Biography (400 words)

“Joanna has a stunningly flexible voice and flawless musicianship”

Will Todd, composer of Mass in Blue

Joanna Forbes L’Estrange (b.1971) is a British singer, composer and choir director. Having graduated from Oxford University with an MA (Hons) music degree, she began her career touring the world as Soprano/Musical Director of the five-time Grammy® award-winning vocal group The Swingles. Since then, she has continued to perform, write and record music in a huge variety of genres. She also appeared as a judge for the Sky One series SING! Ultimate A Cappella. Joanna and her husband, the composer/arranger Alexander L’Estrange, run their own professional studio, making recordings of their music as well as remotely for composers across the globe.

Renowned for her stylistic versatility, faultless sight-reading and three-octave vocal range, Joanna is a busy session singer for TV, Film and Games, regularly working at Abbey Road Studios. Her stratospheric high notes can be heard on over 200 Hollywood soundtracks, most recently on the 2021 blockbuster The French Dispatch, for which she duetted with Jarvis Cocker.  TV credits include recording the theme tune for Home Fires (ITV) and the end credits music for Fear Street (Netflix).

Specialising in the performance of contemporary and avant-garde music by composers including Berio, John Adams, Steve Reich and Stockhausen, Joanna has worked with orchestras around the world. In the UK she’s appeared at The Proms, Edinburgh International Festival and Glastonbury. Being a jazz singer as well as classical soprano, Joanna is particularly well suited to Will Todd’s Mass in Blue, a piece she’s performed many times, and recorded for the Convivium label.

Joanna writes choral music and songs, receiving commissions for new pieces from choirs all over the world. Her music has been recorded by groups including The King’s Singers, The Swingles, The Military Wives Choirs and Tenebrae. The National Youth Choirs Girls’ Choirs of Great Britain made a film of her witty, female emancipation song, A woman (wearing bloomers) on a wheel. Her vocal arrangement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata was used on the first ever episode of Glee (Fox) and her 1940s-style song You Are featured on the TV show Fleabag (BBC S2E1).

As Musical Director of The Swingles for seven years, Joanna led the group in performances across the globe as well as directing and producing six albums. Through her choral coaching, she shares her experience and expertise with choirs both amateur and professional, particularly with her popular “You can sing…but can you swing?!” workshop. In 2018 Joanna made history by organising and conducting the first-ever, all-female recording session at Abbey Road Studios. Twenty-first-century Woman was released as a charity single on International Women’s Day 2019. The music video features cameo appearances from a host of female celebrities including Prue Leith and Joanna Lumley. Joanna is the founder and artistic director of the all-female vocal group AQUILA.