Joanna Ward (b. 1998) is a London-based composer, performer, and curator/producer, from Newcastle upon Tyne. She has recently started a Masters in Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she learns with Cassandra Miller. She previously studied Music at Cambridge University, graduating with a First Class degree in Music in 2019.
Her compositional practice ranges across genres, encompassing conventional forms/media as well as theatrical pieces, experimental electronic music, and ambient music. She is interested in collaged and collaborative sonic aesthetics, combining conventional notation with intimate, hand-drawn graphic elements, and her work is embedded in her deep love of pop music. Joanna’s approach is inherently political, with a focus on how to compose in a way which is also engaged with contemporary feminist, queer, and decolonial thinking.
Joanna has worked as a composer with numerous organisations and ensembles, in this country and beyond, including: Sound and Music (as a Next Wave 2 composer), NMC Recordings, the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, Galvanize Ensemble, Fretwork, ensemble recherche, Illuminate Women's Music, AMOK, Ensemble Entropy, the Orgelbüchlein Project, Gesualdo 6, Voces 8, and the Choir of St John's College Cambridge.
Joanna produced her short opera hunger at the Edinburgh Fringe 2018, where it achieved critical acclaim and sell-out shows. hunger was originally commissioned by Helios Collective, and premiered at Lilian Bayliss House in London, received its third performance with the Korrigan Consort in Oxford in 2019, and will be performed again in Birmingham in the coming year.
Joanna is one half of the mermaid café, a multi-instrumentalist duo who improvise and create new work for themselves to perform, commission new works, re-imagine existing ones, as well as curate events and collaborate with other musicians and artists. the mermaid café have gigged extensively around Cambridge and beyond, using their "honeyed vocals" (Varsity 2018) in re-interpretations of existing songs as well as their own original material. They combine a traditional singer-songwriter approach with their collective experiemental composition background and a setup involving loop pedals and multiple instruments (guitar, e-bass, piano, percussion). They also frequently perform and commission music in a contemporary classical idiom; performances from them range across genres.
listen to the mermaid café here, and get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a soloist, Joanna specialises in the performance of new and recently composed works; highlights include giving a recital of contemporary vocal works, incorporating piano and electronics, for the Cambridge Female Composers Festival, and performing Aperghis’ Recitations in a concert in King’s College Chapel, which was described by Varsity Magazine as “the highlight of the concert [...] the handling of its myriad staggeringly difficult techniques was breath-taking, and deserves special mention.”
Joanna's contemporary classical/ experimental repertoire includes:
-- Jennifer Walshe: Folk Song Collections; G.L.O.R.I.
-- Errollyn Wallen: Tree
-- Priaulx Rainier: Cycle for Declamation
-- Meredith Monk: (improv on) Our Lady of Late
-- Brian Elias: Meet Me in the Green Glen
Joanna also incorporates experimental arrangements of popular and folk songs into her recitals, of songs by artists such as Joni Mitchell, Peggy Seeger and Billy Bragg.
Her background is in choral music; she began with the Swing Bridge Singers and Quay Voices, and has since sung with the Jesus College Choir, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, and the Proms Youth Chorus. She has also taken part in opera, most notably as a chorus member of the Cambridge University Opera Society's Rake's Progress.
I am always keen to experiment with and perform new repertoire so please let me know about anything you have written for alto voice (E3 -- F5), solo or with tape, piano etc.!
Joanna has experience producing concerts covering a wide range of musics and performers. These include Alternative Lessons and Carols (2017 and 2018), showcasing new student writing, both music and text, and Terry Riley's In C (CU Lunchtime Concert Series 2017). She was co-president of the Jesus College Music Society for 2018-19, involving organising and producing concerts and events throughout the year. In this capacity, she encouraged a shift towards more diverse programming, especially of music by women. Joanna was also on the committee for the inaugural Cambridge Female Composers Festival, helping bring women’s music to a public platform and using her experience to coordinate a composing competition for female/non-binary composers as well as to make connections with female composers to find repertoire and grow the audience of the festival. Outside of Cambridge, Joanna was the producer for the Edinburgh Fringe run of hunger, managing the publicity and organisation of the show. She has also participated in curating the Jesus College Arts Festival, where she took the lead installing a multimedia room to display audio and audiovisual works in the gallery.
Joanna also has experience typesetting scores in Sibelius, teaching composition (particular experience with younger children), and tutoring music theory and school subjects.
photo © Ruari Paterson-Achenbach
photo © Evelina Gumileva