British composer Cecilia McDowall was born in 1951 and studied at Edinburgh University, London University and at Trinity College of Music. Her music, described as having a 'freshness, brightness and fidelity', is being programmed by an increasing number of performers.
She has been commissioned by the BBC Singers, the Phoenix Chorale, the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir, the English Music Festival, the Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts, the Cavatina Chamber Music Trust, Ensemble Lumiere, Cantate and the St Albans Choral Society.
The Christmas cantata Christus natus est (2002, revised 2003), her most performed work, presents a sequence of carols, ranging from the familiar to the unusual, and from the tender to the exalted, all celebrating the birth of Christ. Instrumental links between the carols have been crafted from one of the composer's own carols, Of a Rose, and the carol harmonies throughout have been reconceived to create an unusual but effective whole.
A recent project, in collaboration with the novelist and poet Christie Dickason, and with a mission to 'celebrate the organic landscape', included a unique series of residences at five organic farms across the UK. The result was Five Seasons (2006), a choral and instrumental work which received its first performance in Sherborne Abbey by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir and musicians from Kokoro (the contemporary music ensemble of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra).
Recordings of McDowall's works appear on at least fifteen CDs, and she has been shortlisted for the 2005 and 2008 British Composer Awards.
A selection of M&V articles about Cecilia McDowall
Ensemble. An Attractive Sound-world - Mike Wheeler listens to the Thorne Trio
CD Spotlight. Brilliant Playing - Organ music played by John Kitchen, enjoyed by Gerald Fenech. '... a curiously varied programme ...'
CD Spotlight. Varied Programme - The Usher Hall organ impresses Gerald Fenech. 'John Kitchen oozes out every sound possible from this monster of an organ ...'
CD Spotlight. Extremely Well-crafted - British music for oboe and strings, heard by Patric Standford. '... a particularly valuable contribution to the catalogue.'
CD Spotlight. Highly Recommended - Music for Advent intrigues Gerald Fenech. '... one of the discs of the year as far as choral music is concerned ...'
Ensemble. Splendidly Evocative - Beethoven, Cecilia McDowall and Schumann from the English Piano Trio, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Impressive Singing - Vocal and choral music by Cecilia McDowall, heard by Patric Standford. '... attractive, lyrical and sometimes forceful ...'
Refreshingly Imaginative - A recital by Helen Reid impresses Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Humanity and Generosity - Malcolm Miller attends a memorial concert for David Sonin
Record Box. A Rewarding Experience - Music from The Phoenix Chorale impresses Patric Standford
CD Spotlight. Striking Individuality - Choral music by Cecilia McDowall, reviewed by Howard Smith. '... clarity and conviction.'
Ensemble. Outstanding Performances - Susan Milan at London's Wigmore Hall, reviewed by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Varied and intriguing - Contemporary music première recordings for oboe, reviewed by Patric Standford
CD Spotlight. Brightness and fidelity - Choral music by Cecilia McDowall, appreciated by Patric Standford. '... a composer who deserves to be heard as widely as possible.'
Ensemble. Congress of passions - The Finchley Choral Society Centenary Concert, reviewed by Keith Bramich
Ensemble. Coming of age - Keith Bramich at the twenty-first Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts