‘Cecilia McDowall has garnered increased recent attention thanks to her rich and colorful compositions. It seems that every text she touches turns to a golden composition full of warm dissonances and unexpected harmonic progressions. Her skill in creating a wide spectrum of shifting colors using only unaccompanied voices is a fascinating accomplishment.’
‘Cecilia McDowall is another of the new generation of highly communicative musicians who . . . favours writing which, without being in any way facile, is brightly cogent, freshly witty and expressive in its own right..’
Cecilia McDowall was born in London in 1951, educated at Edinburgh and London Universities and was a prize-winning student at Trinity College of Music. She has a distinctive style which 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, ensembles, and at festivals worldwide. She has won many awards and has been short-listed four times for the British Composer Awards.
A recent commission, The Shipping Forecast (commissioned by the Portsmouth Festival Choir), gained national media attention. Cecilia says "There's something rather beguiling and mysterious about the Shipping Forecast which sounds so poetic, but at the same time is very crucial to people at sea". The work reflects the mystery and force of the sea, drawing together the poetry of Sean Street, the psalm 'They that go down to the sea in ships', and the words of the shipping forecast itself.
Choral works published by OUP in the New Horizons series include three Latin motets: Ave Regina, Ave Maria and Regina Caeli, the exuberant Christmas cantata Christus Natus Est, the sumptuous peace motet Ave maris stella and the Magnificat.
McDowall's works are regularly broadcast on BBC Radio and readily available on CD. A new choral disc, featuring the City of Canterbury Chamber Choir and soprano Rachel Nicholls, was released on the Dutton Epoch label last year. Three Latin motets have been recorded by the renorned American choir, Phoenix Chorale, (Chandos); this recording, Spotless Rose
(Hymns to the Virgin Mary), won a Grammy award in 2010 for 'Best small ensemble performance' and was nominated for 'Best Classical Album'. Cecilia has recently been signed by Oxford University Press and is currently Composer-in-Residence at Dulwich College.