Shirley Thompson

Dr Shirley J. Thompson is a multi-award-winning composer, artistic director, music conductor, film maker, violinist. Her visionary productions and innovations have often anticipated creative trends years in advance. She specialises in creating large conceptual music works for the concert hall, the theatrical stage and for film. She obtained a BA in Musicology at the University of Liverpool; an MMus in Composition and Contemporary Music Aesthetics from Goldsmiths’ College, University of London; and a PhD from Brunel University investigating the thesis, Towards A New Aesthetic of Contemporary Composition, where she explored innovative approaches to vocal, operatic and orchestral composition. Dr Thompson’s areas of research interest include: opera composition, especially for the for the solo voice; exploring the role of the spoken word in opera composition; developing music for contemporary dance in concert works and in opera; integrating popular music components in the contemporary classical musical language; integrating multi-media in concert and stage works; developing instrumental ensemble composition and performance for the concert hall; unearthing the work of historical female composers; music composition inspired by scientific discovery.

Dr Shirley J.  Thompson is a renowned international composer with performances of her work at all the major opera houses worldwide further to a 15-year tour of her co-scored ballet PUSH at venues such as La Scala Milan, Sydney Opera House and Marinksy Theatre. She has composed extensively for the orchestra, opera, instrumental ensemble, contemporary dance, TV and film. Thompson also trained at the BBC as a documentary programme maker and worked as a researcher and then director for the BBC, ITV, LWT, Carlton and various Channel 4 companies. Selected compositions include:

New Nation Rising: A 21st Century Symphony for orchestra, youth and adult choirs, spoken word artist, kit and dhol drums which tells the history of London in 5 movements of music from 1066 to the present day. Recorded by the RPO, the concept was latterly assumed as the framework for 2012 Opening Ceremony.

Spirit Songs – orchestral trilogy of 3 songs commissioned by the parliamentary estate and the south Bank centre to commemorate the opening of the exhibition People and Parliament in 2007

PUSH, a Sadler’s Wells commissioned ballet for dancers Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant, who choreographed the production

Mandela Tales a music theatre work for Voice, Speaker, Orchestra and Video to commemorate the birthday of Nelson Mandela and commissioned by the South Bank Centre

Voice of Change for Singers, Speaker and Ensemble marking 100 Days of Barack Obama as US President and commissioned by the South Bank Centre

Heroines of Opera: an opera trilogy for solo voice, speaker and orchestra exploring the lives of hidden heroines and dispelling the myth of the femme fatale. The trilogy includes, Sacred Mountain (Queen Nanny of the Maroons), The Woman Who Refused to Dance (The Woman) and Dido Elizabeth Belle.

The Franklin Effect  is a project where 4 leading international composers and 4 world-leading scientists at King’s College London explore the integration of their research to produce musical works. The 3-year project was instigated by Minerva Scientifica and funded by the Welcome Trust and the Arts Council.

The World is Now Richer meets The Woman Who Refused to Dance is an opera and sculpture installation for the Venice Biennale in 2017 with Sokari Douglas Camp

Lost Women Composers is a major AHRC/BBC Radio 3 project that rediscovers the lives and music of historical female composers. It was announced as an exemplary music project for 2018. Dr Shirley J. Thompson features the work of Florence B. Price.

Thompson has worked with leading classical orchestral performers such as the BBC Singers, the RPO, Philharmonia, South Bank Sinfonia, the LPO, the Shirley Thompson Ensemble, Gemini, the BBC Concert Orchestra Principals, Sadler’s Wells, Ballet Rambert. Swarovski

External Examiner and Internal Examiner for several PhDs and executive member of BASCA, SAM, the BBC Diversity in Composition Working Party, and a Women in Music founder

Recent keynote presentations include: The Sphinx Internationa Festival, Classical Next, Opera and Music theatre Forum, Tedx JA.

Dr Thompson’s musical scores are published by Deuss Publishing; and her music recorded on various recording labels including BBC Music, First Hand Records, and the RPO Label.

For further information about Shirley’s research, supervision and teaching experience also see:

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Research Areas

Fashion and Music

CREAM has established departments in both Fashion and Music whose International research reflects on the professional and creative knowledge required by these sectors. Led by key figures in their field, with emerging and established projects, both are creating societal impact across broad areas of popular culture, the arts and the creative industries in the UK and beyond.