An Evening With Rachel Portman OBE

7:30pm, Friday, March 6th, 2020
St Mary in the Castle

An evening exploring the career of the composer and Academy Award Winner. Rachel will be discussing and showing extracts of her work in film, including a world exclusive preview of music from her forthcoming album Ask The River performed by Rachel herself and accompanied by piano students who are mentored by her.

Born in West Sussex, Rachel began composing at the age of 14 and read music at the University of Oxford, where she became interested in writing music for student films and theatre productions. She gained experience writing music for drama in BBC and Channel 4 films, including Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Mike Leigh’s, Four Days In July and Jim Henson’s Storyteller series.

Since then, Portman has written over 100 scores for film, television and theatre, including The Manchurian Candidate (Jonathan Demme), Oliver Twist (Roman Polanski), Beloved (Jonathan Demme), Benny and Joon (Jeremiah Chechik), Life Is Sweet (Mike Leigh), Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek), Grey Gardens (Michael Sucsy), The Legend of Bagger Vance (Robert Redford), The Duchess (Saul Dibb), One Day (Lone Scherfig), The Lake House (Alejandro Agresti), Mona Lisa Smile (Mike Newell), The Human Stain (Robert Benton), Their Finest (Lone Sherfig), A Dog’s Purpose (Lasse Halstrom) and most recently Mimi and the Mountain Dragon for the BBC.

Rachel became the first female composer to win an Academy Award, which she received for the score of Emma (Douglas McGrath). She was also the first female composer to win a Primetime Emmy Award, which she received for the film, Bessie (Dee Rees). She has received two further Academy Nominations for The Cider House Rules and Chocolat (Lasse Hallström), which also earned her a Golden Globe Nomination as well as Bafta nominations for Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and The Woman in Black.

Rachel will be discussing her life and work with publisher and Creative Director Gill Graham. Extracts of Rachel’s work in film will be shown, including a world exclusive preview of music from her forthcoming album performed by Rachel herself and accompanied by piano students who are mentored by her.

Doors 7pm
Start 7.30pm

Tickets £12.50 (balcony), £17.50 (stalls), £27.50 (boxes to include VIP interval drink)

Rachel has written an opera of Saint Exupery’s, The Little Prince for Houston Grand Opera as well as a musical of Little House on the Prairie. For the BBC Proms concerts, Rachel was commissioned to write The Water Diviner, a dramatic choral symphony and Earth Song, a commission for the BBC singers of a 20 minute choral piece. Rachel wrote an orchestral piece entitled Endangered performed at the World Environment Day Concert, at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing. Rachel was Radio 3’s composer of the week in 2018.

Rachel is an honorary fellow of Worcester College, Oxford. She lives in London with her three daughters.


As Group Head of Promotion for the international family of Music Publishers the Wise Music Group, Gill works with today’s leading composers across all genres. Among them are Hans Abrahamsen, John Corigliano, Bryce Dessner, Philip Glass, John Paul Jones, Nico Muhly, Rachel Portman, Kaija Saariaho, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Joby Talbot and Rufus Wainwright. Her work as a creative producer, bringing composers together with artists in the neighbouring arts, has seeded collaborations with artists such as Martin Creed, Wayne McGregor, Michael Morpurgo, Patrick Ness, The Brothers Quay, Mark Ravenhill, Tal Rosner and Christopher Wheeldon.

Educated at London’s Trinity College of Music, Gill was Executive Director of the Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM) from 1997 to 2002. The organisation has worked with the UK’s top orchestras and performing groups, placing new work by emerging British composers at the heart of the performing agenda. From 1999-2004 she was Vice-President of the International Society for Contemporary Music. Before joining SPNM, she was Head of Performance at the Royal College of Music and, previously, on the staff at Mountview Theatre School. She is an adviser and mentor for the medallists of The Cliburn Piano Competition, a music nominator for the Rolex Arts Initiative, and consults for many not for profit organisations in the U.K. and US. She is on the board of International Contemporary Ensemble in the USA and Pacitti Company, one of Europe’s leading experimental theatre companies.

Gill Graham Rachel Portman Hastings Piano

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