Dr Ceri Owen

Dr Ceri Owen

Department of Music
Lecturer in Performance and Director of Performance

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am a prize-winning pianist, researcher, and writer. I work on music and identity formations, music and biography/life-writing, and on song and song performance. I have written about these topics with reference to music, composers, performers, and performance in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century. My research grows out of and informs my work as a professional pianist, in which I specialize as a song accompanist. I also work with traditional and folk musicians.



  • BA in Music, University of Oxford
  • MPhil in Musicology, University of Cambridge
  • DPhil in Music, University of Oxford
  • AGSM and MPerf in Song Accompaniment and Chamber Music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London



I'm a prize-winning pianist, academic, and writer. I'm currently writing a new biography of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams for Reaktion Books. I'm also editing and writing for a book of essays about Vaughan Williams for Cambridge University Press. This work grows out of an AHRC-funded DPhil (PhD) at the University of Oxford.

I've published articles for leading international peer-review journals, as well as writing for broader audiences, contributing to concert programmes, CD liner notes, and other fora.

In my research I'm interested in music and identity formations, music and biography/life-writing, and in song and song performance. I've written about these topics with reference to British music, composers, and performers active during the first half of the twentieth century.

As a performer I specialize as a collaborative pianist; recent projects have included an evening recital debut at London's Wigmore Hall with my longstanding collaborator, baritone Dominic Sedgwick (a former Jette Parker Young Artist at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden); and the creation and performance of a semi-improvised film score for the 1934 documentary Man of Aran with two of Ireland's leading traditional musicians, the harper and sound artist Úna Monaghan and the singer Síle Denvir, for Belfast's Docs Ireland Film Festival. The score explores a unique and unusual sound world by drawing together classical piano; Irish traditional harp, concertina, and singing; live electronics; and soundscape. Building on and departing from traditional music and song, we find tensions and common ground between Western classical traditions and Irish and Welsh traditional music, computer music, and noise. This project will be mounted again in Ireland during 2022.

Over the past years I've given recitals at some of the UK's leading concert halls, including the Barbican Hall, Kings Place, and St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, and as part of the BBC Proms Festival. I've made both live and recorded broadcasts for BBC Radio 3. I was awarded the Pianist's Prizes at the Grange Festival International Singing Competition (2017) and the John Kerr English Song Award (2018). 

I enjoy communicating with audiences both as a performer and a speaker; I'm regularly invited to give lectures and talks at national and international Festivals, and in 2020 I was a guest speaker for the Chamber Music Society of Philadelphia's Emerging Voices project.

I've also contributed as an expert speaker about Vaughan Williams to BBC Radio 3 programmes including The Proms and Music Matters.

At Birmingham I relish the opportunity to draw on all my experience to teach a range of topics, both academic and practical; I especially enjoy working closely with students in preparation for their assessed recital performances.

A first-language Welsh speaker, I attended my local comprehensive school in North Wales before studying Music at Magdalen College, University of Oxford, graduating with a First in 2006. I later returned to the University of Oxford to read for my DPhil (PhD), funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, and was appointed a Lecturer in Music at Oxford during these years. I further hold an MPhil in Musicology with Distinction from the University of Cambridge. I trained first as a solo pianist and later as a song accompanist at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, taking lessons with Martin Roscoe, Caroline Palmer, and Andrew West. My study was funded by numerous bodies including Help Musicians UK. I then joined the staff at the GSMD, as a Fellow in Song Accompaniment. 

Before joining the Music Department at Birmingham, I completed a three-year Research Fellowship at Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge, where I began work on my current books and taught both undergraduate and postgraduate students. I also founded a new Cambridge Song festival during these years.


I convene and teach on all undergraduate and postgraduate performance modules. I also teach the historical module Ralph Vaughan Williams and his World.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome enquiries from students interested in music and identity formations; music and biography/life-writing; song and song performance; and music in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century.

Find out more - our Music postgraduate study  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


I am broadly interested in music and identity formations, music and biography/life-writing, and in song and song performance.

As a performer I work closely with singers, and specialize in song and song accompaniment. 


Recent publications


Owen, C & Onderdonk, J (eds) 2023, Vaughan Williams in Context. Composers in Context, Cambridge University Press.


Taylor, B & Owen, C 2017, 'Introduction Subjectivity in European Song: Time, Place, and Identity', Nineteenth Century Music, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 185-8. <https://online.ucpress.edu/ncm/issue/40/3>

Owen, C 2017, 'On singing and listening in Vaughan Williams's early songs', Nineteenth Century Music, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 257-282. https://doi.org/10.1525/ncm.2017.40.3.257

Owen, C 2016, 'Making an English voice: performing national identity during the English musical renaissance', Twentieth-Century Music, vol. 13, no. 1: Voice, pp. 77-101. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1478572215000183

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Owen, C 2022, Vaughan Williams, The Letter and the Spirit. in B Adams & DMG (eds), Ralph Vaughan Williams and his World. Chicago University Press.

Book/Film/Article review

Owen, C 2017, 'The Sea in the British Musical Imagination', Music and Letters, vol. 98, no. 1, pp. 150-2. <https://academic.oup.com/ml/article-abstract/98/1/150/3813294>

Other contribution

Owen, C & Sedgwick, D 2019, Professional Performance: Evening Song Recital, Wigmore Hall, London..

Owen, C 2018, Like Madness is the Glory of Life - Music Theatre Piece, Princess Alexandra Hall, Royal Overseas-League, London..

Owen, C 2018, Liner Note, Vaughan Williams Mass in G Minor, St John's College Choir, Cambridge. St John's Cambridge/Signum.


Owen, C, Professional performance, LSO St Luke's, London, 2022, Performance.

Owen, C, Monaghan, Ú & Denvir, S, Professional Performance: Live film score for Docs Ireland Film Festival, Belfast, 2019, Performance.

View all publications in research portal


  • Twentieth-century music
  • Song and song performance 
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • Music and biography
  • Music in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century
  • Welsh music and musical culture 

Languages and other information

Welsh (first language)

Media experience

BBC Radio 3: Proms Plus; Music Matters; In Tune

Culture and collections

Schools, institutes and departments

Services and facilities