Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Monday Link Round Up: August 28, 2017

by sarah - August 28th, 2017

News to start your week!

WQXR had a blog post this week highlighting historical figures who also wrote music.  Included in their list is Catherine the Great – though she was a librettist, not a composer.  What a shame to not include at least a few other female historical figures who composed, like: Anne Boleyn; Princess Amalie of Saxony; Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia; Duchess Maria Antonia, Princess of Bavaria; and Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii.


Fiona Maddocks of The Guardian interviewed Hannah Kendall before the world premiere of her composition, Spark Catchers, at the BBC Proms on August 30.  Kendall, a British composer, is already making a name for herself in the UK and beyond.  Learn more about her music, background, and the continued challenges women and people of color face in classical music here.


Wired profiles the work of electronic composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.  Learn more, and listen in to her work, here.


What did we miss?  What are you reading?  Let us know!

Proms 2017 – By the Numbers

by sarah - June 7th, 2017

It’s once again Proms Season!  And that means it’s time once again to look at representation.  There have already been conversations about certain lacking aspects – not only the lack of women composers, but the overall lack of representation of people (including conductors) of color.  (See more at On an Overgrown Path: http://www.overgrownpath.com/2017/05/is-one-of-these-next-mirga-grazinyte.html) But here is our look and break down of who is, and isn’t, being heard.  


There are 75 Proms, as well as several extra concerts, lectures, films, poetry readings, and other events.  We took a look at all of the music being performed as part of the numbered Proms (where the information was most readily available for composers, works being performed, and timings), as well as the un-numbered events (where information was available) and did some analysis of the works that will be heard this year.  Unfortunately,  not all of the concerts listed specific information – though, largely, the omitted performances are of what is largely considered popular music, not Western Art Music.  For an example, Prom 27 features the work of Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie, but no specific works are listed.

According to our counts, there are 243 individual works being performed in the 2017 season (some of which will be performed multiple times, but we didn’t include repeat performances in our counts), and the work of 118 different composers being performed – a total of 104 hours of music.

Of those 243 works, 11 works by women composers.


Of the 118 composers having works heard, 10 are women.

Of the 104 hours of music that will be heard this season, women’s music only accounts for a total of 2 hours.  In comparison, there are 4.5 hours of Mozart’s music being heard, and over 6 hours of works by Beethoven.  

Though the vast majority of composers being heard are of the typical Western Art Music variety (meaning: dead, white men), all of the women having works heard are contemporary.  Moreover, apart from some important names (like Master of the Queen’s Music Judith Weir and Pulitzer Prize winner Julia Wolfe) there are several up and coming composers included.  What a wonderful opportunity to introduce audiences to new names, and music, especially when finding a place in the performing world can be so difficult.  Most of the works are also receiving some kind of premiere – and several works were commissioned by, or in conjunction with, the BBC.

Julia WolfeBig Beautiful Dark and ScaryProm 44 - August 17London Premiere
Lotta WennakoskiFlounceProm 75 - September 9BBC Commission: World Premiere
Missy MazzoliSinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres)Prom 70 - September 5European Premiere of Orchestral Version
Grace WilliamsSea Sketches
High Wind
Calm Sea in Summer
Proms at [email protected] Dock - July 22
Cheryl Frances-HoadChorale Prelude 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott'Prom 47 - August 20BBC Commission: World Premiere
Kate WhitleyI am I sayProms at ... Bold Tendencies Multi-Storey Car Park, Peckham - August 26
Andrea TarrodiLiguriaProm 61 - August 30UK Premiere
Judith WeirIn the Land of UzProms at Southwark Cathedral - August 12BBC Commission: World Premiere
Rebecca SaundersMolly's Song 3Proms at Wilton's Music Hall - September 2
Hannah KendallThe Spark CatchersProm 62 - August 30BBC Commission: World Premiere

That said, the total lack of historic women composers is (as always) disappointing.  This is especially true when there are so many fantastic works published and available, in particular of British composers.  Though there are certainly efforts being made, as evident in featuring Chineke! in Prom 62, there it still feels as the smallest effort, especially after so many continued conversations about the importance of representation on concert stages and in concert programs.  

For now, have a listen below to the work of the women composers who will be heard this year at the BBC Proms:


Monday Link Round Up: September 5, 2016

by sarah - September 5th, 2016

Happy Labor Day!  Here is some news to enjoy over the holiday, and to start your week!

I just found out about the Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award.  The prize awards a grant of $10,000 and a year of professional mentorship to an emerging female composer or composer/lyricist.  The 2016 application deadline has just been extended until September 9 – so help spread the word!  More information here.

An editorial in The Guardian highlights the lack of women conductors leading ensembles at the BBC Proms – but this piece isn’t without criticism.

Bob Shingleton, at On An Overgrown Path, responds with a reminder as to the importance not only of including more women conductors, but also more conductors of color.  Read his thoughts here  – with a followup on some conductors to include here.

And Sarah Tenant-Flowers responded with a reminder that the lack of women conductors is a problem not only in the orchestral world, but in the choral world as well.

The role of women as conductors is a hot topic at the moment – with another article about women “Cracking a Glass Ceiling With the Maestro’s Baton” by Michael Cooper in The New York Times.  

As always – let us know what we missed!  What are you reading?  Leave a link in a comment below.

Monday Link Round Up: August 29, 2016

by sarah - August 29th, 2016

News to start your week!

ICYMI we are celebrating the 130th birthday of Rebecca Carke!  Read more about Clarke’s life, music, and legacy here – or at The Rebecca Clarke Society!

The reviews are in from the City of Birmingham’s performance at the BBC Proms, and The Guardian called the performance, led by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, “spellbinding” and “bewitching”. Read the review here – and listen to the performance online here.

Composer Sally Beamish has a fabulous piece in The Guardian describing her early years as a musician and composer – and the inspiration for a new work being premiered today at the Proms.  Read the full piece here – you won’t be sorry!

And the Huffington Post has an article by New England Conservatory faculty member and singer Cristi Catt.  She writes about Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum and how her study of the work has opened up opportunities around the world.  Read her piece here.

As always, let us know what we missed!  What are you reading?  Leave a link in a comment below!

Works by Women at the 2016 BBC Proms

by sarah - July 14th, 2016


The most anticipated and celebrated summer festival each year — as well as one of the oldest, and longest, running from July to September.  The Proms always presents an interesting range of ensembles, conductors, soloists, and styles.  The 2016 season kicks off on Friday, July 15, demonstrating that this season is going to be much as last years.  Meaning:  what the Proms continues to be missing, like most music line-ups around the world, is equal representation (or something close to it).  Compared to last year the 2016 lineup is a bit – well – lacking.  Which isn’t to say that there are some excellent treasures included.

Works by Women Composers

Prom 4: The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra; Valery Gergiev, conductor

Galina Ustvolskaya: Symphony No. 3, ‘Jesus Messiah, Save Us!’

Prom 10 and Prom 12: Ten Pieces II presented by the BBC Philharmonic; Alpesh Chauhan, conductor
[Reprising a similar event held last year which includes works included in a new curriculum for secondary school students across the UK exploring “essential” pieces of classical music.]

Anna Clyne: Night Ferry

Prom 22: BBC Symphony Orchestra; Edward Gardner, conductor

Lera Auerbach: Infant Minstrel and His Peculiar Menagerie (Symphony No. 3)
BBC co-commission with the Bergen Philharmonic and the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande: UK Premiere

Prom 27: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Thomas Dausgaard, conductor

Helen Grime: Two Eardley Pictures – 1: Catterline in Winter
BBC Commission: world premiere

Prom 29: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain; Edward Garner, conductor

Iris ter Schiphorst: Gravitational Waves
BBC co-commission with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain: London premiere

Prom 30: National Youth Orchestra of Scotland; Ilan Volkov, conductor

Helen Grime: Two Eardley Pictures – 2: Snow
BBC commission: world premiere

Prom 39: BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo, conductor

Charlotte Bray: Falling in the Fire
BBC Commission: world premiere

Prom 53: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Vasily Petrenko, conductor

Emily Howard: Torus (Concerto for Orchestra)
BBC co-commission with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra: world premiere

Proms Chamber Music 7: Armida Quartet

Sally Beamish : Merula perpetua
BBC co-commission with the Royal Philharmonic Society: world premiere

Marin Alsop has had the honor for the past two years of conducting the final night of the Proms – and was the first woman to do so.  Though Sakari Oramo has the honor this year, Alsop is conducting the Sao Paulo Symphony in Prom 51, though no women composers are included.  (Alsop is also conducing Verdi’s Requiem in Prom 74.)

The new conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Migra Gražinytė-Tyla, will be leading the ensemble in Prom 55 – but, again, no works by women will be heard.

And, as always, some perspective.  There are 112 composers represented in the 2016 Proms – 8 of whom are women.  Only one of those women will have more than one piece heard.  Unfortunately, and as we have come to anticipate there has been little progress since the 2015 Proms  – and, in fact we may be moving backwards.  (In 2015 there were 11 women composers represented, versus this year’s 8) .  Ustvolskaya (1919–2006) is the only historic woman, and her 14 minute Symphony is of course important, but even so, at 14 minutes it is the shortest of the four pieces on that program.   And isn’t it strange that (again) there will not be any performances of works by Master of the Queen’s Music Judith Weir?

It is noteworthy that so many of the works by women being heard are premieres and commissioned pieces by young, talented composers.  But it seems that the range of voices is still embarrassingly small.

The full list of events, including options to sort by composer, conductor, and performer, are available here.