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Hilary Tann (1947-2023)


From her childhood in the Rhondda Valley, Hilary Tann developed a profound love of nature which permeated all her music and is most evident in Adirondack Light (1992) and With the Heather and Small Birds (1994). She had a deep interest in the traditional music of Japan which led to study of the shakuhachi (ancient Japanese vertical bamboo flute). Among the many works reflecting this special interest is the large orchestral work, From afar which received its European premiere in 2000 by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and was selected for the opening concert of The International Festival of Women in Music Today in Korea in 2003.

Tann lived south of the Adirondacks in upstate New York where she was the John Howard Payne Professor of Music at Union College in Schenectady. She held degrees in composition from the University of Wales at Cardiff and from Princeton University and from 1982 to 1995 was active on the Executive Committee of the International League of Women Composers.

Her connection with Wales continued throughout her life via choral commissions, including Psalm 104 for the North American Welsh Choir (1998) and Paradise (Gregynog Festival, 2008). The influence of the Welsh landscape is also evident in many chamber works and in text selections from Welsh poets George Herbert (Exultet Terra for double choir and double reed quintet), RS Thomas (Seven Poems of Stillness for cello and narrator) and Menna Elfyn (Songs of the Cotton Grass for soprano and oboe). In July 2001, The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra premiered The Grey Tide and the Green, commissioned for the Last Night of the Welsh Proms. In 2015 she was Tŷ Cerdd’s Composer in Residence, writing All the Moon Long for the National Youth Brass Band of Wales and rescoring In the First Spinning Place for the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Wales.

Her orchestral work is threaded by a series of concerto commissions – Here, the Cliffs (1997) for violin; In the First, Spinning Place (2000) for saxophone; Anecdote (2000) for cello; Shakkei (2007) for oboe.

Over sixty works are available on CD including three solo discs of vocal, chamber and orchestral music. Her music is featured on four Tŷ Cerdd Records CDs and some of her sheet music is published by Tŷ Cerdd.

Remembering Hilary - interview with Dr Rhian Davies

▶ Hilary Tann website

▶ 17 February: Ensemble CGWM performs music by Hilary Tann at Bangor Music Festival

▶ 23 March: Aberystwyth Philomusica performs From the Feather to the Mountain

For enquiries regarding Hilary Tann's music, please contact her estate via

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