Skip to main content

Errollyn Wallen CBE dedicates BBC commission to Windrush generation

Wed 16 September 2020

The TL composition professor’s new work premieres at the Last Night of the Proms

Eminent contemporary composer and integral member of Trinity Laban’s Composition department Errollyn Wallen CBE was commissioned by the BBC to reimagine Hubert Parry’s iconic hymn ‘Jerusalem’ for this year’s Last Night of the Proms.

Dedicated to the Windrush generation, ‘Jerusalem – Our clouded hills’ takes familiar elements from the original hymn – including the tune – and infuses them with African rhythms and Blues, introducing a hopeful spirit for 2020.

Having played the original regularly at school, Errollyn has now created an updated version that pays homage to Parry’s melody and William Blake’s powerful text while simultaneously encouraging a communion of Commonwealth nations.

A traditional part of the Proms finale programming, ‘Jerusalem’ is typically known for its triumphant brass fanfares, woodwind flourishes and lush strings. But the restrictions of Covid-19 meant Errollyn had to use reduced orchestral forces for her re-interpretation. She told BBC’s Front Row, ‘I don’t have a tuba, a bass trombone or a bass drum … but I do have the organ.’

Working across genres with a free-spirited and eclectic approach, Errollyn was the first black female composer to have work presented at The Proms. In addition to being commissioned by the BBC and the Royal Opera House, she has created work for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the Brodsky Quartet the Dunedin Consort, Almeida Opera, Welsh National Opera, Royal Ballet, Leipzig Ballet and The Schubert Ensemble.

The world premiere of ‘Jerusalem – Our clouded hills’ was performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and South African soprano Golda Schultz, conducted by Dalia Stasevska, at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 12 September, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and BBC iPlayer.

Watch again on BBC iPlayer from 1:07:01

Find out more about our Composition Department.