Described in The Guardian (2019) as “one of today’s leading composers for the voice”, Joanna Marsh is a British composer who, since 2007 has divided her time between Dubai and the UK.
Her life in the Middle East has led to many unique musical opportunities including writing an orchestral work to celebrate the building of the Burj Khalifa, a commission for the BBC Symphony Orchestra for the BBC Proms in Dubai, and a fanfare for the Queen’s visit to Abu Dhabi. Her first opera was also inspired by Dubai life: “My Beautiful Camel”. collaborating on this with librettist David Pountney.
The inspiration for Joanna’s compositions often comes from the past. She has a strong interest in Tudor and Elizabethan choral music which is reflected in some of her choral output, for example her Evening for St. Paul’s Cathedral’s women’s choir Aurora Nova, and Martha and Mary, written for the choir of Sidney Sussex College Cambridge. She also enjoys looking at contemporary subjects from an ironic historical perspective. One example of this would be, “The Tower” (2008) for the BBC Singers, a reflection on Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and its curious parallels with the mythical Tower of Babel. Another would be “Dialogo and Quodlibet” for Stile Antico, which quotes Italian texts from the 16th century to conjure up a humorous ‘mansplaining’ scenario.
Joanna has been Composer in Residence, at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge from 2015 through to 2020 and during that time has written a number of choral works for the college choir and the college organ. She is a Co-Founder of ChoirFest Middle East in Dubai, an annual celebration of the region’s choral music scene which is reached its eighth edition in March 2020. She is also Founder and Artistic Director of the Dubai Opera Festival Chorus a large body of singers that was set up for the BBC Proms in Dubai and continues to undertake concert performances of various types across the UAE.
Joanna was an undergraduate at the Royal Academy of Music in London and following this organ scholar at Sidney Sussex College Cambridge. She studied composition with Richard Blackford and Judith Bingham.