Alexander L’Estrange (b. 1974) is one of Britain’s most popular living choral composers and arrangers whose music is performed and celebrated throughout the world. His diverse musical background – L’Estrange was a chorister at New College, Oxford, gained a First Class Honours degree in Music from Oxford University and is a professional jazz pianist and double bass player – is reflected both in the variety and style of his choral compositions. At one end of the spectrum are his large-scale choral works which draw together singers of all ages from across communities. The first of these was Zimbe! Come sing the songs of Africa!, an ingenious 40-minute fusion of African song and jazz which, following one hundred and fifty performances worldwide within its first five years, established L’Estrange’s name internationally. Zimbe!’s success spawned a series of commissions in a similar vein including Ahoy! Sing for the Mary Rose, a fusion of Tudor music and sea shanties, and Song Cycle: vive la vélorution!, ten songs celebrating the bicycle, from its inauspicious beginnings to the glorious Tour de France. Each work features a professional jazz quintet, often the composer’s own group The ‘Call Me Al’ Quintet, and it is this winning combination of SATB choir, unison children’s choir and jazz band which has contributed to the universal appeal of these works.
‘Zimbe! is our generation’s answer to ‘St Nicolas’ or ‘Noye’s Fludde’.’
James Webb, conductor
At the other end of his compositional spectrum is L’Estrange’s sacred choral output which, particularly in its harmonic language, creates a distinctive, jazz-influenced sound world still very much rooted in the English cathedral tradition. Since the
publication of his stunning Christmas anthem Lute-book Lullaby, L’Estrange has received a steady stream of commissions from chamber choirs, choral societies, festivals, cathedral choirs and schools and a selection of these works has been recorded by the award-winning chamber choir Tenebrae, under the direction of Nigel Short, on the album On Eagles’ Wings (SIGNUM Classics).
‘On Eagles’ Wings is an album I will return to again and again; I recommend it warmly to all lovers of choral music.’
L’Estrange’s song output includes Love’s Philosophy, three stunning settings of poems by Shelley, Tennyson and Byron, currently on the ABRSM Singing Syllabus. He has written a number of jazz songs with his wife, former Swingle Singer and lyricist Joanna Forbes L’Estrange, recorded on the album New things to say (Andagio). As a consummate arranger, L’Estrange is highly sought after by the world’s leading a cappella groups including The Swingle Singers, Amarcord, Voces 8 and The King’s Singers, for whom he arranged and produced the Great American Songbook CD in 2013 to great acclaim. He is chief arranger and Consultant Editor for Faber Music’s highly popular Choral Basics series for which he has written hundreds of arrangements of pop, show, folk, jazz, classical, commercial and original songs. Television work includes writing the theme tune for the CBeebies programme Magic Hands, recorded by his sons, Toby and Harry, and a large body of work for the market-leading television production music company Audio Network Ltd.
Alexander L’Estrange is passionate about music education and in particular the importance of singing in schools and the wider community. Working with organisations such as United Learning he has led thousands of children in performances of his music at venues such as London’s Lyceum Theatre and the Royal Albert Hall. He has contributed many original pieces and arrangements to the educational initiative Sing Up and, as a jazz examiner and trainer for the ABRSM, heads jazz sessions for classical examiners. With his wife, he co-devised the popular choral workshop You can sing … but can you swing?! (with an accompanying set of jazz warm-ups, published by Faber Music) which gives classical singers the tools and confidence to give convincing and authentic performances of non-classical music. L’Estrange regularly presents workshops and adjudicates throughout the UK with the mixture of energy, fun and consummate musicianship that has become synonymous with his name.