Eleanor Alberga

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Eleanor Deanne Therese Alberga OBE (born 1949) is a Jamaican contemporary music composer who lives and works in the United Kingdom.


Eleanor Alberga was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She decided at the age of five to be a concert pianist and began composing short pieces. While still at school she played the guitar with the Jamaican Folk Singers.[1] She studied music at Jamaica School of Music and in 1970 she won the biennial West Indian Associated Board Scholarship which allowed her to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where one of her teachers was Richard Stoker.[1] After completing her studies, she performed as a concert pianist. In 2001 she ended her career as a performer to concentrate full-time on composition and was awarded a NESTA Fellowship.[2]

Alberga works as a guest lecturer at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She has been pianist and Music Director for the London Contemporary Dance Theatre and played with Nanquindo (four players on two pianos).[1] Her music has been performed by the Royal Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, Bournemouth Sinfonietta, London Mozart Players and The Women's Philharmonic of San Francisco, and in countries including Australia, South America, Canada, Europe and China.[3]

She married the violinist Thomas Bowes in 1992. They live in Herefordshire[4] and perform together as a duo called Double Exposure.[5] Bowes was the premiere soloist for both of her Violin Concertos (2001 and 2019). Alberga was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2021 Birthday Honours for services to music.[6][7]


As a composer Alberga uses tonal harmony and emphasises repeated rhythmic patterns. Some of the piano music in particular, such as the Jamaican Medley (1983), Hill and Gully Ride (1990) and 3 Day Mix (1991), draw on her Jamaican background in their use of colour and cross-rhythms.[8][9] The chamber work Nightscape: the Horniman Serenade (1983) uses elements of jazz.[1] Later pieces show an increasing use of dissonance[1] as in her three string quartets (1993, 1994 and 2001) which have been recorded by Ensemble Arcadiana.[10] The Villiers Quartet has been performing the String Quartet No 2 in its 2021-22 concert season.[11]

Alberga has received several high-profile commissions. Roald Dahl's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' was commissioned by the Roald Dahl Foundation in 1994 and issued in conjunction with a book illustrated by Quentin Blake.[12] It has been widely performed in schools. A later recording by the Taliesin Orchestra in 2011 featured Danny DeVito, Griff Rhys Jones and Joanna Lumley as the narrators.[13] The opera Letters of a Love Betrayed, based on a short story from Isabel Allende's The Stories of Eva Luna, with a libretto by Donald Sturrock, was commissioned by Music Theatre Wales.[14] It opened at the Royal Opera House Linbury Studio in 2009 before touring England and Wales.[15] The choral work Arise, Athena!, setting her own text, was written to open the last night of the BBC Proms in 2015.[16]

Recordings of the two Violin Concertos (soloist Thomas Bowes) and The Soul's Expression (baritone Morgan Pearse) by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, first broadcast in 2021, were issued by Lyrita in February 2022.[17]



  • Market of the Dead (1997)
  • Letters of a Love Betrayed (2009)


  • Sun Warrior (1990) (chorus and orchestra)
  • Jupiter's Fairground, overture (1991)
  • Roald Dahl's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' (1994) (narrators and orchestra, also chamber version)
  • Mythologies (2000)
  • Violin Concerto No.1 (2001)
  • Arise, Athena! (2015) (chorus and orchestra)
  • Tower (2017) (percussion, strings and solo string quartet)
  • Violin Concerto No.2 Narcissus (2019)
  • Trumpet Concerto Invocation (2021)

Chamber Music

  • Resolution (1982) (oboe and guitar)
  • Clouds (1984) (piano quintet)
  • Animal Banter (1989) (flute, guitar and double bass, or flute, piano and cello)
  • Dancing with the Shadow (1990) (ensemble)[18]
  • Nightscape (The Horniman Serenade) (1993) (ensemble)
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1993)
  • String Quartet No. 2 (1994)
  • The Wild Blue Yonder (1995) (violin and piano)
  • No-Man’s-Land Lullaby (1996) (violin and piano)
  • Glinting, Glancing Shards (1997) (saxophone quartet)
  • On a Bat's Back I do Fly (2000) (ensemble)
  • Remember (2000) (string quartet)
  • String Quartet No. 3 (2001)
  • Tiger Dream in Forest Green (2005) (ensemble)
  • Langvad (2006) (ensemble)
  • Piano Quintet (2007)
  • Succubus Moon (2007) (oboe quintet)
  • Shining Gate of Morpheus (2012) (horn quintet)
  • Glacier (2013) (flexible ensemble with keyboard)
  • Ride Through (2015) (solo cello)


  • Andy (1959)
  • Jamaican Medley (1983)
  • Ice Flow (1985)
  • It's Time (1985)
  • Two-piano Suite (1986) (two piano, four hands)
  • Fizz (1988)
  • Hill and Gully Ride (1990) (two piano, eight hands)
  • 3-Day Mix (1991) (piano, four hands)
  • If The Silver Bird Could Speak (1996)[19]
  • Only a Wish Away (1997)[20]
  • For Whom (2005)
  • Oh Chaconne! (2014) (original version choreographed as Lingua Franca by Robert Cohan)
  • Presence (2019) (first portion of Piano Sonata Seraph)
  • Cwicseolfor (2021) (written for Isata Kanneh-Mason commissioned by the Barbican Centre London and the European Concert Hall Organisation in collaboration with B:Music)[21]

Vocal and Choral

  • Her Lament: One Cezanne Apple (1996)
  • De Profundis (1997)
  • My Heart Danceth (2007)
  • The Glimpse (2016) (baritone and string quartet)
  • The Soul's Expression (2017) (baritone and strings or piano)[22]
  • Awed Light Its Chant Entrances (2019)


  1. ^ a b c d e Fuller, Sophie. 'Alberga, Eleanor' in Grove Music Online (2001)
  2. ^ Sadie, Julie Anne; Samuel, Rhian (1994). "The Norton/Grove dictionary of women composers". Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  3. ^ "Eleanor Alberga" (PDF). Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  4. ^ Pasles, Chris (18 October 1997). "Double Exposure Marries Careers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  5. ^ "Eleanor Alberga (b. 1949) Jamaican Composer & Pianist". Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  6. ^ "No. 63377". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2021. p. B10.
  7. ^ "Queen's birthday honours list 2021" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 June 2021. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  8. ^ The Cross-Eyed Pianist
  9. ^ Hill and Gully Ride on Soundcloud
  10. ^ Eleanor Alberga, String Quartets 1,2 and 3. Navona NV 6234 (2019), reviewed at MusicWeb International.
  11. ^ Villiers Quartet, Nottingham, 10 July, 2021
  12. ^ Collins Music
  13. ^ Orchard Classics, November 2011
  14. ^ Music Theatre Wales
  15. ^ Hall, George. 'Letters of a Love Betrayed' in The Guardian, 4 October 2009
  16. ^ BBC Proms archive, 12 September 2015
  17. ^ Lyrita SRDC405 (2022)
  18. ^ Recorded by the Lontano Ensemble, LNT 103 (1992)
  19. ^ Recorded by Huw Watkins on NMC D207 (2014)
  20. ^ Recorded by Thalia Myers on NMC D057 (1999)
  21. ^ B.Music, Birmingham
  22. ^ Recorded on Women's Voices, LNT 143 (2020)

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