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Composer Errollyn Wallen goes from Belize to the Proms

Posted: Friday, December 22, 2023. 3:29 pm CST.

By Zoila Palma Gonzalez: Belizean-born Errollyn Wallen is one of the world’s most performed living composers. She is the composer of 22 operas as well as numerous concertos, symphonies, song cycles, and chamber works.

Now Wallen has written the story of her life, in which she gives credit to her uncle Arthur for believing in her musical ability early on and speaks highly of his passion for literature and art.

According to The Guardian (UK), two years after she was born, her parents moved the family from Belize to London.

The children were then left with her uncle Arthur and his wife, Renee, while their parents moved to New York, a permanent arrangement that young Errollyn believed was temporary, always hoping her parents would come back for her.

“Her uncle’s anger dominated her childhood. In one heartbreaking vignette, she describes how once when he was pouring her a cup of coffee, the hot liquid started accidentally spilling onto her leg. Too afraid to tell him, she sat there in silent agony and let it scald her. Some of these traumatic memories are told in the third person, as if to hold them at arm’s length,” the article explained.

 “She loved her family. She survived her family,” Wallen writes.

Wallen’s music has been performed at major public celebrations such as the late Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees and the 2012 Paralympic Games.

In 2022, she was in the top 20 most-performed living composers worldwide.

Her first orchestral commission, a concerto for percussion and orchestra, was performed at the BBC Proms in 1998.

But even Wallen sometimes cannot believe her luck: “I am a composer. A composer of classical music. As I read that sentence again, I am not completely sure how this happened to a girl born in Belize and brought up in Tottenham,” she writes.


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