Celebrating contemporary female composers this International Women's Day

Celebrating contemporary female composers this International Women's Day

Picture of Natalie Christopher

BY: Natalie Christopher
08 March 2023

It's International Women's Day so what better opportunity to celebrate some of the inspiring female composers who have contributed to our most recent syllabuses? In our recently launched Woodwind and Singing syllabuses, we featured more female composers than ever before. Read on to learn about just a few of them.

Yshani Perinpanayagam

Yshani PerinpanayagamYshani is a multi-genre chamber musician, orchestral pianist and music director. She is pianist for the Del Mar Piano Trio and Carismático Tango Band, has performed at various festivals and venues such as Wigmore Hall and the London Palladium, and is a regular guest broadcaster on BBC Radio 3. As a music director, she has an impressive portfolio which includes Olivier winners Emilia and Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, as well as productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre Public Acts and The Barbican. Yshani’s commitment to contemporary music has seen her premiere works by fellow female composers such as Charlotte Bray, Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Hannah Kendall, and, as a composer herself, she has received commissions from London Sinfonietta, Onyx Brass, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Sound and Music, and a play about the composer, Fanny Mendelssohn.

Yshani has three pieces included in the Flute repertoire lists: The Centaur Sleeps Lightly at Initial Grade, When You Play with Fire… at Grade 2, and Sore Loser at Grade 3. 

Ella Jarman-Pinto

Composer Ella Jarman-PintoElla is a critically acclaimed storytelling composer, working with directors, writers, librettists and poets whose stories create positive change. Her past works include compositions for multi-award-winning film, AstraZeneca – The Attack!, This Little Rose recorded by Nadine Benjamin and Nicole Panizza, and BBC Radio 3’s flagship commission for International Women’s Day 2021. More recently she has been working on feature-length documentary Raising Aniya and a short animation called Animated Futures. In addition to her composition work, Ella is the creator and host of podcast Beyond the chameleon: conversations on belonging in the creative media industries, co-CEO’s Polyphony Arts spearheading a project that aims to protect and promote the legacy of underrepresented composers called #writeusintohistory, and an ambassador for Donne – Women in Music.

This Little Rose features on the repertoire list at Singing Grade 8.

Dr Huan Li

Dr Huan LiDr Huan Li is a composer and pianist who endeavours to combine classical and contemporary music with wider musical ideas and influences. Having successfully achieved her Masters in Piano Accompaniment and Composition from the Conservatoire of Scotland, she went on to complete her PhD in Composition from St Andrews University and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2020. Dr Li’s compositions reflect her cultural roots from Southwest China and compositions such as Toy Boy, Yu Ge and Bamboo Blooming combine Chinese folklore and traditional music tones with western sounds and performance techniques. More recent compositions explore the application of Chinese traditional folk instruments within Western genres. Dr Li has received commissions from Red Note Ensemble, the UK Chinese Ensemble and Nevis Ensemble, her piece Nocturnal Murmuring was premiered at BBC Radio Scotland and her most recent work, Ink and Colour II, was premiered by Beijing Contemporary Soloists last November.

Dr Li has two compositions included in the 2022 Woodwind syllabus: Grade 3 flautists can play Wind Throughout My Heart (Reminiscence of Old Days with My Grandmother) and Grade 2 clarinettists can learn Summer Solstice.

Sarah Dacey

Sarah DaceySarah is a singer, composer and teacher, now based in London following studies at the University of York and the Royal Academy of Music. Her singing portfolio includes performances at the Royal Opera House, Tête à Tête Opera Festival, Wigmore Hall, King's Place and Southbank, as well as numerous premieres of new works such as Claude Vivier's Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Steele and Crtl by Laurence Osborn. Sarah is also a member of several critically acclaimed ensembles spanning a wide range of musical genres including Juice Voice Ensemble, Riot Ensemble, early music group Ursula's Arrow, and operatic quintet Twilight Ensemble. As a composer and arranger, Sarah's works have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Radio 4 and 6 Music, as well as performed at the Tate Modern, Three Choirs Festival, Dartington, the National Theatre and Orange Tree Theatre.

Sarah has arranged three pieces for our new Singing syllabus: Good Night at InitialAnna Marie at Grade 1, and Charlie is My Darling at Grade 3.

Dr Diljeet Kaur Bhachu

Dr Diljeet BhachuHaving studied for both her Batchelors and Masters degrees at the University of Strathclyde, Diljeet went on to complete her PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2019. Her work stretches across performance, composition, lecturing, research and activism. In the last of these capacities, Dr Bhachu currently works as an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Musicians’ Union (MU), following many years as a committee activist at a regional and national level. She also co-founded the Scottish-Asian Creative Artists’ Network which aims to address the issues specific to Scottish-Asians working in the creative industries in Scotland. Diljeet’s performance and composition work combines the flute with electronics and she is currently writing her debut album.

Diljeet has two pieces featured in the Flute repertoire lists: Something Strange is Happening at Grade 1 and Embrace the Space at Grade 2.

Ayanna Witter-Johnson

Ayanna is a singer, songwriter, pianist and cellist whose musical style crosses the boundaries of classical, jazz, reggae, soul and R&B. A first-class graduate from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and the Manhattan School of Music, she went on to participate in the London Symphony Orchestra’s Panufnik Young Composers Scheme and soon after became Emerging Artist in Residence at London’s Southbank Centre. As a performer, Ayanna has collaborated with a number of prestigious artists including Anoushka Shankar, Nitin Sawhney, Andrea Bocelli and Jools Holland, and toured across the UK, Europe and the US. Her work as a composer has seen commissions from the London Symphony Orchestra, Güerzenich Orchester, Ligeti Quartet, Kronos Quartet and The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company, as well as the release of numerous EPs, an album and singles via her own independent record label, Hill and Gully Records. Of her music, Ayanna says:

'As a second generation Jamaican born in Britain, my music is a body of work that represents, celebrates and pays homage to my ancestral heritage, culture and identity'.

Ayanna's song, Wildflower, is included on the repertoire list for Singing Grade 8.

 Have you been inspired by the composers we have featured here today? Why not have a go at composing your own piece to play in your Trinity exam? Visit the Own Composition resources page of our website for some great hints and tips!


Main image by Soundtrap at Unsplash

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