Born in London, 1951, Cecilia McDowall has been described by the International Record Review as having 'a communicative gift that is very rare in modern music'. Often inspired by extra-musical influences, her writing combines a rhythmic vitality with expressive lyricism and is, at times, intensely moving. She has won many awards as well as being short-listed for the 2005 and 2008 British Composer Awards. Her music has been commissioned and performed by leading choirs, including the BBC Singers, ensembles and at major festivals both in Britain and abroad and has been broadcast on BBC Radio and worldwide.
A recent commission, Five Seasons, for which she was selected from a large list of composers by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir, was for a choral and instrumental work, receiving its first performance in Sherborne Abbey. This exciting and unique project involved the composer, Cecilia McDowall, and the novelist and poet, Christie Dickason, taking up mini residences at five organic farms (under the auspices of the Soil Association). The brief for the commission was to 'celebrate the organic landscape'.
Much of her music is on disc; the Deux-Elles label has recorded her works for flute and piano and wind ensemble, performed by Ensemble Lumiere and pianist, Richard Shaw (Piper's Dream, 2002 - DXL1033) and includes the specially commissioned Arctic Circle (for piano and wind quintet). In 2004 Dutton Epoch released the first CD of her choral works performed by the Rachel Nicholls (soprano), Frances Bourne (mezzo-soprano), City of Canterbury Chamber Choir, Orchestra Nova and conductor, George Vass (CDLX 7146) and in 2005 a CD of orchestral and chamber music (CDLX 7159). In 2006 Three Antiphons were recorded by an international trumpet ensemble consisting of players from the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic and released on the trumpeter Paul Archibald's label, Brass Classics. In 2007 the Dutton label recorded a further CD (CDLX 7197) of McDowall's choral work with City of Canterbury Chamber Choir and the Joyful Company of Singers. Four more CDs of McDowall's music were released in 2008, including the Chandos recording of the highly renowned American choir, Phoenix Chorale; this recording, Spotless Rose (Hymns to the Virgin Mary) won a Grammy award in February, 2009, and was nominated for Best Classical Album. In 2009 Dutton Epoch released another Choral CD ('Laudate' CDLX 7230).
Cecilia McDowall is currently 'composer-in-residence' at Dulwich College School.