Merit Ariane Stephanos

PhD Performance

Merit Ariane Stephanos is a singer and composer specialising in Arab and Middle Eastern vocal music. Inspired by her German/Egyptian heritage, and her initial training as a Western classical singer, Merit draws on classical Arabic and Western contemporary influences in her music and is passionate about exploring a musical dialogue between these cultures, for example with her Arab Jazz Trio Hjaz and Arab/Eastern European ensemble Jaljala. In 2012, Merit travelled to Lebanon to research early Arab Christian chants, supported by a Gerald Finzi Trust scholarship. She has performed this repertoire with Renaissance singers The Clerks  and her own ensemble Zanubia.
Committed to exploring new musical avenues, especially those merging music and theatre, Merit performed at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2014, as Cantor in David Eldrige’s new play ‘Holy Warriors’; she also was musical director (company). Other collaborations feature her on an Opera North Resonance music theatre project on the multicultural figure of St George, and a premiere by British composer Peter Wiegold for Merit and his ensemble notes inégales for the opening of the ‘Brunel Institute for Contemporary Middle Eastern Music’.
Merit has a degree in Western classical music from Edinburgh University, a Masters in contemporary composition and contemporary vocal techniques from Goldsmiths College and a Postgraduate Diploma in creative leadership and collaborative composition processes from the Royal College of Music. As a creative artist and leader, she has worked for organisations including The Southbank, BBC Proms, Britten Sinfonia, NCEM, Opera North, RCM Sparks, Guildhall Connect, Musicians without Borders and the Helen Bamber Foundation. She teaches Participatory Music Education at the Royal College of Music.
Merit’s PhD focuses on identity, specifically whether an identity conflict or crisis can arise from dealing with more than one cultural/musical identity. By integrating Arab and Western art music into music theatre contexts, Merit’s research explores how to transform and/or transcend these differences and how to develop a coherent musical voice drawing on two or more ‘languages’. Together with composer Morag Galloway, Merit is a recipient of the Terry Holmes performer/composer award; they premiered a large scale music theatre work ‘Swimming between Shores’ at the opening concert of the York Spring Festival in April 2015.
Merit holds a Sir Jack Lyons Scholarship.

Supervisor Prof. Roger Marsh