Frances M Lynch

Composer and Singer


Image by Herbie Clarke

  • BORN 1959 Glasgow, Scotland
  • WORKED Many locations in Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, Mexico, Singapore and the USA
  • HONOURS  Three Weeks Editors’ Award 2016 “celebrating the ten people, productions and shows that, in our opinion, made this year’s Edinburgh Festival particularly special…. we celebrated Electric Voice Theatre for their truly inspirational show ‘Superwomen Of Science’…” Frances M Lynch is supported by PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund
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Scientific Connections

I have always been fascinated, if somewhat daunted, by science. It seemed to be a land that I could never understand let alone visit. However, once I started the Minerva Scientifica project in 2013, I gradually found myself surrounded by scientists engaged in a dizzying array of research areas who have the patience and understanding to help me, and other composers, enter at the edges of their worlds.


Title:  Salt Tears

  1. Stone
  2. Water
  3. Salt

Words by: Frances M Lynch, The Engine Shed Scientist’s data, Alexander Lindsay, John Willcock, Archibald 9th Earl of Argyll, Lady Anna Mackenzie
Additional Music: “Bonnie Isle O’ Whalsay” traditional tune for Lady Sophia Lindsay Scottish country dance created by Jean Attwood Alexander
Written in: 2018
For: Solo Mezzo,  Baritone and mixed voices
Performed by: Margaret Cameron,  Gwion Thomas and Frances M Lynch
First Performance:  The Engine Shed, Stirling, September 18th 2018

The music is created from a number of different sources, but primarily from Data provided by Dr Maureen Young relating to the work she is involved with at Argyle Tower in Edinburgh Castle.
The data is part of the work that Historic Environment Scotland carries out to conserve and restore their buildings, and involves Thermal Imaging, Moisture Analysis and Salt Analysis.
The story is that of Lady Sophia Lindsay who was the step-daughter of the 9th Earl of Argyll after whom Argyle Tower is named. He is said to have been held beneath where this tower now stands during his various imprisonments at Edinburgh Castle.

Part 1. Stone
Argyll’s Lodgings is very close to Stirling Castle where the Earl lived with his second wife, Lady Anna Mackenzie and her daughters – one of whom was Sophia. The permanence of the stone, its vulnerability and its strengths are paralleled in the story.

Part 2. Water
For the stone the introduction of water is dangerous and it also represents the dangers experienced by our protagonists whose lives are disrupted by the intrusion of political strife which will have drastic outcomes for all of them.
Sophia’s courage in bringing a servant to Argyle Tower who swapped places with Argyll, allowing him to go free, almost led to her public flogging, commuted to imprisonment.

Part 3. Salt
She suffered a great deal for Argyll and eventually, at a late stage in life, married his son Charles, but they had no offspring, “a bitter salt ending”. The salt, which can crack stone, is also a metaphor for Argyll’s final downfall and execution at the castle.


The composer acknowledges support from Creative Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and the Scotland Foundation (Scotrail) towards the writing and first performance of this score. The composition was also supported by Hope Scott Trust. Frances M Lynch is supported by PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund for Music Creators. The performance was also supported by the Ambache Charitable Trust.

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Title: Living Breathing Soil
Written in: September 2018
For: acapella voices
Performed by: Frances M Lynch and Margaret Cameron
First Performed: THE BIG SHED September 22nd 2018 with Audrey Litterick on violin

The music is a series of riffs based on the important biological elements in soil – micro, meso and macro organisms and fauna, not forgetting the pathogens and pests!
The piece has 4 main sections:
1. Micro, Meso, Macro
2. Living, Breathing Soil – bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, mites, springtails, moles, ants, centipede, millipede, spiders, beetles, earth worms
3. Micro, Meso, Macro – What they do for the soil
4. Finale – the full soil picture

Title:  Agnes Metcalfe – To My Fellow Country Women
Additional Music: The March of the Women by Ethel Smyth
Written in: June 2019
For: Speakers, solo voice and choir
Performed by: Dr Patricia Fara, (introduction speaker), Frances M Lynch (all other voices and dogs!)
First Performed: Stroud Green Festival, June 13th 2019

This is the whole story of Agnes Metcalfe. I begin with the dedication she wrote on the front of her first book on Suffrage: –

This first section moves into an arrangement of The March of the Women by Ethel Smyth whose connections to Agnes are explored through the song. The final section is based on her book for children about a dog named Kim – “Memoirs of a Mongrel” by Himself, and the supposition that this dog may well have been at the centre of her protest in court. She refused to pay her dog licence – NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION –  and so eloquently defended herself  that the judge let her off with a modest fine (others received jail sentences)

The full text is available here

Title: Sarah’s 9 Ladders of Tall Herbs
Scientist: SARAH WATTS
Words by:  Frances, Sarah and Elizabeth Blackwell 
Written in: 2018
For: 9 solo female voices
Performed by: Frances M Lynch

First Performance: The Big Shed, Tombreck, September 22nd 2018 and performed by Margaret Cameron, Sarah Watts and the Killin Community Choir conducted by Frances Morrison as part of the electric voice theatre “Echoes – Minerva Scientifica” Tour of Scotland.

The music is created from Data provided by ecologist Sarah Watts relating to the work she is helping to carry out for The National Trust for Scotland on Ben Lawers,  monitoring the growth of Tall Herbs in specially created plots which prevent the sheep and deer from grazing. The plots are arranged in Transects, or Ladders, and there are 9 of them in the area of Creag an Lochain. The data presents a comparison from two surveys of the site: – one in 1999 by Anna Griffith and the other in 2017 by Sarah Watts and Lindsay Mackinlay.
You can hear the data from 1999 on the left of the stereo picture and the 2017 data on the right.

Of the many species planted the piece focuses on only 5, as they correspond with 5 mentioned and illustrated by Elizabeth Blackwell published in 1737 in “A Curious Herbal”:-

Angelica – Angelica Sylvestris
Ladies Mantle – Alchemilla Glabra
Meadow Sweet – Filipendula Ulmaria
Common Sorrel – Rumex Acetosa
Valerian – Valeriana or Phu

Title: Beatrix Potter and the Postman
Words by: Frances M Lynch in collaboration with Catherine Booth
Written in: 2018
For: Mixed childrens voices and soloist
Performed by:  KILLIN, KENMORE and STROUD GREEN PRIMARY schools with Dr Patricia Fara (speaker) and  Frances M Lynch and Margaret Cameron (singers)
World Premiere: THE BIG SHED, Kenmore, Scotland,22nd September 2018
Recorded:  live at performances in the Big Shed, Killin Primary School, Kenmore Primary School in  Scotland and the Stroud Green Festival in London.

“Beatrix Potter and the Postman” was written for the “Echoes from Ben Lawers” project as a fun way to teach the children – and their audiences – about Beatrix Potter, not as the well known author of the Peter Rabbit books, but as a scientist. She was a mycologist who learnt a great deal from  Charles McIntosh,  who was her family’s postman in Dunkeld when they were on holiday there. He was an expert in fungi – he had time to study them on his rounds! – and later on Beatrix would ask him to send her specimens in the post and she would send him back some of her watercolours in return. If you want to sing along – do go to the Beatrix Potter page where you will find all the words too!

Title:  “The Sea of Life”
Scientist: NORA MILLER
Words by: Frances M Lynch in collaboration with Catherine Booth
Arranged by: Frances M Lynch in collaboration with Margaret Cameron and Herbie Clarke
Written in: September 2018
For: children’s voices and guitar
Commissioned by: funds made available by Historic Environment Scotland, PRS Foundation, Creative Scotland, Hope Scott Trust and Foundation Scotland
Performed by: Riverside Primary 5- 7g, Raploch Primary 6, Herbie Clarke (guitar) with the voices of Frances M Lynch, Margaret Cameron (BBC Singers) and Eleanor Logan
World Premiere: by the above, September 18th 2018, The Engine Shed, Stirling, Scotland

The piece was written for the Echoes Tour of Scotland 2018/19. It reflects the excitement of Nora’s life and that of her favourite fish – the Lungfish! The full text is here.
We acknowledge support from Creative Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Foundation Scotland towards the writing and first performance of this music. The composition was also supported by Hope Scott Trust. Frances M Lynch is supported by PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund for Music Creators. The performance was also supported by the Ambache Charitable Trust.

Title: How Life is Lived in the Animal’s World – Lavender’s Blue
Music by: Frances M Lynch
Additional Music by: Marie Dare, Beethoven, Traditional, Liza Honeyman
Words by: Frances M Lynch, Catherine Booth, Robert Burns, Lady Carolina Nairne, Walter de la Mare
Written in: 2018
For: Speaker, Soprano, Mezzo, 3 girl soloists, and piano
Performed by: Catherine Booth (Narrator), Margaret Cameron (Doris Mackinnon),  Priscilla Adebambo (Young Doris Mackinnon), Frances M Lynch (Laura Florence and  Piano), Ellie Brammer (Young Laura Florence) and Nicole Laidlaw (Lilias Mackinnon).

This mini opera was created for an event at The National Library of Scotland on January 18th 2018 where it was first performed by the same team as part of a project at Clovenstone Primary School, Edinburgh.

It is a reflection on the lives of zoologists, Doris Mackinnon and Laura Florence who lived next door to each other in Aberdeen when they were young girls, and is based on research by Catherine Booth. We imagine that the two scientists wrote to each other until they grew old, and through their letters we learn about their families, work and lives from hog lice, to birds, radio broadcasts to Beethoven and lavender to protozoa!

It includes a full – if interrupted – performance of   “The Three Cherry Trees” by Marie Dare for voice and piano, and extracts from Nairne’s “Oh! Rowan Tree!”, Burns’“To a Louse”,  Beethoven’s “Für Elise” and “We Shall ne-er meet again” by Liza Honeyman. The Nursery Rhyme “Lavender’s Blue” is used as an important theme.

Title: Laura and Doris
Music by: Frances M Lynch
Words by: Frances M Lynch and Clovenstone Primary 6
Written in: 2018
For: Mixed Voices and Guitar
Performed by: The children of Clovenstone School (Primary 6) Catherine Booth (narrator), Herbie Clarke (guitar), Margaret Cameron (mezzo)

“Laura & Doris” is a sing-along song for children developed during workshops at Clovenstone Primary School in Edinburgh in 2017.  It is based on the imagined early  lives of Aberdonian Zoologists Doris Mackinnon and Laura Florence. The enthusiasm of the children is catching – so do join in!


Title:  Oh! Mangrove Crab – deep in the mud
Words by: Frances M Lynch
Arranged by:  Frances M Lynch & Herbie Clarke
Written in: 2017
For: guitar and mixed voices
Commissioned by: funds made available by PRS Foundation, Creative Scotland,  Hope Scott Trust and Institute of Physics Scotland.
Performed by: Eyemouth Primary School Singers
World Premiere: by Herbie Clarke (guitar) with the voices of Frances M Lynch, Margaret Cameron (BBC Singers), Karen Diele and three pupils from Eyemouth Primary School   Aimee Robb, Holly Windram and Jessica Henderson –  on June 18th 2018, Ebba Centre, St Abbs, Berwickshire, Scotland

This fun sing-along song is based on the research of Dr Diele and her Brazilian colleagues from the REMAR network.  Feel free to join in!

Oh Mangrove Crab deep in the mud
Caranguejo-uçá I pull him from the mud
Caranguejo-uçá And throw him in my bag

In Brazil lives the Mangrove crab Deep in the mud
Burrowing under the Mangrove Trees Deep in the mud
The fisher folk dig and try to grab They really need to catch that crab


In St.Abbs you can almost hear High on the cliffs
Data streaming from Brazilian phones High on the cliffs
The Fisher folk use an App from here To save their fisheries over there


Dr. Diele loves those Mangrove Crabs Deep in the mud
She hears what their saying, she’s keeping tabs High on the cliffs
Science and Fishing have one great aim Together they can help sustain

Title: The Physics of Sound
Science: PHYSICS
Words: Frances M Lynch
Written in: 2018
For: Children’s Voices
Performed by: Eyemouth Primary School P6-7
World Premiere: Eyemouth Primary School, 25th June 2018

This is part of a longer song which was created to teach older primary children about physics and how sound moves in different media. This group mastered most of the song but we only managed to record this section!

Title: Storm in C
Scientist: MARJORY ROY
Words from: SYNOP Data Format (FM-12)
Written in: 2017
For: Female Voices
Performed by: Frances M Lynch
World Premiere:  A partial premiere took place on 26th October 2017, Eyemouth Hippodrome as part of Scottish Superwomen of Science

This music is part of the Stormsong 1881 Minerva Scientifica Project and was written in collaboration with Meteorologist, Marjory Roy. It is a direct translation of Meteorological data created from the Daily Weather Report which was published by the Met Office covering the period before during and after the storm of 1881.
It is a tribute to the community of Eyemouth, and their extraordinary courage and tenacity in recovering from the Great Disaster of 1881.

Title: Williamina, Astronomer fae Dundee 
Words by: Frances M Lynch
Written in: 2016
For: Solo Voice and Sweeping Brush
Performed by: Frances M Lynch
World Premiere: 1st Aug 2016, The Book Club, Shoreditch, London, as part of events run by the Royal Society

I found the story of  Williamina Fleming irresistible – a heroine who rose from difficult circumstances to become a famous Astronomer. I based it on a traditional Jacobite tune – “The Piper O Dundee” as sourced from Hogg’s “Jacobite Relics of Scotland” (1821).  It  was written for the award winning Edinburgh Fringe show “Superwomen of Science” 

Title:  A Lament for Invertebrates
Scientist: KAREN DIELE
Words by: Frances M Lynch & Karen Diele
Written in: 2017
For: solo voice, with recordings of the environment at St. Abbs Marine Station and children from Canal View School making funny noises!
Performed by: Frances M Lynch
World Premiere: June 20th 2017, Edinburgh Napier University, Sighthill Campus as part of the Scottish Superwomen of Science Project.

When I first met Karen Diele I was struck by her passion for her work both here in Scotland and in Brazil. She opened my eyes to an underwater world full of sound.
Her research with her colleagues Edward Bolger, Dr Rob Briers, Dr Mark Hartl, Petra Harsanyi, Dr Ted Henry, Nick Mackay-Roberts, Dr Sonja Rueckert, Kevin Scott, Matthew Wales at Edinburgh Napier University and St Abbs Marine Station forms the basis of the text – a series of questions they are addressing about the effects of noise on sea creatures.
The underwater sea world, also inspired by discussions with geo-physicist Dr Lara Kalnins includes the children of Primary 6, Canal View Primary school making sounds like the pistol crab, pile drivers and the final bubble curtain (made with a mixture of vocal sounds and straws in bottles of water) which helps reduce sound underwater.

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Title:  Muriel’s Eye (M wana wa nnyabo )
Words by: Frances M Lynch, Traditional
Additional Music:  Traditional Ugandan lullaby M wana wa nnyabo collected by Robinah Nazziwa
Written in: 2017
For: solo voice and female chorus
Performed by: Frances M Lynch
World Premiere: August 5th, 2017, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, part of “Scottish Superwomen of Science”

Women in all cultures have been creating and singing lullabies since time began. The piece uses a popular Ugandan lullaby collected by Robinah Nazziwa a local music teacher. It is in Lugandan – the language Muriel Robertson learnt from her assistants when she was working on sleeping sickness there. The African material contrasts with the story of her life and work, sung in the style of a traditional Scottish Song.

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I was lucky enough to go to school in Scotland at a time when all children were assessed at an early age for their musical ability. A violin was then thrust into our arms, an instrument of torture to our families for years to come.
School provided a rich cultural environment which seemed to naturally lead on to studying singing at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, where composer Janet Beat inspired my interest in contemporary music which I moved to  City University, and Guildhall School of Music, London, to pursue.


I sang, mainly contemporary music, with electronics, and just kept doing it until I became good enough to be invited to tour around to Festivals all over the world.
I founded the electric voice theatre, staging very difficult music as a producer and director.
I have a small teaching practice and love workshop leading with children.
Composing arrived by accident. I was working as music director to a theatre company when they decided they didn’t like the music…….. I became their resident composer for 10 years!

Musical Highlights

  • Premiering “A Night at the Chinese Opera” by Judith Weir with Kent Opera (and falling over a lot)
  • Performing at the BBCSO Cage Weekend at the Barbican dressed as a tramp
  • Being allowed to play in a gamelan orchestra
  • Our first Minerva Scientifica CD “The Franklin Effect” released by First Hand Records 2016
  • Every time my students or school groups make  progress

    Clovenstone Primary School Edinburgh Workshop

Did You Know?

I can make the sound of an elephant trumpeting…!

An Inspiring Woman

Judith Weir (Master of the Queen’s Music) has been an inspiration since I first met her in London in the 80’s. Much earlier it was a nun who wrote music for us to sing on a weekly basis. I didn’t realise at the time that this was unusual, but I did recognise her work as being really first class.
These days I spend a lot of time finding and performing music by women composers from the past, introducing their work to children and commissioning contemporary women, all of whom are an inspiration.