It’s time to finally write this blog post – I said to Morwenna (http://www.theladyorganist.com) in June that I would write something about (organ) music by female composers, and now it’s almost Christmas… I’ve been busy playing the occasional Sunday service and singing in my choir and doing stuff. Everyone who juggles a day job and a second life as a musician probably knows this only too well.
When you’re asked about female composers, you might think of Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn, or might not know anyone at all. If you’re interested in film music, you might know Rachel Portman or Anne Dudley. For most people, however, female composers remain in the dark and when you mention that they exist, you often get answers like, well, if they were any good (=if they were as good as the men), their music would be played more often. I don’t think it’s a simple question of quality, but I don’t want to get all philosophical about this.
What I want to do is share some resources and links with you, so that in case you’re planning to go out and find music written by women, you’ll get some help just like I had when I started my journey of finding out about the topic.
I’m deeply grateful to Morwenna and Kathryn (http://artsyhonker.net) who’ve supported my research and came up with some links and suggestions. Kathryn is a composer herself and if you’re looking for choral music, make sure to have a look at her work.
Morwenna directed me to John Spellers collection of organ music: http://spellerweb.net/poindex/organmusic/OrganMusicFront.html
In this collection, you can find music by Esther Elizabeth Fleet, Kate Boundy, Ann Mounsey Bartholomew, Elizabeth Stirling, Elisa Fuchs-Delaye, Helene Fleury, Juliette Folville, Augusta Holmes, Marie Prestat, Alice Saufrezix, Fanny Mendelssohn and some more. Morwenna also mentioned Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Elizabeth Turner and Jeanne Demessieux. And there’s Theophania Cecil: http://www.theladyorganist.com/repertoire-revivals-theophania-cecil/
For organists, there is a very interesting collection of various pieces in Schott’s ED9741 (“Frauen komponieren – 22 Orgelstücke”. 22 organ pieces by female composers), some of them quite doable, others really tricky. But you got to have goals 😀
On imslp.org, there’s a list of women composers. Unfortunately you can only search by country of origin, not by type of work, but it’s an impressive list nonetheless: http://imslp.org/wiki/Category:Women_composers
In Frankfurt, there’s the archive for women and music: http://www.archiv-frau-musik.de/cms/
For those who’re into research, there’s the “MUGI” project in Hamburg: http://mugi.hfmt-hamburg.de/en/Lexikon
And if you speak German, check out http://www.susanne-wosnitzka.de/projekte-aktuelles/komponistinnen/
Now to something more practical. 🙂
Last Sunday, I played a piece by Margaretha Christina de Jong (http://margreethdejong.nl/) and two pieces I have written myself. One is a piece for alto recorder, variations on the song “Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme” (“Wake up, a voice is calling”) and the other is an organ piece called “Kleine Adventsfantasie” (little advent fantasia) where I used melody fragments of three well-known advent songs.
Thanks to Susanne (https://twitter.com/SusanneW) I now know the adaptiation of two Clara Schumann preludes for organ and Cor anglais, and I hope to be able to play these pieces in a recital one day. Finding someone near me who plays cor anglais (“English horn”) will certainly help, but I need to start practising the organ part first anyway.
Thanks, readers, for your interest, and please share your thoughts and comments!