CN Lester

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

CN Lester
Born1984 (age 38–39)

CN Lester (born 1984) is a British classical and alternative singer-songwriter, as well as an LGBT and transgender rights activist.[1] 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][5]


Lester is a mezzo-soprano who specializes 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.[6] They've cited Lou Reed and Tchaikovsky as amongst their earliest influences, aged 3–4.[7]

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 BMus degree from King's College London and an MMus from Goldsmiths, University of London.[8][9] In 2019, Lester received a PhD degree in music from the University of Huddersfield.[10]

For they 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.[11][12]

In addition to performing live and recording music, Lester works as a teacher and an author.[7] Their debut opera, The Lion-Faced Man, appeared at Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival in August 2015, including a libretto by Hel Gurney and sung by Alison Wells.[13][14] Their first book, Trans Like Me: A Journey For All Of Us was published by Virago Press in May 2017.[15][16]


Resurrection Men[17][18]

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


  • Released: 2012
  • Format: MP3 and CD
  • Writer: CN Lester[7]
  • Tracks: "Ashes", "Tongue", "Shiver", "Fractals", "Fever", "Disappear", "Lullaby", "Joan of Arc"

Dark Angels[17][20] (with Toby Carr)

  • Released: 2012/2013
  • Format: MP3 and CD
  • Writers: Benjamin Britten, Peter Maxwell Davies, Jonathan Kulp, Philip Lawton[7][11][21]
  • 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[7]
  • Tracks: "Lockdown", "Sparks", "Codine Blues", "Anonymous", "You", "Your Hands", "Low", "Aether"


Lester was ranked 41st on The Independent on Sunday's 2013 Pink List of the most influential LGBT people, and 92nd in the renamed 2014 Rainbow List.[2][23]


Lester is out as genderqueer, and has been hailed as a role model for combining their identity and their public career.[24] 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.[25]

To preserve their singing voice, Lester has not used testosterone treatments, although they've since spoken about their own research showing losing a singing voice is not always a result of such therapy.[26][27]


  1. ^ Reuben, Matthew (17 January 2013). "Trans role models: Janet Mock, Paris Lees, CN Lester and Luke Anderson". New Statesman. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b "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. Archived from the original on 15 December 2013. 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. ^ Williscroft-Ferris, Lee (23 March 2012). "Interview: CN Lester (Part 2)". So So Gay. Archived from the original on 16 April 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  6. ^ "CN Lester". Hidden Perspectives. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d e Tebble, Jon (6 December 2012). "Backstage with... CN Lester". Arts Award Voice. Trinity College London. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  8. ^ Brightman, James (11 October 2011). "CN Lester". Electric Banana. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  9. ^ About CN Lester - website of Association of British Choral Directors
  10. ^ PhD Thesis CN Lester: Representing Strozzi: A Critical and Personal Re-Evaluation of her Life and Music - website of the University of Huddersfield Repository
  11. ^ a b Lester, CN. "Dark Angels – the album". Indiegogo. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  12. ^ Lester, CN. "Aether". Indiegogo. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  13. ^ "The Lion-Faced Man". Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  14. ^ Garwood, Sasha (18 August 2015). "The Lion-Faced Man by CN Lester and Hel Gurney – Tête à Tête Opera Festival". Sabotage Reviews. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  15. ^ Cowdrey, Katherine (18 December 2015). "Virago to publish 'agenda-setting' Trans Like Me". The Bookseller. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  16. ^ Lester, CN (7 September 2016). "Incredibly proud – and a bit amazed – to be able to share the cover of my first book ..." Facebook. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  17. ^ a b c d "Discography". CN Lester. Archived from the original on 26 April 2014. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  18. ^ "Resurrection Men". Amazon UK. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  19. ^ "Ashes". Amazon UK. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  20. ^ "Dark Angels". Amazon UK. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  21. ^ Kulp, Jonathan. "Home". Jonathan Kulp. Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  22. ^ "Aether". Amazon UK. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  23. ^ a b "Rainbow List 2014, 1 to 101". The Independent on Sunday. 9 November 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  24. ^ Reuben, Matthew (17 January 2013). "Trans role models: Janet Mock, Paris Lees, CN Lester and Luke Anderson". New Statesman. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  25. ^ Lees, Paris (11 March 2011). "Interview: Genderqueer performer CN Lester". Pink News. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  26. ^ Welsh, Katie (18 June 2010). "Love: Sacred and Profane". The F-Word. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  27. ^ My Genderation: CN (video). My Genderation. 8 October 2013.

External links[edit]