Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Concerts of Old and New Music

by sarah - January 18th, 2017

We’re always thrilled to share announcements of coming concerts featuring works by women composers!  This week we are especially thrilled to see two ensembles who are embracing contemporary and historic composers in their performances.

The Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra will be performing at an Alumni Even in Chicago on January 21 and at the college on January 24.  Every work on the program was composed by a woman.  The pieces include Louise Farrenc’s Symphony No. 3, Karen LeFrak’s Ivan’s Song, and Nkeiru Okoye’s Songs of Harriet Tubman and Invitation to a Die-In.  We at WPA are thrilled to support this concert in part through a WPA Performance Grant!  The excellent programming demonstrates how the diverse, engaging, and relevant women’s work in music continues to be – and how more of it deserves to be heard on concert stages.  Find out more information about the concert in Chicago here, and the free event at Mount Holyoke College here.

Also this weekend, the Michigan Philharmonic, led by Nan Washburn, will perform Judith Shatin’s Spin and Louise Farrenc’s Nonet in E-Flat Major, Op. 38, on January 20 and January 22.

The concert, titled “Miniature Masterpieces” also includes Serenade for Flute, Harp, and String Quartet by William Grant Still – an often ignored African American composer.  Find out more information, and purchase tickets, here.

And be sure to have a listen to some of the music being performed this weekend below:

Nkeiru Okoye

by Liane Curtis - March 11th, 2014

Nkeiru Okoye was born in New York (1972), and growing up, frequently visited her father’s native Nigeria.  She won a song-writing competition at age 13, and decided to study composition seriously.   She received degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory (BA) and Rutgers University (MA and Ph.D.).

I got to know Okoye’s music through her work The Journey of Phillis Wheatley, for narrator and orchestra.  It was commissioned and performed by the Landmarks Orchestra of Boston, and recorded by the Moscow Symphony, led by the Landmarks Orchestra’s late founder and director Charles Ansbacher.

Nkeiru Okoye

A narrator represents Phillis Wheatley, and different themes and musical instruments represent different characters and elements of the story. Her life in Senegal is  depicted, as is her kidnapping and being sold as a slave, getting used to her new life in Boston, and finally, becoming a successful and acclaimed poet. The musical themes are truly charming and combined very engaging way.  It’s a lovely way for children to learn about the orchestra as well as about the poet Phillis Wheatley, her life and achievements.

More recently, Okoye has been writing a folk opera, Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line To Freedom.  Its music is “rooted in traditional African-American folk idioms,” according to Okoye. “There are elements of gospel, jazz, blues, and then you hear a ‘field holler,’ you hear ragtime, work songs and there are things that sound like spirituals throughout the opera.”  The composer studied Tubman’s life in detail and worked to write music that would be true to her experience.

Here is an article on how Okoye came to be an opera composer.  Here is Okoye’s own website about the Harriet Tubman opera (includes audio clips), and here is an article about the opera.