Harriet Grainger


Harriet Grainger is a young British contemporary classical composer with a background in dance and as a pianist and cellist.

Her music suggests something unquiet with its stillness, bringing landscapes to life, and ‘creating a quiet moment of observation for the listener which stirs the soul’. Her music often concentrates on achieving an equilibrium between power and fragility, where delicate, sparse and weightless passages are often interrupted or tainted with darker tones and shadows. Harriet is also influenced by natural landscapes and geological landforms such as glaciers, tundra, deserts, caverns and the deep ocean.

Harriet attended the Royal College of Music in London as a RCM Award Holder supported by a Douglas and Hilda Simmonds scholarship, as a Clifton Parker Award Holder, and also received a Vaughan Williams Bursary from the RVW Trust. Prior to this she studied music composition at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, with a term spent studying abroad at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. Her primary composition professors have included Kenneth Hesketh, Lynne Plowman and Helena Tulve, and she has taken masterclasses with Oscar Bianchi, John Luther Adams, and Kaija Saariaho.

Harriet’s work has been performed and commissioned internationally, most recently in the United Kingdom, Austria, Italy, and China. Her music has been performed at venues and events such as the Royal Albert Hall’s Festival of Science: Space, BBC Hoddinott Hall, National Portrait Gallery London, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Leeds Lieder Festival, and Presteigne Festival of the Arts. Harriet has composed for ensembles including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with conductor Jac van Steen (Composition: Wales Programme 2016), Psappha (Composing For Pipa Programme 2022), Music Theatre Wales (Make An Aria Project 2015), Guiyang Symphony Orchestra, Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, and musicians of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Royal College of Music and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. She has attended international composition programmes including the Peter Reynolds Composers Studio (Vale of Glamorgan Festival, Cardiff), Vienna Summer Music Festival, ICEBERG New Music Institute (Vienna), the HighSCORE Festival (Pavia, Italy), Talis Festival & Academy (Sarajevo), and the International Young Composers Academy Ticino (Switzerland), where she composed new music premiered by Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart. Harriet has also recently been a Guest Composition Lecturer at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and has taught composition privately.

Over the past decade Harriet has undertaken ethnomusicological research projects in Indonesia, northern Scandinavia, Estonia and most recently in the Gansu Province in northwestern China in collaboration with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and Royal College of Music, which led to the commission and performances of ‘The Mountain Voices Echo’ for string orchestra and percussion, based upon the traditional songs of the Yugur women of the foothills of the Qilian Mountains.

Harriet was the recipient of the 2015 Philip Bates Trust Composition Prize and Audience Award at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Most recently she received a Composers Award from Sound and Music and was the Open Category winner of the Leamington Sinfonia Composition Competition. She is currently a Soundhub Associate Composer with the London Symphony Orchestra. 

Harriet lives in Stratford-upon-Avon, England and also works in the Learning Team at Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.