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 Swingles, 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 composing and arranging as soprano and Musical Director of the five-time Grammy® award-winning a cappella group The Swingles. Her compositional style is influenced by a passion for church music, close harmony vocal groups and jazz. She regularly collaborates with her husband Alexander L’Estrange, writing songs for such groups as The King’s Singers and The Military Wives Choirs as well as for their award-winning series of large-scale community choral works.
She is prolific composer of songs and anthems for Upper Voices. Such pieces include Winter Songs (commissioned by Finchley Children’s Music Group for their 60th anniversary concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London), Give us grace (commissioned by Aurora Nova for International Women’s Day 2018), High as the heavens (commissioned by Frances Holland School, London), A woman (wearing bloomers) on a wheel (which has been made into a film by the NYCGB), The Twyford Carols (commissioned by Twyford School) and We will remember them (commissioned by The Military Wives Choirs for their 2018 ‘Remember’ album).
Published by the RSCM, her church music includes King’s College Service (Magnificat and Nunc Dimities), The St Helen’s Service, (a congregational setting of the communion service), Preces & Responses, Advent ‘O’ Carol and Carol of the Crib and St Richard’s Prayer.
Joanna Forbes L’Estrange has become the go-to composer for songs about women. She wrote A place for us maids to mark the 40th anniversary of female undergraduates at Trinity College, Cambridge; her feminist anthem Twenty-first-century woman made history by being the first ever song to be recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London by an entirely-female cast and crew. The single was released on International Women’s Day 2019 and raises money for the charity Her Future Coalition.
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.