Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Monday Link Round Up: January 15, 2018

by sarah - January 15th, 2018

News to start your week!

Celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. by reflecting on the progress that has been made by trailblazers – like Nkeiru Okoye’s opera Harriet Tubman.  (Thea Musgrave also turned to the life of Harriet Tubman for an opera: Harriet, the Woman Called Moses.)  We can also look to the future, and the work being done by ensembles like The Dream Unfinished: An Activist Orchestra.


BachTrack – which lists classical music concerts and festivals worldwide – had completed their 2017 wrap up.  Their analysis of repertoire shares good insights – what works are performed in which countries (as to nationality and period), as well as statistics to gender.  Though women have yet to crack into the top 100 most performed composers (no surprise there), the number of women in the top 100 most active conductors has risen from 1 in 2013 to five in 2017.  Read more here.


The BBC Radio 3 will continue their tradition of honoring women composers on International Women’s Day (March 8) – and they are interested in including live performances this year!  Read more here about how to have an opportunity to perform works by women composers on the air!


Learn more about the Canadian Women Composers Project, and their upcoming concert January 21, from founder Clarisse Tonigussi at the Vancouver Courier.  Read more about the CWC Project, and their year long mission to bring performance of works by Canadian women to every province, on their website.


Monday Link Round Up: December 4, 2017

by sarah - December 4th, 2017

News to start your week!

Our Generosity Campaign is underway!  Help us raise funding so that we can continue to make positive impact with our Performance Grants, helping more professional, community, and student ensembles expand their repertoire to include works by women composers!  (And grab some fun thank you gifts!)

Frank Oteri at NewMusicBox had a great, and extensive, conversation with Scottish composer Thea Musgrave!  Read the conversation online here, and watch below:

The 2018 Grammy Award Nominees have been announced – including two different nominations for Jennifer Higdon!  (Best Classical Compendium for the recording of All Things Majestic, Viola Concerto & Oboe Concerto; Best Contemporary Classical Composition for her Viola Concerto).  The Viola Concerto was commissioned by the Library of Congress – read more about their relationship to the work, and how to watch a performance online, at the LOC blog, In the Muse.

Don’t forget to support the Compass New Music concert series by buying a T-shirt from Listening to Ladies!  Show the world what a composer, conductor, music theorist, or musicologist looks like!

Stockton Symphony Plays Thea Musgrave

by sarah - September 20th, 2017

The Stockton Symphony is opening their 2017-2018 season on Saturday, September 23 with a great, and inclusive, program.  In addition to Tchaikovsky Brahms, and Berlioz, conductor Peter Jaffe has chosen to include Rainbow (1990) by Thea Musgrave.


Musgrave, who will be celebrating her 90th birthday in May, 2018, was born in Scotland but has lived and worked in the United States since 1972.  A student of Nadia Boulanger and Aaron Copland, she has written extensively for orchestra, as well as completed twelve operas.  Her operatic works often feature a historical woman as the central character, including Mary, Queen of Scots (1977) and Harriet, the Woman Called Moses (1985).  Her orchestral works demonstrate Musgrave’s interest in programmatic writing, as well as the inspiration she finds in the visual arts.  The composer said this about Rainbow:

Rainbow is soundscape in both a literal and a figurative sense. In nature, of course, a rainbow heralds the end of a storm and the reappearance of the sun. Rainbow begins with a quiet expressive oboe solo accompanied by a sustained A major chord (representing the sun), soon to be overwhelmed by the approaching storm which erupts violently in a fast tumultuous section.

Eventually the storm dies away and the rainbow appears; a lyrical theme accompanied by three major chords (the three primary colours of the spectrum: red, yellow, blue). When the rainbow fades, the sun blazes out; the A major chord accompanying the initial oboe melody, now played by all the violins. The brass adds a chorale of thanksgiving, bringing a mood of calm confident fulfillment.


Learn more about the upcoming performance at Stockton Symphony here – and learn more about Musgrave’s work through the Program Notes for this performance.



Women Composers of Scotland

by sarah - September 23rd, 2014

All of the recent news surrounding the Scottish vote for independence has the classical music community reflecting on the music and musicians that have come out of Scotland.  NPR’s Classical Music Blog, Deceptive Cadence, wrote up a quick review of some of their favorite composers and performers.  They included Judith Weir – and how could they not, as the new Master of the Queen’s Music.  But there are many more composers who deserve more than just a minute in the spotlight.


Sally Beamish (b. 1956), though born in London, currently lives and works in Scotland.  Her work for large and small ensembles has been commissioned widely and includes two symphonies, many concerti, chamber works, film scores, and music for theatre.  She has also served as composer in residence with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.

Helen Grime (b. 1981) began studying music at age nine at the City of Edinburgh Music School and eventually continued on to the Royal College of Music.  Her composition teachers included Sally Beamish and Jennifer Martin.  In addition to her acclaimed career as a composer, Grime is also a highly accomplished oboist – performing as the soloist in the world premiere of her Oboe Concerto which written on commission for the Meadows Chamber Orchestra (Edinburgh) and which won a prize in the British Composer Awards.  Other works have been commissioned but the London Symphony Orchestra, and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Helen Hopekirk (1856-1945) was a pianist and composer and a contemporary of Amy Beach.  She made her American debut in 1883 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  In 1897 she accepted the invitation of George Chadwick to teach at the New England Conservatory, and lived in Boston for the rest of her life.  Her compositions, which included chamber works as well as orchestral pieces, often included Scottish folk melodies.

Anna Meredith (b. 1978) is a composer and performer of electronic and acoustic music.  She has been commissioned by the BBC Proms and served as composer in residence for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Thea Musgrave (b. 1928) was a student of Nadia Boulanger and Aaron Copland, and her compositions continue to receive international appeal and acclaim.  Musgrave has lived and worked in the United States since 1972.  Major works include compositions for orchestra and chamber ensembles, as well as many operas – including several that feature the lives of historic women (Mary, Queen of Scots and Harriet, the Woman called ‘Moses’).



Thea Musgrave: Britain’s Favorite Composer

by sarah - March 15th, 2014

Scottish-born Thea Musgrave (b. 1928) was a student of Nadia Boulanger and Aaron Copland, and during the course of her lifetime composed 12 operas (often featuring prominent female historical figures, like Harriet Tubman and Mary, Queen of Scots) and many orchestral works, often being commissioned.

She is active internationally, including spending many years working and teaching in the United States, but a favorite in Britain—as reported by Tom Service in February.

Of her compositional style, Service writes:

[Musgrave] says her compositional process often starts from finding a moment of craziness—such as a dream she had in which a clarinettist stood up in the middle of an orchestral work and began playing something completely different, an outburst of instrumental anarchy that inspired her acerbic but dramatic Concerto for Orchestra in 1967—and then she creates a context to justify and sustain it.

That doesn’t mean Musgrave’s music is about containment or restraint. Paradoxically, by controlling her craziness, she unleashes it all the more coherently and clearly for her listeners. You hear that most powerfully of all, perhaps, in her Turbulent Landscapes, based on paintings by JMW Turner and composed for the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2003, with which the BBCSO’s Total Immersion culminates. Its six movements create music of more than pictorial power, but also vibrant and violent poetic intensity.

Here are two examples—one of her vocal writing, and another of her orchestral.

Voices of Power and Protest:

Night Music for Chamber Orchestra: