Joanna Forbes L’Estrange is an English singer, songwriter, composer and choral leader who receives engagements throughout the world. Born into a family of professional musicians – her father is the composer Sebastian Forbes and her grandfather was the famous Scottish viola player/arranger Watson Forbes – she graduated with an MA in Music from Oxford University. Joanna’s career began with seven years as soprano and Musical Director of the five-time Grammy Award-winning a cappella group The Swingle Singers, during which time she became renowned for her stylistic versatility, three-octave vocal range and consummate musicianship. Joanna lives in Hertfordshire with her husband, Alexander L’Estrange, and their two musically-gifted sons.
Joanna’s song “Twenty-first-century woman” was recorded at Abbey Road Studios by an all-female team of musicians and released on 8 March 2019, International Women’s Day, to raise money for charities supporting women and girls around the world who are denied the opportunities they deserve.
Joanna specialises in the performance of contemporary music with amplified vocals and enjoys a full diary of engagements as an international solo artist, sharing the stage with the world’s leading orchestras and contemporary music ensembles. Her concert repertoire includes Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings, Will Todd’s Mass in Blue, Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, works by Steve Reich including Music for 18 Musicians, Desert Music and Tehillim, Stockhausen’s Stimmung, John Adams’ Grand Pianola Music and Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia, which she has performed fifty times. Joanna has toured every continent and, closer to home, has appeared as a soloist at the Proms, Edinburgh Festival, Glastonbury and the O2 Arena. One of London’s busiest studio singers, Joanna records backing vocals for top artists as well as soundtracks to video games and Hollywood films. Her discography comprises choral CDs, many with the award-winning chamber choir, Tenebrae, solo jazz albums with her duo L’Estranges in the Night, a cappella albums and recordings of contemporary orchestral works with vocals.
Joanna began writing songs and arrangements as Musical Director of The Swingles and her compositional style is influenced by a love of close harmony vocal groups and jazz. She has received commissions from The King’s Singers, The Military Wives Choirs, SingUp, Finchley Children’s Music Group, Trinity College Cambridge, Aurora Nova and the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain as well as from choral societies, chamber choirs and schools. In collaboration with her husband Alexander L’Estrange, she writes songs (for his popular series of large-scale community choral works) and church anthems (recorded by Tenebrae on their On Eagles’ Wings CD); their set of carols for upper voices and piano, The Twyford Carols, is published by Faber Music. Joanna’s congregational setting of the mass, The St Helen’s Service, was published by the RSCM on International Women’s Day 2018. “Twenty-first-century woman” song will be released on Friday, 8 March 2019, International Women’s Day.
Joanna directed The Swingle Singers for six years and now receives invitations to share her experience and expertise with choirs and a cappella groups throughout the world. She is the founder and director of Aquila the first all-female a cappella group at St John’s College, Cambridge. With her jazz workshop, You can sing…but can you swing?! she has coached hundreds of choirs, both amateur and professional, in the art of singing choral jazz/pop arrangements. A guest conductor for the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain she has also conducted several CD recordings of large-scale choral works by her husband Alexander L’Estrange. Joanna presents workshops for organisations including the Association of British Choral Directors, the American Choral Directors Association, Eton Choral Courses, Ingenium Academy and Voice Festival UK, of which she is a patron. She was a judge on the Sky 1 television series, Sing: Ultimate A Cappella.