Journals Higher Education

Hilary Tann

‘Hilary Tann's work still bears the stamp of her native South Wales, notably in her sensitivity to the natural world, its elemental forms, varieties of landscape and ageing processes... Tann's music may turn out to contain that spark of the eternal she so clearly wishes to grasp.’
The Independent

‘The orchestration has wonderful clarity... in the formal balance there is great beauty.’
Welsh Music

Hilary Tann was born in 1947. From her childhood in the coal-mining valleys of South Wales developed the love of nature which has inspired all her music, whether written for performance in the United States (Adirondack Light for narrator and orchestra, composed in 1992 for the centenary of Adirondack State Park) or for her home in Wales (With the heather and small birds, a celebratory overture commissioned by the 1994 Cardiff Festival).

A deep interest in the music of Japan has led to study of the ancient Japanese vertical bamboo flute (the shakuhachi) and to a residency at Kansai Gaidai, near Kyoto. Among the pieces reflecting this special interest are Of erthe and air (1990, flute, clarinet, percussion) and, on a larger scale, From afar. The piece was first performed in October 1996 by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and was given its European première in 2000 by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. In April 2003, the work was performed at the opening concert of the International Festival of Women in Music Today in Seoul.

Hilary Tann lives south of the Adirondacks in upstate New York where she is the John Howard Payne Professor of Music at Union College, Schenectady. She holds degrees in composition from the University of Wales and Princeton University. From 1982 to 1995, she was active in the International League of Women Composers and served in a number of Executive Committee positions. Numerous organizations have supported her work, including the Welsh Arts Council, the New York State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Meet the Composer/Arts Endowment Commissioning Music USA. A number of her chamber works have been recorded for the Capstone and N/S Consonance labels.

Her connection with Wales continues in various choral commissions - The Moor for the Madog Center for Welsh Studies; Psalm 104 (Praise my soul) for the North American Welsh Choir; and Wales, for the Green Mountain College Welsh Heritage Program. The influence of the Welsh landscape is also evident in many chamber works - The Cresset Stone (solo violin or viola), and The Walls of Morlais Castle (oboe, viola, cello). In July 2001, The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes premièred The Grey Tide and the Green, commissioned for the Last Night of the Welsh Proms.

Recent years have brought a series of concerto commissions for violin (Here, the Cliffs, premièred in October 1997 by the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra with violinist Corine Cook), alto saxophone (In the First, Spinning Place, premièred in March 2000 by the University of Arizona Symphony Orchestra with Debra Richtmeyer as soloist); and cello (Anecdote, premièred in December 2000 by the Newark (DE) Symphony Orchestra with the Romanian cellist Ovidiu Marinescu). Shakkei, a diptych for solo oboe and chamber orchestra was premièred by oboist Jinny Shaw at the Presteigne Festival in August 2007.

Further information can be found on Hilary Tann’s own website.

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