Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Community Women’s Orchestra to Perform Hillary Tann

by sarah - March 3, 2015

CWO-logoThe Community Women’s Orchestra, based in Oakland, CA, was begun as an offshoot of The Women’s Philharmonic.  It was established in 1985 by Nan Washburn and continues to flourish.  From the start CWO has had a clear mission:

The Community Women’s Orchestra provides a fun, welcoming environment to promote women in music.

All of the 60+ players are women, and they all volunteer their time.  Each concert includes at least one work by a woman composer, whether living or historic.  The concert scheduled for this weekend will feature a work by Hilary Tann.  Sarsen was inspired by various “standing stones” in nature.  More information about the piece, as well as a recording, is available on Tann’s website.

More information about tickets is available here.  You can also check out the CWO’s store to pick up a recording and support their work!

Interview with Caroline Shaw

by sarah - March 2, 2015

New Music Box just posted a fabulous conversation with Pulitzer Prize winning composer Caroline Shaw.  At the time she won the Pulitzer much was made about her age (she was only 30 – the youngest ever person to win) and her training, or lack thereof.  You can listen to the award winning piece, Partita for 8 Voices, on her website.

Since winning in 2013, her work has continued to flourish.  Shaw’s approach to music and composition is extraordinary, and refreshing.  She has been commissioned quite often, and her first work for orchestra, Lo, will be premiered by the Cincinnati Symphony on March 13.

Please visit New Music Box and read the full article.  Here is a bit of the interview:

Solar Winds at Brandeis University

by sarah - February 27, 2015

This Saturday (February 28) Solar Winds will present a not-to-be missed concert at Brandeis University.  This poster says it all:


From their website:

On February 28 at Brandeis University, Solar Winds will perform a concert of wind quintets composed entirely by women.  The compositions are varied, entertaining, and musically significant.

The concert opens with a brief and graceful Pastorale by Amy Beach – or “Mrs. H. H. A. Beach” as her husband insisted she call herself while he lived. Beach (1867-1944), a New Hampshire native, was a virtuoso pianist and self-taught composer, who struggled with magnificent success against the male-dominated musical hierarchy of her day.

The musical idiom changes abruptly with the second piece on the program, Ruth Crawford-Seeger’s Suite for Wind Quintet. Crawford-Seeger (1901-1953) was an expert in the field of American folk music (and the step-mother of Pete Seeger), but she lived a double musical life as an “ultramodernist” composer. The Suite, her last composition, is an exciting, atonal work, proving – as one critic condescendingly said of her – that Crawford-Seeger could “sling dissonances like a man.”

Claude Arrieu was the pseudonym of Louise Marie Simon (1903-1990). She was a prolific composer of orchestral, chamber, vocal, and film music. Her Quintet in C, published in 1954, is a brilliant recollection of the French neo-classical style with the charm and bite reminiscent of Francis Poulenc. Celebrated in her day (she was awarded the Légion d’honneur), Arrieu is now largely forgotten – a loss to music lovers everywhere.

After the intermission, Solar Winds returns to the United States and a work by the contemporary composer Julia Wolfe (born 1958). On Seven-Star-Shoes is a driving, percussive, sometimes violent work that combines the idiom of Eliot Carter with the attitude of punk rock.

The final offering on the program is Louise Farrenc’s Sextet for piano and winds. Farrenc (1804-1875) was arguably the greatest woman composer of the nineteenth century. The only female professor at the Paris Conservatory, she gained renown in her lifetime for her chamber and piano compositions. Her reputation languished for 100 years, but she has recently – and rightfully – been rediscovered as a brilliant and passionate practitioner of the early romantic style, the musical terrain where Beethoven meets Schumann. Solar Winds is joined by pianist John Kramer for this exciting finale to their concert.

Tickets available at the door!

NEW DISCOVERIES of Florence Price’s Music revealed in Arkansas Festival!!

by Liane Curtis - February 26, 2015

The historic importance of Florence Price (1887–1953), as the first African American woman to have a Symphony performed by a major orchestra, has been recognized.  However, while she had some success in her lifetime, after she died very little of her music remained the performing repertoire. A few of her songs were known — after all she was championed by Marian Anderson  — but her orchestral music was unknown until the 2001 recording by The Women’s Philharmonic.

Recently, progress has been made: two of her symphonies have been published, and conductor Mei Ann Chen has taken up Florence Price, performing her with the Chicago Symphony, the Chicago Sinfonietta, the San Diego Symphony, as we noted in 2013, and then last fall with the Alabama Symphony.   And a room was just dedicated to her at the Berklee College of music.

But a major breakthrough has taken place at the University of Arkansas.  Apparently a great deal of Price’s music was simply abandoned after she died, and it was (amazingly) discovered in the Chicago house where she had lived — the house itself was also abandoned.  Fortunately, these materials wound up in the University of Arkansas Special Collections (which already had a major collection of Price materials), and the University just sponsored a significant festival which included many world premieres of this newly found music.  The program for the festival is listed here with a more detailed version in this PDF document.

In 2011 the University of Arkansas’ Special Collections library acquired a number of her scores, photos and other documents that had been lost for decades in the attic of an abandoned home in the Chicago area.  This included music which has either never been performed or has not been performed for at least 60 years.  A number of these newly recovered songs, piano pieces, chamber works, and her first orchestral composition, “Ethiopia’s Shadow in America,” will be performed by guest performers and faculty and students from the University of Arkansas throughout the festival.   

Florence Price, photo courtesy the Univ. of Arkansas, Special Collections

Florence Price, photo courtesy the Univ. of Arkansas, Special Collections

So many works by women have been lost to dumpsters and trash bins, and it is quite miraculous that these works by Florence Price would be recovered all these years after her death.  Here Prof. Rae Linda Brown (Assoc. Provost at Loyola Marymount University) explains what the new discoveries mean for our understanding of Florence Price, and what it meant to be a composer who was a woman, black, and American in the mid-20th century.  Astoundingly, the discovery includes two symphonies and two concertos that were previously believed to be lost (!!!)

“Performance today” — on PRI, Feb. 26, 2015,  features Price and the Arkansas Festival in their second hour, so you get the wonderful opportunity to hear a string quartet by Price, from 1929, in what is believed to be its world premiere.  The performance of the quartet begins at 10:12.  The first movement impresses me as a tone poem: at times evocative, moody, playful, and atmospheric, expressed in a seamless flow.  It is played with great warmth and sensitivity by the Northwest Arkansas String Quartet: Er-Gene Kahng, violin; Ryan Cockerham, violin; Tazonio Anderson, viola; Patrick Bellah, cello.  The second movement is a heartrending spiritual type of melody (Andante moderato) that frames a playful dance section (Allegretto).  You can also watch a video of the last section of the second movement;  it is very beautiful to watch!   And Prof. James Greeson, of the Univ. of Arkansas, has made six other performances from the festival available on his Vimeo Page (thank you!).  These include the Andante from Price’s “Ethiopia’s Shadow in America” with the Univ. of Arkansas Symphony conducted by Dr. Robert Mueller.

I am sorry I missed the Festival, but thank you to the Univ. of Arkansas for organizing it, and for preserving and making available these remarkable discoveries about a composer who we can now begin to appreciate more completely.


Virginia Symphony Premieres Larsen

by sarah - February 26, 2015

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra, winner of a 2014 Performance Grant, will give the World Premiere of a new version of Libby Larsen’s Four on the Floor this weekend.  Originally composed for violin, cello, double bass and piano, Larsen has re-orchestrated the work for string orchestra and piano.


JoAnn Falletta, conductor of the Virginia Symphony, worked closely with Libby Larsen when Falletta was conductor of The Women’s Philharmonic.  She approached Larsen directly about re-imagining this work for string orchestra.

Tickets and more information here – for those of us who can’t attend, the program notes are available online.

Here’s a recording of the American Modern Ensemble performing the original version of Four on the Floor:

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