Caroline is a PhD candidate at Royal Holloway specialising in Early Modern English convent music. She has a Master’s degree from Royal Holloway and a Bachelor’s in Music (first-class with honours) from the University of Edinburgh.
Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Caroline originally trained as a violist at the University of Michigan junior conservatoire and Huron High School arts programme. Upon embarking on an academic music degree, she recognised her love for composition and history, and realised how intertwined the two were. Since then, she has been immersed in some of the world’s top early music scenes, and has worked hard to promote feminist historiography in early music performance circles.
Over her time as a Bachelor’s student, Caroline studied conducting with Greg Batsleer and Russell Cowieson. She also completed a choral conducting internship with the Scottish Chamber Choir, under Iain McLarty. Caroline has conducted the Information Services Group Choir, New College Choir at the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Dick Veterinary School Orchestra, and served as Musical Director for Le Petit Verre Opera Production’s premiere production, Hansel and Gretel. She has also assisted as conductor with the Dalkeith Singers, the Edinburgh Practice Choir, the choir of Greyfriars Kirk, and the tour choir of the Edinburgh University Singers (alongside Dr. John Kitchen, MBE). In 2016, Caroline started a mixed voice choir called Voces Inauditae, an ensemble dedicated to the integration of lesser known composers into the world of choral music, with an emphasis on gender equality. At least half of each programme contain music by female composers. They also work to include composers from traditionally marginalised social groups, as well as giving up-and-coming composers the chance to premiere their work.
Also whilst at Edinburgh, Caroline was a choral scholar at Greyfriars Kirk for two years, and is finishing one year at Morningside Parish Church. She regularly deputised around Edinburgh, including the Robin Chapel, St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, and St. Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral. In the past, she has sung with the Edinburgh University Singers, the Reid Consort, Pusey House (Oxford), and the Bethlehem United Church of Christ Chancel Choir. In the past, she has served as co-principal violist of the Edinburgh University Music Society Symphony Orchestra, Edinburgh University Chamber Orchestra, Michigan Youth Symphony Orchestra, and the Edinburgh Charity Orchestra.
As a composer, Caroline has previously studied primarily with Gareth Williams and Peter Nelson, as well as briefly with John Traill. Caroline’s compositions have been performed around the country, featuring performances by Christ Church Cathedral Choir, the Edinburgh Composer’s Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, St. John’s Chapel (Oxford), Wolfson College Choir (Oxford), and more. She was recently the student Composer-in-Residence at the Picture Gallery of Royal Holloway, in conjunction with the New Voices Consort, in which she wrote a re-interpretation of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’, exploring protrayals of motherhood, breastfeeding/breasts, and women as parents.
Caroline’s research revolves around the music of 17th- and early 18th-century English convents in exile. She has featured as a singer-scholar on multiple concert projects featuring her research at Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, such as The Life of St Frideswide (October 2019 in collaboration with Korrigan Consort and lutenist Liz Kenny) and ‘To Play King’: Baroque Music of Court and Cloister (August 2021 in collaboration with Sub Rosa). She has also co-led multiple projects at Oxford University, including The Gentlewomen (an opera collage exploring femicide, music, and the 16th century Ferrarese ensemble the Concerto delle Donne, funded by TORCH, February of 2020 ) and the mini-documentary Doors, Dwellings, and Devotion: Recreating an Anchoritic Rite of Enclosure (funded by the John Fell OUP fund in collaboration with the Oxford University Music Faculty, August 2021).
Caroline is currently active as a singer and freelance violist/violinist in Oxford.
- ‘Regina Caeli’ Multitude of Voyces’ Anthology of Sacred Music by Women Composers , Volume 2 – Upper Voices Anthems (Stainer & Bell 2019), featuring Caroline’s reconstruction of an antiphon from St Monica’s English Augustinian convent in Louvain.
- Lizzy Buckle. Caroline Lesemann-Elliott. Alexander Norman. Adrian So. ‘Virtual Baroque in Birmingham.‘ Early Music (2021) caab066
- Caroline Lesemann-Elliott. ‘Review of “Both From the Ears & Mind: Thinking about Music in Early Modern England” by Linda Phyllis Austern‘ Early Music (November 2022)
- ‘Unsuitable for Evensong: Examining Exclusion and Diversity in the Repertoire of Oxford Collegiate Anglican Choirs’ in The Routledge Companion to Women and Musical Leadership: the Nineteenth Century and Beyond, eds. Helen Julia Minors, Laura Hamer (Oxford: Routledge, in press, expected publication 2023)
Selected Conference appearances
- International Women and/in Musical Leadership Conference, Open University/London, March 8, 2019: ‘Developing Approaches to Integration of Works by Female Composers Into Sacred Choral Repertoire: An Oxford-Based Ethnography‘
- Medieval and Renaissance Music conference (MedRen), Lisbon/online, July 7, 2021: ‘Wimple Wars: Music at the Centre of Controversies at the Monastery of the Glorious Assumption of Our Blessed Lady in Brussels‘
- Biennial Baroque Music conference, University of Birmingham/online, July 17, 2021: ‘“Not without teares on our Neighbor’s side:” The Spatialization of Music in Exiled English convents 1624-1724‘
- The Spatial 18th Century, University of York/online, November 4, 2021: ‘Invisible female engines: Gender, Space, and Displacement in the 17th-century Parisian soundscape‘
- Society for Study of French History, University of Oxford (Exeter College), April 12, 2022 ‘From Versailles to YouTube: Encounters With Redface in French Baroque Opera, Then and Now‘ (in collaboration with keyboardist/Lusitano scholar Joseph McHardy)
- ‘Benedictines, Bonfires, and Basilindas: Politics, Religion, and Celebratory Music at English Convents in Exile, 1660-1700‘ Music, Creativity, and Culture in England, 1642-88 Conference & Concert, May 21, 2022
- In collaboration with George Haggett (Magdalen College, Oxford) and Eliza Jane Cassey (Huddersfield University). ‘Doors, Dwellings, Devotions: Enacting an Anchoritic Rite of Enclosure on Film‘ at the International Congress for Medieval Studies, University of Kalamzoo/online, May 10, 2022; 50th MedRen Conference, University of Uppsala/online, July 6, 2022
- Catholic Record Society Annual Conference, The Bar Convent (York), July 12, 2022 ‘“One may truely say she breathed out her soule:” Liminal Women and Spiritual Singing at Exiled English Convents, 1640-1700’