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Sarah Rodgers read Music at Nottingham University, where she was the first woman conductor of the University Opera group and directed four performances of the first fully staged UK production of Halevy’s La Juive since its Covent Garden debut in 1893.
Sarah has gone on to chalk up a number of other firsts, including becoming the first woman to be appointed Director of the Mechanical-Copyright Collection Society, a post she held for seventeen years, and the first woman to be elected Chairman of BASCA, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. In 2003 she founded the BASCA British Composer Awards, leading their development for the first 11 years, and curating their tenth-anniversary concert in the Purcell Room. She was also Chairman of the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain, following in the distinguished footsteps of Elizabeth Maconchy and Ruth Gipps. During this time she was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and took part in a cultural exchange with members of the Russian House of Composers, when her music was performed in Moscow and St Petersburg.
Sarah’s output to date has been predominantly for the concert hall, although she has also worked in theatre and in film. She began composing professionally in 1982, having returned to Britain after working for two years with Voluntary Service Overseas in Sierra Leone. Her time spent there with VSO stimulated an enduring interest in world music and its relation to western art music, which has informed a number of compositions since then. Most notably they include The Roaring Whirl for clarinet, sitar, guitar, tabla, pakavaj, kathak dancer and narrator, written for the Nothingham Now festival and broadcast on Classic FM; Four Songs of Wang Wei, set for Chinese erhu, soprano and piano; and for the City of London Sinfonia and the 30th-anniversary concert of the Eastern Orchestral Board (now Orchestras Live), Saigyo for two Japanese shakuhachi and two Indian bansuri with chamber orchestra, which she conducted, and which can be heard on the Orchestras Live timeline http://www.orchestraslive.org.uk/50th-anniversary-timeline/.
Sarah’s music has been commissioned by a variety of other organisations, including Arts Council England and several Regional Arts Board, for performers including the London Handel Orchestra, the Choir of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, the Coull Quartet, Sounds Positive and Operest, and by festivals including the Ruskin Centenary Celebrations. In 2018 Sarah will once again be working in partnership with Orchestras Live, on a commission for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
Sarah’s music has been performed across the UK, as well as in Australia, Belgium, China, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, and the USA. Her setting of John Ruskin’s fable The King of the Golden River, commissioned in 2000 by the Ruskin Foundation to mark the 100th anniversary of the social thinker and philanthropist’s death, received its US premiere in Detroit in 2016, followed by a performance in Los Angeles in 2017. It will be performed at the Royal Academy in London in 2019 for the bicentenary celebrations of Ruskin’s birth. The King of the Golden River was broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and recorded on the SOMM label and is available to download from iTunes and Spotify.
In London, Sarah’s work has been performed at the Southbank Centre, at the Royal Albert Hall (where she has also conducted), the Wigmore Hall, St John’s Smith Square and The Warehouse. A piece for Cantamus Girls’ Choir, Spring Palace Song, was programmed for its tour in China, and was included in the World Choir Games, where the choir was winner in its competitive class. Forthcoming premieres of commissioned works include Labyrinths for eight hands at two pianos, at the Purcell Room, and a pocket oratorio Agnes as part of the 600th anniversary celebrations of the Paston Papers.
Sarah, who is a direct descendant of the family of Henry Purcell, lives in Norfolk. She is married to the clarinettist, Geraldine Allen, for whom she wrote the Spanish Sonata, featured on the current Trinity and London College of Music examination syllabuses. www.sarahrodgers.com