On March 25 of 1807, the British Parliament made a huge step forward for human rights by abolishing the Slave Trade Act – an event that impacted not only England, but all of its colonies as well. In doing so, countless human beings were immediately made free, and 200 years later, the event would be celebrated with a brand new piece of music. Hello, my name’s Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy I’d like to highlight not only that piece of music, but the composer who created it – a woman named Errolyn Wallen.

Errolyn Wallen was born in the country of Belize, but has spent most of her life in the UK. Understanding the many challenges that surround orchestral music and orchestral performance, Errolyn not only writes music that celebrates diversity – she also founded an orchestra called Ensemble X, whose motto is “we don’t break down barriers in music…we don’t see any”. Among this group’s notable performances is the work that was written and performed in celebration of the bicenttenial of the abolition of British slavery – a watery work called Mighty River.

Following the premiere of Mighty River, Errolyn was listed as one of BBC’s 100 Women, and in 2020, she was appointed visiting professor of composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Errolyn Wallen’s trajectory is as mighty as the rivers that have inspired her work, making her one of today’s most NoteWorthy composers.

Noteworthy is a production of WDAV classical public radio.

Pictured: Errolyn Wallen at at Snape Maltings by Benramsden – Own work, cropped, CC BY-SA 4.0.