Liz Johnson (b.1964) is an award-winning British composer based in the Malvern Hills, Herefordshire ‘a major composer deserving wide recognition’ (Divine Art). Her music encompasses an immense range from the smallest miniatures to expansive, large-scale, ambitious and multifaceted works. Liz was selected as one of Sound and Music’s first ‘New Voices’ in 2018 which has led to her directing a ground-breaking multidisciplinary project Scintilla weaving music, poetry, dance and live electronics, working with internationally renowned choreographer/ dancer Dane Hurst.
Several of Johnson’s works engage with wider issues of wellbeing: Scintilla explores issues of isolation and mental health, and the series of Triptych pieces for early instruments focuses on female body image after major surgery, inspired by the artwork Triptych – a scarred series by Dora Williams. Johnson has herself recently overcome serious illness leading to isolation. Having now regained her health she is passionate about creating work that allows people to engage with the most difficult issues. Colwall Requiem for Aleppo – a Requiem for Refugees – juxtaposes music for amateur choir and children’s choir with virtuosic meditations and transcriptions of traditional Arabic music for the viola soloist. ‘I can’t remember the last time I actually dripped tears during a concert. And then she brought us back to a place of hope by the end of the piece so we were emotionally safe to head back into the real world.’ (Liz Garnett) http://www.helpingyouharmonise.com/colwall
Johnson’s debut double album Intricate Web (2017) has been met with wide critical acclaim ‘The Cello Suite is stunning… The music explores a vast canvas… To me, this suite is Johnson’s masterpiece (so far). It is not too much to say that it takes its place beside Bach, Britten and Ligeti.’(Musicweb-International). Johnson’s close working relationship with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet, who recorded the album, has given rise to two impressive large-scale works: the clarinet quintet Sea-change, featuring twenty-five different instruments, including string quartet with Swannee whistles and egg shakers and five different sized clarinets from Contrabass to E flat, and Sky-burial for female voice and string quartet. 'The music is in turn rugged, anguished, languid, and resigned, producing a haunting scenario that will not quickly be forgotten' (Fanfare), sung by vocalist extraordinaire Loré Lixenberg.
Liz Johnson started her career as a Primary School teacher and it was not until her mid-30s that she began studying composing for the first time. Taught by Philip Cashian she went on to gain her PhD at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2006. She lectures at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and is currently overseeing a new creative collaboration between student musicians and composers with choreographers and dancers at the Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Music clips on the podcast from Liz Johnson's Intricate Web album MSV77206 available to download from Divine Art Records.
Intricate Web Album: https://divineartrecords.com/recording/intricate-web-liz-johnson