Errollyn Wallen (1958-) is a Belize-born British composer. She was the first black woman to have a work performed at The Proms ("Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra"). Her output includes eighteen operas, oratorios, concerti, chamber works, large orchestral works, songs and two large scale works for the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games for London 2012 broadcast to a billion people around the world. She has performed and written tributes for and to Nelson Mandela.
In 2015 she became an Honorary Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford and in 2019 an Honorary Fellow of Goldsmiths, London. She has received an Ivor Novello Award for Classical Music, a British Composer Award and a FIPA D’Or for Best Music for a Television Series. She has an Honorary Doctorate from York St. John’s University, is one of BBC’s 100 Women 2018 and one of London University’s 150 Leading Women; her orchestral album with Orchestra X, Photography, was voted into the Top Ten Classical Albums by NPR.
I was lucky enough to get to accompany her to the NASA launch (STS-115) where she was set to probably be the first black woman composer whose music got launched into space. Her songs and music are brilliant and hilarious and meaningful, and I am so lucky to have been able to commission things from her, but more importantly, to be her friend. The magnitude of her service to music cannot be understated, and I know I can write this and she will laugh it off, because for her it is just about expressing what is in her heart.
My feet may take a little while
To walk the way of my dreaming heart;
The more I walk, the more I breathe,
The more I breathe, the less I know.
There is a song that I was taught,
Of hills and streams and all
The hopes and fears of living things
Are written there in me.
My feet are slower than my heart,
Slower than my dreams, than my will
I’ll walk a million miles,
I’ve walked a million miles of innocence.