Part of a Hasidic community with strong musical links, Erika felt like an outsider during her school years. A scholarship from the Royal College of Music Junior Department, and later the Senior College, enabled her to pursue music and study piano and composition.
In the interview Erika takes us back to a very different time for the RCM as we hear about her experiences as a student in the 1950s. She then recalls her journey as a music teacher in schools and pianist improvising for ballet classes before embarking on another period of study with Jeremy Dale Roberts and Harrison Birtwistle.
Erika then discusses the stories of some of her works, including Eight Songs from Cavafy (1968), Cocytys (1974), Osen Shomaat (1985) and the chamber opera The Dancer Hotoke (1991). In the final part of the interview she speaks about the renewed interest in her work in recent years and shares some thoughts about Britishness, identity, belonging and her love for the people she has been fortunate to meet throughout her life.
Erika Fox was born in Vienna in 1936 and came to England as a war refugee. Her highly distinctive musical style is a result of a childhood suffused with music of Eastern European origin; Chassidic music, liturgical chant embellished with heterophony, modal ancient melodic lines that have much in common with the folk music of Eastern Europe. Erika studied composition and piano at the Royal College of Music, first in the Junior Department in the late 1940s and then in the Senior College from 1954 to 1958. She then continued her studies with Harrison Birtwistle and Jeremy Dale Roberts. She has a catalogue of 52 works showing a natural affinity for the human voice, for theatre and the stage.
In the 1970s, she was actively involved with the Fires of London, the Nash Ensemble, Dartington and SPNM. Between 1974 and 1994 her works were regularly performed at London’s South Bank Centre, major festivals and have received broadcasts in the U.K. and abroad. Shir, for large ensemble was featured on Channel 4 Television. Fox’s critically acclaimed puppet opera, The Bet (1990) received over 100 performances following a premiere at the Purcell Room. Kaleidoscope won the 1983 Finzi Award and her chamber opera The Dancer Hotoke was nominated for an Olivier Award.
In 1990 Fox accompanied John Cage to Paris and Strasbourg and took part in his Europeras 1 and 2 commissioned by the Almeida Festival. Erika Fox has been commissioned by Festivals including Vale of Glamorgan, Cheltenham, Festival of Women Composers in Berlin and Amsterdam, Leamington, Almeida, Sonorities in Belfast. Her work has been performed by Lontano, New Music Players, Contrapuncti, Chamber Domaine, Gemini, Feinstein Quartet. Her music has been performed in Greece, Turkey, Canada, Italy and Slovakia.
Her piano concerto, commissioned by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, received its world premiere in January 2022 in Glasgow.
Links and sources
You can listen to samples of Erika’s music on her website.
Sheet music of works by Erika Fox is available from Composers Edition.
Elsewhere in this resource
Photo: Tim Fox