There are more than 200…

… names on my ever-growing list of women composers who have written for organ (or other keyboard instruments and whose pieces can be adapted to organs of almost any size and character).

In my own repertoire, I have music by more than 3 dozen women composers and I could easily fill two 90-minute-recitals with “ladies only” works.

So – a lack of material can’t really be the reason why we still see so many recitals and concerts that don’t feature a single piece by a woman. And it winds me up when I read about “varied” concert programmes that consist of music written by white men only. No music by women, no music from Africa or Asia, no music by any marginalised group. What is so “varied” about that?

If you think quality is an issue, think again.

In this blog post, I’m going to talk about some great pieces that deserve to be played and heard much more often. I’ve played some of those pieces in my own recitals and can tell you that the audience appreciates them. Off we go 🙂

The Toccata op, 97 by Mel Bonis – you can play this on almost any instrument. It’s intended for three manuals but does work on two or even one manual. You need a full pedalboard, though.

The Prélude pour grand orgue op. 78 by Cécile Chaminade. Two manuals are needed, and you can let the organ whisper and purr and go all the way for the fortissimo at the end.

The Dialog (“dialogue”) by Ester Mägi is great for showing different sounds – two manuals are necessary.

If you’re looking for a suite: the Exodus Suite by Sharon J. Willis and the Suite for organ by Pei-Lun Vicky Chang are interesting and fine pieces. And for variations, check out the Concert Variations on Greensleeves by Carlotta Ferrari – the audience loves this, because it’s a well-known tune in many places. Two manuals are a must.

You won’t necessarily need three manuals for the following pieces (two are enough, and if you feel adventurous, even one manual might be possible), but the number three plays an important role: Preludio, Allegro and Fantasia by Matilde Capuis make a nice triple, the Triptyque pour grand orgue by Germaine Labole has the number three in its name and so do the Trois Esquisses by Liv-Benedicte Bjørneboe. And one of my personal favourites is the trilogy Englar á sveimi by Bára Grímsdóttir.

Of course you might want to do a “big one”, too. I love the organ symphonies by Elfrida Andrée and Germaine Labole, both set in b minor and absolutely grand. Have a large organ available? Do it justice with one of those pieces!

If you want to have some pedalling fun, try the Maestoso by Elizabeth Stirling or go crazy with the Octaves by Jeanne Demessieux – only if you know what you’re doing 😉

I could go on and on and on, musing about the chorale settings by Ethel Smyth, or the Fantasia by Tamsin Jones, or In Memoriam op. 57 by Hedwige Chrétien for harmonium or manuals-only, or the harpsichord sonatas by Anna Bon di Venezia that work so well on smaller organs, or the many pieces by “anonymous” that might have actually been written by women, or…

Coming back to the beginning of this post: I don’t see why we don’t get to hear more of those pieces, and I’ll continue doing my part and offering varied recital programmes that deserve that title.

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