appears alongside songs by Björk, Sting, Elvis Costello and Meredith Monk on the Brodsky Quartet's CD Moodswings. The two solo albums Meet Me at Harold Moores and most recently Errollyn feature her songs in her own voice/piano performance and in collaboration with outstanding jazz artists. Her multi-media show Jordan Town, a modern-day song cycle with dance and film, was a hit at the Edinburgh Festival.
Errollyn's affinity with the human voice is also apparent in her more classical vocal works: Are You Worried About the Rising Cost of Funerals, a song cycle for soprano and string quartet commissioned by BCMG, was recorded on her acclaimed classical solo album The Girl in My Alphabet. Fairy Scary comprises song settings of fairy stories for voice and small instrumental ensemble and was commissioned by the Wigmore Hall. The Dunedin Consort commissioned Comfort Me with Apples for soloists and instrumental ensemble with words from The Song of Songs in 2006.
Her stage works include opera The Silent Twins (2007), based on a study by Marjorie Wallace about the love-hate relationship of black twin girls, commissioned by Almeida Opera; and the ballet Horseplay, which was commissioned and choreographed by Tom Sapsford for the Royal Ballet. Carbon 12: A Choral Symphony, a 50-minute oratorio about South Wales commissioned by Welsh National Opera for large orchestral and vocal forces, with a libretto by John Binias, was premièred at the Welsh Millennium Centre, Cardiff, in June 2008 with a subsequent tour.
Errollyn has also received numerous BBC commissions, including the Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra (1994), premièred by Colin Currie in the Young Musician of the Year Award. Spirit Symphony: Speed-Dating for Two Orchestras was first performed at the final event of the 'Listen up!' Festival at the Royal Festival Hall in 2004 and won the 2005 British Composer Awards. The Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins premièred Mighty River, an orchestral work to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in 2007 at Holy Trinity Church Clapham.
Errollyn Wallen was awarded an MBE for her services to music in the Queen's birthday honours list in June 2007.