Composition Seminar – Joanna Marsh Griffiths

Camels and Quarter Tones

A look at the key components of Arabic music (tonality, instrumentation, compositional structure) and how these evolved through contact with the Western Symphony Orchestra. Who are the notable composers working within the Arab tradition today and who are those stretching its boundaries?

This is a recent biography

Joanna Marsh, is a British composer who has lived in Dubai since 2007. She is the currently Composer in Residence at Sidney Sussex, Cambridge and she is also Co-Founder and Artistic Director of ChoirFest Middle East in Dubai, an annual celebration of the region’s choral music scene.

Joanna’s life in the Middle East has led to many unique compositional opportunities. These have included a commission for the BBC Proms in Dubai in March 2017 for which she wrote the 6 minute work Flare, for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, based on a short story called Oil Field, by Saudi writer Mohammed Hasan Alwan. An earlier orchestral work Kahayla was commissioned for a souvenir book about the building of the Burj Khalifa which opened in 2009.  It is a work for large symphony orchestra, with its score hand written to form a giant drawing of the Burj Khalifa. The state visit of HM Queen Elizabeth to Abu Dhabi in 2010 lead to the commissioning of her fanfare, “The Falcon and the Lion” by the British Embassy in Dubai.

Her recent opera “My Beautiful Camel” a farce composed with librettist David Pountney pulls in many cultural themes from the UAE. It will be performed by the Centre of Contemporary Opera in New York in November 2019.

Joanna (b. 1970) studied composition with Richard Blackford and Judith Bingham. She was an undergraduate at the Royal Academy of Music in London and an organ scholar at Cambridge University.