Born in London, 1951, Cecilia McDowall has won many awards, been short-listed eight times for the British Composer Awards and in 2014 won the Choral category of the British Composer Awards for her haunting work, Night Flight, which celebrates the pioneering flight of the American aviatrix, Harriet Quimby, across the English Channel. McDowall’s distinctive style speaks directly to listeners, instrumentalists and singers alike. Her most characteristic works fuse fluent melodic lines with occasional dissonant harmonies and rhythmic exuberance. Her music has been commissioned and performed by leading choirs, including the BBC Singers, The Sixteen, Oxford and Cambridge choirs, ensembles, and at festivals worldwide.
Recent important commissions include When time is broke (Three Shakespeare Songs) for the BBC Singers and Adoro te devote for Westminster Cathedral Choir, London. Three Latin Motets were recorded by the renowned American choir, Phoenix Chorale, conductor, Charles Bruffy; this Chandos recording, Spotless Rose, won a Grammy award and was nominated for Best Classical Album. The National Children’s Choir of Great Britain commissioned a work focusing on ‘children in conflict’, called Everyday Wonders: The Girl from Aleppo. This cantata is based on the real-life escape of Nujeen Mustafa (who is wheelchair-bound) and her sister from war-torn Aleppo; it tells of their harrowing journey across 3,500 miles, through seven countries, eventually arriving in Germany with relief and great gratitude.
In May Wimbledon Choral Society and the Philharmonia Orchestra premiered McDowall’s large-scale choral work, the Da Vinci Requiem, to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death. The work received its first performance on 7 May in the Royal Festival Hall, London. McDowall's works are regularly broadcast on BBC Radio and readily available on CD.
The song, Shadow-maker, was a commission from Snape Maltings for the Friday Afternoons Project in collaboration with the poet, Kate Wakeling. It was premiered by the choirs of Radley College, conductor Sam Gladstone, in March 2019. Kate and Cecilia will be writing two more songs to be commissioned by Radley College later in 2019.
In 2013 Cecilia McDowall received an Honorary Doctorate from Portsmouth University and in 2017 McDowall was selected for an Honorary Fellow award by the Royal School of Church Music. She is Composer-in-Residence at Dulwich College.