Karen Wimhurst

Composer and Clarinettist

  • BORN 1960, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • WORKED UK wide…..ENO London;  WNO Cardiff;  Scottish Chamber Orchestra Edinburgh; EVT London; BSO Bournemouth; Plymouth University; Custom House Newcastle; etc…
  • HONOURS Churchill Scholarship; Two Fringe Firsts and Heralds Angel Award as Musical Director with Communicado and Maran Theatre Companies; Composer in Residence with Common Ground and Plymouth University

Scientific Connections

As composer in residence at Plymouth University I worked with scientist Peter Smithers and author Rebecca Stott on the chamber opera ‘Darwin and the Barnacle’.  After this show I wanted to continue the collaboration with entomologist Peter Smithers and suggested a piece about Miriam Rothschild to Frances M Lynch.  This was the first piece for Minerva Scientifica.  Following this was the commission for Eva Crane.


Title:  Miriam
Words by: Karen Wimhurst//taken from writings of Miriam Rothschild
Written in: 2013
For: BASS Clarinet, soprano
Commissioned by: electric voice theatre, Peninsula Arts Plymouth University
Performed by: Karen Wimhurst and Frances Lynch
First Performed: St Andrew’s University ENTO 2013

After writing about Darwin, I felt like writing a partner work about a woman scientist.  Consulting with entomologist Peter Smithers, I discovered the wonderful and inspiring figure of Miriam Rothschild.  Alongside her scientific achievements, she wrote and published many works…..from research through to biographies and poetry…..all this was perfect for a gradual piecing together of libretto and an operatic presentation of her life and works.   Her devotion to fleas was a perfect hook for the work and gradually, in rehearsal….it became apparent that the bass clarinet was the flea….something I hadn’t anticipated!

Karen Wimhurst as the flea and Frances M Lynch as Miriam Rothschild


Title:  Bee Mused
Scientist: EVA CRANE
Words by: Karen Wimhurst//taken from writings of Eva Crane
Written in: 2016
For: Solo Soprano
Commissioned by: electric voice theatre
Performed by: Frances M Lynch
First performed: Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2016

Humming, buzzing, rather baroque like ornamental lines all came together to evoke the intense experience of day by day observations of the way different bees sip from flowers.  A tiny 3 minute snapshot of Eva Crane who was the first person to take bees, and bee keeping, seriously and took her own and others people’s research onto a worldwide platform.

Frances M Lynch as Eva Crane – Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016


1st class honours degree joint English/Music , University of Birmingham; MA University of San Diego in Experimental Music


Musical Director and Theatre Composer
This is how I started out and gradually built up my craft.  These skills gradually migrated into chamber opera, performance pieces etc

Karen at Sylvafield Studios 2018

I have worked with all and sundry creating original music.  This has been from mothers and babies through to children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens.  I led the Westminster Opera Team at ENO which worked all around Westminster on opera related projects.  This is about the total joy and blossoming of people when they find they can create music.

As a player, I became hooked on traditional music/jazz/classical crossovers in Edinburgh and started a band called the Cauld Blast Orchestra.  Since then I’ve played with a number of bands, dance bands, free jazz outfits etc.  Most recently with accordionist Paul Hutchinson in the Pagoda Project

Environmentalist and Campaigner
This has taken a significant amount of time in my life…..as well as having been the subject of compositions etc.

Mother, Cook and Nurturer
Another life fabulous role which consumes time!

Musical Highlights

I’ve loved it all……the amazing variety of music making especially……….apart from the ubiquitous admin and grant applications!

Did You Know?

Playing for drunken celebrities in a jazz band on stilts was one of my stranger yet surprisingly lucrative jobs!

An Inspiring Woman

Pauline Oliveros was the first woman composer I really came across as a student.  I think she got me thinking that maybe I could try my hand at innovative music making.  In the last few years there have been many inspiring women I’ve listened to…..but back when I was young this didn’t seem to be the case!   There are too many women now to mention, but to select two:- I’d say Judith Weir (patron of Minerva Scientifica) as I’ve followed her work for many years now and Sadie Harrison as she’s a fabulous composer who happens to live in my little town in North Dorset.