Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

HAPPY 150th BIRTHDAY, AMY BEACH!!

by Chris Trotman - September 4th, 2017

As this year marks Amy Beach’s 150th birthday, much is being done in celebration about this remarkable woman’s life and work! Numerous orchestras, choral ensembles, chamber ensembles and soloists around the world have performed or will be performing works by the pioneering American composer/pianist this year and next in celebration.  There are new recordings available this year featuring her works and new scholarship has and will be written about her.  Additionally, new musical editions, both revised and published for the first time, are available by a variety of publishers, such as Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy Publications!

Here are a few highlights of what is happening for her birthday celebration –

1) The City of Boston will be declaring September 5th as Amy Beach Day! (a separate post will be made with more information!)

2) The upcoming Amy Beach/Teresa Carreño Conference at University of New Hampshire on Sept. 15 & 16

3) An article entitled “Amy Beach, a Pioneering American Composer, Turns 150” by musicologist William Robin featured in the NYTimes!

4) An article entitled “Amy Beach First Female Composer to Have Her Music Played by a Major Orchestra” by Troy Lennon, Classmate and History Editor of The Daily Telegraph in New South Wales, Australia!

5) A number of orchestras have and will be performing Beach’s monumental “Gaelic” Symphony in E minor, Op. 32 Bal Masqué, Op. 22, and others (some using Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy Publications’ revised editions) as well as choral ensembles performing her Grand Mass in E-flat, Op. 5! (Keep watching our news feed as we post about upcoming concerts!)

New (and Remembered) Works

by sarah - April 28th, 2017

More great concerts – and very different concert experiences – to enjoy this weekend!

The Moravian College Choir, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is presenting the premiere of a new edition of Amy Beach’s Mass on April 29.  The work, composed when Beach was only 19, is believed to be the first Mass composed by an American woman.  In a years long project, Dr. Paula Ring Zerkle, worked to make corrections, reconstruct parts, and create an edition that can be easily accessed and performed widely.  We look forward to the forthcoming recording and publication of the work!  More information about the concert can be found here.   How wonderful to have the piece remembered in this sesquicentennial celebration year of Amy Beach’s life!  And fitting, too, that the performance is happening at Moravian College – the sixth oldest college in the United States, founded in 1742 by a sixteen year old girl to promote education for everyone!)

 


On Tuesday, May 2, the Cincinnati Soundbox Orchestra will present four(!) world premieres – each a new concerto written by a contemporary woman composer.  The composers include Stephanie Ann Boyd, Rachel C. Walker, Cristina Spinei, and Laura Harrison.  Learn more about the New Concerto Project here, and more about the composers and performers here.  The concert will be presented at the Leapin’ Lizard Events Space in Covington, KY – tickets and info here!

Choral Work by Ethel Smyth in U.S. Premiere—May 14-1

by Liane Curtis - May 12th, 2016

UPDATE: Read a review of the “The Prison”s American debut.

While composer Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) has some name recognition, one of her most important works, the concert-length cantata “The Prison”, has never been performed in the U.S.. An amazing NYC- choir, Cantori, will perform the work May 14 & 15.  Please help to spread the word!!

Smyth is beginning to achieve her deserved  acclaim for her music, acclaim that was denied in her lifetime and the decades following.  High-profile performances of her monumental works has brought about this sea-change, including last summer’s U.S.  premiere staged performance of her great opera, “The Wreckers,” and the  New York premiere of Smyth’s Mass (in Carnegie Hall) in 2013.  We are thrilled that this long-overdue performance of “The Prison” will be offered by this outstanding choral ensemble, Cantori, directed by Mark Shapiro (who led the 2013 Mass performance).   Composed in 1930, and based on a text by Smyth’s dear friend and lover, Henry Brewster, the work is a dialogue between a prisoner and his soul, portrayed by soprano and baritone soloists.   Smyth chose this phrase as a motto for the work:  “I am striving to release that which is divine within us, and to merge it in the universally divine.”

Brewster had died in 1908, and one of Smyth’s goals in setting his words to music, was to bring his writing to the attention of a wider audience.  The text is drawn from his philosophical book “The Prison”  and the phrase quoted above is by the Greek philosopher Plotinus.  Smyth underscores this connection with ancient Greece by quoting two Greek melodic fragments which had only recently been deciphered.  Seeking to avoid the religious associations of the genres of cantata or oratorio,  Smyth labelled the work as a “Symphony.”  Yet some authors have compared it to the genre of opera, since it includes dramatic elements,  including the dialogue by the two soloists, the active role by the chorus, and vivid, atmospheric instrumental tone-poems, along the lines of the ones that she wrote for “The Wreckers.”  smyth

While other works by Smyth have been recorded, “The Prison” has escaped attention so far.  How is it that this crowning work by this well-known composer has not previously been performed in the U.S.?   Is it because audiences and ensembles prefer the more light-weight fare, or the repetition of familiar warhorses?  We hope that this performance will offer a thoughtful and significant alternative that will be recognized and taken up soon by more ensembles.

 

No Excuses Project

by sarah - November 18th, 2015

11751438_756176284528858_8747185133939949961_nWe are thrilled for the continued success – and social activism through music – of WPA Board Member, composer, conductor, and educator Kathleen McGuire.  We wrote last year about the premieres and acclaim that her collaborative project Street Requiem received in Texas as well as California (including a recent award from The American Prize).  Her new project, titled NO EXCUSES, is a collaboration with Christina Green focusing on the effects of domestic violence.  The work will receive its world premiere this weekend at the Big West Festival in Melbourne, Australia.

This fantastic project has been co-sponsored by the Big West Festival and is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.  The all-woman chorus and instrumental ensemble consists of members of the larger community as well as members of Footscray Yarraville City Band, Only Women Aloud, Western Health Choir, Voices of Brimbank, Victoria University Choir, Brimbank Multicultural Choir, Brunswick Secondary College, Divas of Sunbury, McAuley House Choir, and the School of Hard Knocks.

The combination of the original compositions, women’s choir, and the sharing of true experiences (to which the community submitted contributions earlier this year) I have no doubt, created a powerful, moving, and meaningful performance.  Family violence is a devastating and systemic problem throughout the world.  This project not only calls attention to the problem but creates a forum for discussion, healing, and an opportunity to move forward.  I am so sorry to have missed the World Premiere performance – but have no doubt that the success of this project will mean that, like Street Requiem, it is only a matter of time before the work, the spirit, and the activism inherent in the NO EXCUSES project will find an audience with a US premiere.

The project is ongoing and will be expanded with more songs in the suite for further performances in 2016 including International Women’s Day and Melbourne International Singers Festival.  Follow project updates on the NO EXCUSES Facebook Page, listen to an archived radio story about the project on ABC News Australia, and read more about Kathleen McGuire’s work at The Weekly Review.

“Street Requiem” by Kathleen McGuire in US Premiere

by sarah - January 8th, 2015

A new Cantata, by composer and conductor Kathleen McGuire, working in collaboration with Andy Payne and Jonathon Welch, will receive its US premiere on January 25 in Dallas.  The Cantata, Street Requiem, was written to “bring a sense of peace, remembrance and hope to many communities struggling with homelessness and street violence.”

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From the composers:

It is a highly accessible, contemporary work including English, African and Persian lyrics alongside a modern setting of the traditional Latin texts. While at times deeply moving, the work is essentially optimistic and uplifting. As composers we utilised gospel, Celtic, neo-Romantic, neo-Baroque, Indigenous and contemporary genres and instrumentation to reflect the multicultural and multi-faith traditions of modern city living. The harmonic language finds common ground in the work’s multiple styles by building upon chant and folk music-influenced open fourth and fifth intervals, with melodies drawn from pentatonic scales and various modes.

From the outset we endeavoured to create an inclusive work to which people from various backgrounds and traditions could relate. Although it is anchored in the Latin of the traditional requiem mass, we incorporated English texts relevant to a modern day context. STREET REQUIEM is deliberately neither secular nor religious, intended instead to be deeply spiritual, allowing listeners to find their own faith or meaning in the context of the words.

What I appreciate most about Street Requiem is the inclusive nature of the work.  Written with community choirs in mind, it invites whole communities to acknowledge, address, and discuss these important issues together – and, further, to work together in finding a better path forward.

The piece was premiered in Australia in June 2014.  The Dallas performance features the renowned  Frederica von Stade with the Credo Choir, the Dallas Street Choir, and the Richland College Chamber Singers.  The performance will be conducted by Dr. Jonathan Palant, the founder of the newly organized Dallas Street Choir.   Learn more about the work and the upcoming performance here.  If you are interested, but can’t attend, a recording of the work can be purchased on iTunes.

As homelessness continues to grow, it is time a work of music addressed this issue that affects so many.