Journals Higher Education

Cecilia McDowall

b. 1951

'Cecilia McDowall is one of the leading choral and vocal composers of her generation.'

Musical Opinion

'McDowall has long had a special gift for choral writing.'

The Birmingham Post

View works by Cecilia McDowall


Composer News

In 2021 Cecilia was commissioned to compose a new carol for the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, which received its premiere during a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve.

Cecilia has chosen to set the traditional text There is no rose, which is intended to bring a moment of stillness during the service, conveying feelings of intimacy and quiet joy. There is no rose is the 38th carol to be commissioned for A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, with Director of Music Daniel Hyde continuing the tradition established by Sir Stephen Cleobury in 1983.

In December 2020, The Ivors Academy awarded Cecilia the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Works Collection. This award recognizes a UK composer who has written a consistently exceptional body of classical compositions, and is awarded in the form of a statuette of Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyric poetry.

Composer Biography

Based in London, Cecilia McDowall is perhaps best known for her choral works, though her output extends far beyond this and into the realm of organ music. She has won many awards including the British Composer Award Choral category in 2014 for her haunting work, Night Flight.

McDowall's distinctive style fuses fluent melodic lines with occasional dissonant harmonies and rhythmic exuberance. Her music has been commissioned and performed by leading choirs and artists, including the BBC Singers, The Sixteen, Oxford and Cambridge choirs, ensembles, and at festivals worldwide.

One of her most recent CDs has been recorded by William Fox on Naxos of her entire organ catalogue published by OUP. Hyperion has released a CD of her choral and organ music performed by The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conductor, Stephen Layton. In December 2020 McDowall was presented with the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for ‘outstanding works collection’ for a ‘consistently excellent body of work’. This was a ‘gift’ from The Ivors Academy.

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