CN Lester

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CN Lester
Born 1983/1984 (age 29–31)
Nationality British
Occupation Singer

CN Lester (born 1983/1984[1]) is a British classical and alternative singer-songwriter, as well as an LGBTI and transgender rights activist. They were rated 41st on The Independent on Sunday's 2013 Pink List, which acknowledged their co-founding of the Queer Youth Network and their founding the UK's first gay–straight alliance, as well as their fundraising for queer causes and writing for publications such as New Statesman and So So Gay.[2][3][4]


Lester is a mezzo-soprano who specialises in castrati and travesti opera, as well as early and classical music and works by female composers. Classic FM has showcased their work and research on travesti roles, while BBC Radio 4's Front Row has included their work with Silent Opera.[5] They have cited Lou Reed and Tchaikovsky as amongst their earliest influences, aged 3–4,[6]

As a child, Lester began learning to play the piano at age 6, and received vocal coaching from age 13. They went on to obtain a Bachelor of Music from King's College London and a Master of Music from Goldsmiths.[7]

For their two most recent albums, Dark Angels and Aether, Lester paid for the recording and production using crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. The albums raised US$3414 and £4575 respectively.[8][9]

In addition to performing live and recording music, Lester works as a teacher and is writing both a novel and a non-fiction book on gender and sexuality.[6]


Resurrection Men[10][11]

  • Released: 2009
  • Format: MP3
  • Label: Southbank
  • Tracks: "Playback", "Brackets", "Wayfaring Stranger"


  • Released: 2012
  • Format: MP3 and CD
  • Writer: CN Lester[6]
  • Tracks: "Ashes", "Tongue", "Shiver", "Fractals", "Fever", "Disappear", "Lullaby", "Joan of Arc"

Dark Angels[10][13] (with Toby Carr)

  • Released: 2012/2013
  • Format: MP3 and CD
  • Writers: Benjamin Britten, Peter Maxwell Davies, Jonathan Kulp, Philip Lawton[6][8][14]
  • Tracks: "Songs from the Chinese, Op. 58: II. The Old Lute", "Songs from the Chinese, Op. 58: III. The Autumn Wind", "Songs from the Chinese, Op. 58: IV. The Herd-Boy", "Songs from the Chinese, Op. 58: V. Depression", "Farewell to Stromness", "Dark Angels, Op. 50: The Drowning Brothers", "Dark Angels, Op. 50: II. Dark Angels", "Dark Angels, Op. 50: III. Dead Fires", "Five Lullabies: Lullaby II", "Five Lullabies: Lullaby IV", "Five Poems of Emily Dickinson: II. I Had Been Hungry", "Five Poems of Emily Dickinson: III. I'm Nobody", "Five Poems of Emily Dickinson: IV. I Had a Guinea", "Nocturnal After John Dowland, Op. 70"


  • Released: 2014
  • Format: MP3 and CD
  • Writer: CN Lester[6]
  • Tracks: "Lockdown", "Sparks", "Codine Blues", "Anonymous", "You", "Your Hands", "Low", "Aether"


Lester is out as genderqueer, and has been hailed as a role model for combining their identity and their public career.[16] They have spoken about having difficulties finding work because of their gender identity and expression:

Classical music, now, is very conservative. I can't get chorus work because I wouldn't be willing to wear female clothes or be a member of a women's chorus. ... They didn't see that they were in the wrong – they thought I was wrong for daring to apply. So it was very much "We don't want people like that associated with us" and they were happy to put it down in writing.[17]

In order to preserve their singing voice, Lester has not used testosterone treatments, although they have since spoken about their own research showing losing a singing voice is not always a result of such therapy.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Williscroft-Ferris, Lee (23 March 2012). "Interview: CN Lester (Part 2)". So So Gay. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Independent on Sunday's Pink List 2013". The Independent on Sunday. 13 October 2013. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Lester, CN (13 January 2013). "The Julie Burchill transphobia scandal: CN Lester writes for So So Gay". So So Gay. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Lester, CN (22 March 2013). "Don't like the Mean Girls' table? Check out the rest of the room". New Statesman. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  5. ^ "CN Lester". Hidden Perspectives. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Tebble, Jon (6 December 2012). "Backstage with... CN Lester". Arts Award Voice. Trinity College London. Retrieved 29 October 2013. 
  7. ^ Brightman, James (11 October 2011). "CN Lester". Electric Banana. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Lester, CN. "Dark Angels - the album". Indiegogo. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  9. ^ Lester, CN. "Aether". Indiegogo. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Discography". CN Lester. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Resurrection Men". Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  12. ^ "Ashes". Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  13. ^ "Dark Angels". Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  14. ^ Kulp, Jonathan. "Home". Jonathan Kulp. Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  15. ^ "Aether". Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  16. ^ Reuben, Matthew (17 January 2013). "Trans role models: Janet Mock, Paris Lees, CN Lester and Luke Anderson". New Statesman. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  17. ^ Lees, Paris (11 March 2011). "Interview: Genderqueer performer CN Lester". Pink News. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  18. ^ Welsh, Katie (18 June 2010). "Love: Sacred and Profane". The F-Word. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  19. ^ My Genderation: CN (video). My Genderation. 8 October 2013.