Rhapsody in Black

Errollyn Wallen mixes Central American heritage with Western classical traditions

Composer Errollyn Wallen has her roots in Belize. Provided

Rhapsody in Black - Errolyn Wallen


download audio

April 13, 2023

Composer Errollyn Wallen has had teachers tell her that classical music is ‘not her sort of music.’ She pointed out to Gramophone in 2021 that “little was expected of her, but her career has been not so much about proving others wrong as a case of proving herself right.” She has done just that. She has composed for the late Queen Elizabeth, the 2012 London Paralympics and her music has also been to space.

Musical selections from Errollyn Wallen

Concerto Grosso

In the 2021 performance of Concerto Grosso, conductor John Butt said, “Errollyn Wallen’s Concerto Grosso, very much following the Corellian footprint, provides a much newer take on the baroque concerto style, also reflecting something of the string sonorities of intermediate composers such as Elgar and Britten. The first movement reminds us of the perpetual motion of the baroque and also the quasi-symmetrical recurrence of themes. But it is also a dazzling rethinking of the concerto grosso, distorted but utterly new and compelling simultaneously. The final movement takes us from aria to that most ubiquitous of baroque textures: the ground bass, heard at its most energetic and strongly inflected by jazz and other contemporary idioms.”

Triple Concerto

The Kosmos ensemble, featuring Harriet Mackenzie (violin), Meg Hamilton (viola) and Milos Milivojevic (accordion), commissioned this work in partnership with the Jersey Liberation Festival. They wanted a piece that left room for them to improvise while offering the audience world music influences. Wallen combined inspiration from Byzantine Chant, jazz and Venezuelan Joropo to make a truly unique piece of music.

Peace on Earth

This performance of Peace on Earth is sung by the WDR Radio Choir conducted by Simon Halsey for its Christmas concert Joy to the World. This carol for the holiday season is best described in Wallen’s own words, “the bleakness of winter in a turning, troubled world conveyed through a slowly spinning ostinato over which the voices sing (as they themselves hear other unseen voices sing) of the hope for light and peace.”


Host: Vernon Neal

Producer: Dan Nass

Writers: Andrea Blain and Scott Blankenship

Additional music selections: Jeffrey Yelverton

Executive Producer: Julie Amacher