Tag Archives: Music

May, music and more

Yes, yes, I know. It’s been ages that I’ve written a blog post.

So, here I am again, still trying to muddle through all the small and bigger challenges of this global pandemic that has affected the musical part of my life in a big way.

I don’t want to go on about how hard it is that concerts and recitals are cancelled and that livestreaming directly from “my” churches isn’t possible due to slow internet connection and that I miss my singing students and my choirs and all the rest, but I want to keep my eyes on the future and on my plans.

There’s still the possibility that concerts and recitals will be possible this year, so I will continue to work on my programmes and I have lots of ideas for new pieces.

For this blog, I have decided that I will concentrate on writing about music. In the past, “musical” blog posts have had more attention than everything else and one funny thing is that when I search e.g. for “organ music” and “female composers”, my own blog posts come up in the “top 10” of the search results, so I guess that’s pointing me into that direction, too. 😉 Of course I will still write about other topics whenever I feel like it and I will also make sure to write in both German and English.

I’m currently testing a new online format to bring organ music to people who don’t have the possibility to visit a church and listen to music there and as soon as I can say more about it, I will. I’m also working on offering online voice training, so if you’re interested in this, just drop me a line.

Today, I would like to share an article by my musician friend Erica Sipes where she writes about musical misperceptions and it’s really worth reading! The article resonated with me in several ways and I hope I’ll find the time to write something about this, too.

Until then, I hope you’ll come back to this blog every once in a while and thanks for reading!

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“Why don’t you get a proper job, luv?”

I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked this question. If you’re an artist or a musician, the question might sound very familiar. And this year, during the pandemic, a lot of you might have heard it (again).

People who tell us that we shouldn’t complain about lost income or poor support by the health and welfare system of our country, but get a proper job instead of making music or art, sometimes even mean well. They really do. But I guess they don’t realise that a comment like “don’t complain, go and get/do a proper job” is neither helpful nor fair. It is offensive, encroaching and impolite. Those same people often talk with verve about their favourite movie or actress or band. Where do they think this art work comes from?

Besides, what is a “proper job” anyway? I know that people who work in medical professions want (and deserve!) a lot more recognition (including more money) than they’re getting right now. Same goes for teachers and many other professions. But this doesn’t mean that artists or musicians or actors or writers can be disposed of or should just do their art in their spare time, after hours. And it doesn’t mean that one is more important than the other. I don’t want artists being played off against nurses, or truck drivers against musicians.

The question what kind of jobs we need and how these jobs should be paid is an interesting one. It should be led with an open mind and not by prejudice.

I’m far away from having a solution and I wish I could do more to support my colleagues who don’t work in two or more fields like I do, but who somehow have to get through all this and continue being a full-time artist. I’ve found a good way of life for me, being a part-time musician and also running a business, but this isn’t paradise either (at least not all the time) and might not be the right way for others.

However, if it helps… this “get a proper job, luv” isn’t always directed at musicians and artists. When I was working as a teacher, when I was working in early years education, when I was working as a consultant in a company that was going bust, there have always been “helpful” people who suggested that I should get a “proper job”. Sometimes I tell them that I have a licence for HGVs and a valid driver card and this shuts them up for a second.

If you’re a musician or an artist struggling with your situation: you’re not alone. What I can say is: try to muddle through, somehow, don’t lose hope. And if you do have to take another job in the meantime, don’t despair. It is possible to go back into art/music after a break. I won’t say it’s easy, but it is possible. I did it, and I hope you’ll be as confident!

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New year, new ideas, new music, new…

Dear readers,

2018 has been a quiet year here on the blog. It has been a busy year in my life. Overall, I’m very happy with the way things turned out. Yes, there has been sadness and grief, too, but that’s part of life and I was able to deal with these challenges in a good way.

Now, the calendar tells me it’s 2019. I don’t know what the year will bring, but I have plans. I want to write more blog posts (and I’m sure I said this before. Maybe it was my plan for 2018 already? 😉 ), speak at a conference, play another organ recital… At the moment I have so many ideas in my head, I feel I either need a second head to store them all or more hours to my day. This might sound a bit “out of breath”, but I’m actually quite relaxed.

2019 marks the 200th birthday of two remarkable musicians: Elizabeth Stirling and Clara Schumann. Elizabeth wrote many pieces for organ (unfortunately not a lot of them are available in print) and Clara’s main instrument was the piano. However, some of her piano works have been edited for organ and I want to play at least two (or rather four, if you count each prelude and fugue separately) of them this year.

I will continue doing “50-50” in my Sunday organ playing: at least one of the pieces I play will be by a female composer. I also include lesser known (male) composers whenever possible. My own list of female composers who have written for organ is still a work in progress and already contains more than 200 names. That’s enough material for many Sunday services, I guess.

I will also continue trying to help others who’re not as privileged as I am and to point out unfairness and stupidity and make my voice heard when I feel like saying something.

Thanks for reading, and happy new year to you!


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500 years of organ music

On Saturday, 2nd of September, I had the pleasure of playing an organ recital in Griedel (a village about 50 kilometres north of Frankfurt/Main).
This year, we’re celebrating 500 years of Martin Luther putting up his theses and the start of the reformation.

When I first talked about the idea of having an organ concert in the reformation year with our pastor, I thought that all three organ players in the parish could come together and each would play 20 minutes or so. Well, it seems I wasn’t clear enough on this, because one evening my husband came home from a meeting of the church committee and said that everyone was looking forward to “my organ recital”. Apparently the pastor had told them I would play the full concert.

What to do? I decided to take the listeners on a journey through time, starting with organ music from Luther’s time and moving on to modern music. I knew that I had to be careful what kind of modern music I could present to the audience as most people here are not really used to new sounds, but at the same time I wanted to give them some food for thought.

Here’s the full list of pieces I played:

Hans (Johann) Buchner (1483 – 1538)
Christ ist erstanden (Christ is risen)

Caterina Assandra (1590 – 1618)
Ego flos campi

Dietrich Buxtehude (1637 – 1707)
Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist (BuxWV 208)

Johann Pachelbel (1653 – 1706)
Fugue in d minor (P. 154; T. 276)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Prelude and fugue g minor (BWV 558)
„Ich ruf zu dir“ from the „Orgelbüchlein“ (BWV 639)
Prelude and fugue G major (BWV 557)

Georg Andreas Sorge (1703 – 1778)
Trio C major

Justin Heinrich Knecht (1752 – 1817)
Freue dich sehr o meine Seele (Rejoice my soul)

Fanny Hensel (1805 – 1847)
Chorale (op. 3/1)

Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847)
Andante D major (MWV W 6)

Emma Louise Ashford (1850 – 1930?)
Evening Hymn

Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934)
Vesper Voluntaries op. 14
Introduction – Andante – Allegro – Andantino – Allegretto piacevole – Intermezzo – Poco lento – Moderato – Allegretto Pensoso – Poco allegro – Coda

Kate Boundy (1866 – 1913)
Even Song

Carlotta Ferrari (* 1975)
La Salita al Mirteto

Lothar Graap (* 1933)
Der Mond ist aufgegangen (The moon has risen), variations for organ (GWV 320)
I. Verhalten (cautious) – II. Straff (taughtly) – III. Ruhig (quiet) – IV. Langsam (slow) – V. Freudig (joyful) – VI. Mäßig bewegt (moderately moved) – VII. Langsam (slow) – VIII. Bewegt (moved) – IX. Sehr ruhig (very quiet)

There were about 35 or even 40 people in the audience and after a long round of friendly and partly enthusiastic applause, I played “Caprice” from “Cinq pièces pour orgue” by Adolphe Marty.

Next year, my “main” organ will have its 160th birthday, so there will be another recital coming up. I’ve already made plans what to play. But first, back to “standard organist life” with Sunday services and all the rest.

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More women composers needed! – More women composers needed?

It’s International Women’s Day today, and the radio station I listen to in the mornings asked whether we still need this day. Especially in a Western European country, highly developed, with equality being part of numerous laws and regulations, and with women having such a good life.
Do we need this day?
When I was a teenager, I’d have said, no, we don’t need that day. I grew up feeling I’d be a strong, independent, capable woman, and all doors would be open for me. People would recognize my talents and skills and I would be successful.
I wanted to become a conductor. I was aware of the fact that there weren’t many female conductors at that time, but I didn’t really think about it. Then I found out that music colleges wanted students to play not only piano, but also an orchestral solo instrument like the violin, the flute, the horn, whatever, to even accept you for the auditions in the conductor classes. So I didn’t study conducting after all. I learned how to lead choirs, but it took me 18 years after graduation to actually do that. Anyway, that’s another story.

If you follow my blog regularly, you will know that I’m trying to make the names and works of female composers known. I mainly concentrate on composers who have written for the organ, but for a general overview you may want to have a look here at the archive for women and music: http://www.archiv-frau-musik.de/Komponistinnena.htm

My own list of female composers of organ music at the moment has 100 names on it, and I’m still adding names and will probably end up with 200 or even more. It’s amazing, isn’t it, there are so many of them, and still quite a lot of people aren’t aware of the fact.

A few days ago, Susanna Eastburn wrote in The Guardian: “We need more women composers – and it’s not about tokenism, it’s about talent”. You can find the article here

I shared the article on twitter. There were only two comments at this time, and these two made me say, hey, read the article, but don’t read the comments. I had a peek at the comment section half an hour later, and comments had gotten worse by the minute. People saying that if women composers were any good at all they wouldn’t need our support but would be successful anyway were still the friendliest.

Why is it that the thought of women writing music and women wanting to have a seat at the table with other composers bring out so much aggression in some people? Have we still not moved on from the times of Fanny Mendelssohn, who was told by her father that her equally talented brother Felix could become a professional composer, but she couldn’t?

Yes, you need to be good for your works to be published and played. I have no reason to play music that’s poorly written or boring. But this has nothing to do with the composer’s gender. I already wrote about how difficult it can be to make your way in the creative industries in a blog post in 2015. Back to Susanna’s article. Pétur Jónsson from Medialux Music Productions had also shared it on twitter, and we had a brief conversation about the comments. He said that if we looked at the bright side, the negative comments just showed that there still is a problem.

I’ve dabbled at composing from my teenage years on. In 1993, I wrote the music for a fairytale play at a semi-professional theatre. Looking back, I can only say that it’s better that the music only exists on some tapes and written drafts, because it wasn’t very good. But I wanted more, and in 1994, I wrote the music for a stage version of Alice’s adventures in wonderland for the same theatre. The play had quite a lot of media attention since the author was a professor at the local university, and the stage design was one by a very talented student from an art college who had brought two other students with him who did the costumes. It was a brilliant production. I not only wrote the music, but also played Amanda, the dormouse, and have very fond memories of the whole thing.

What really wound me up, though, was that the critics in the local newspaper more or less ignored my composing efforts, and simply wrote that the music had been put together nicely by one of the actresses. I was furious and even called one of the critics and made him write an amendment and mention that I had not simply chosen the music, but written all the pieces and that he had been lucky to be part of a world premiere. 😉 I must have been very persuasive on the phone, and he actually wrote a few lines which were published a few days later. I have no idea whether he just didn’t know or care who had composed the music, or whether it was so good that he thought it must’ve been published elsewhere before, but at the time, I felt that my work, my talent wasn’t valued, and of course this hurt.

Only recently I started digging in my old drafts and music sheets again and found pieces and songs that I still like and might publish one day. What I would like to see, not only on International Women’s Day, is a discussion about music and composing that doesn’t automatically assume that the composer’s gender has anything to do with the quality of the music she or he writes. I’m sure that composers of any gender are capable of writing music that’s wonderful, exciting and inspiring. And every musician, artist, composer, performer needs support to be able to show their work to a wider audience. I hope that we will achieve this eventually.

I haven’t got a clear answer to the question of the headline. But I would like to encourage you, whatever gender you have, to let your music be heard, your art be seen, your texts be read. We grow and learn and there’s so much to share, so if you feel like sharing, please do it.
Comment section is open, and I’m interested in your thoughts.

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November music

November was a busy month for the musician in me.
I played the organ for Sunday service, I had the pleasure to conduct our choir for another Sunday service because our MD had to be elsewhere, and last weekend there was “the” concert: two choirs, a brass quintet, an organ solo, and additional solo and duet singing. Plus I accompanied another choir during their Sunday service yesterday.

Overall, everything went okay. Of course, there are things that could’ve gone better. I’m not happy at all with my solo performance at the organ, I managed to muddle through and save the piece by improvising wildly while having some kind of brain shutdown and technical problems with the instrument, and I suppose it wasn’t as bad as it felt, but while it happened, I just wanted to be somewhere else and never perform again. I haven’t listened to the recording yet and my inner perfectionist is still sulking.
The good thing was that the organ I had available yesterday was a very decent instrument and made up for everything else and I’m almost back to feeling confident about performing 🙂

The two duets I sang together with another soprano worked really, really well and were a lot of fun. We’ve been asked to sing together again at a concert in March next year, so I’m now looking for suitable pieces.

Also, I’ve learned a lot for future organ recitals – for example that my preparation should include a plan B for technical difficulties with the instrument and that my improvisation skills are good enough to survive even some kind of blackout in my head.

December won’t be as busy, a few Sunday services, a solo for the choir’s advent/pre-Christmas event, and hopefully some practice time before the year ends.

And did I already mention the 2nd of September 2017? This is when I will play my organ recital and it has now been officially announced in the “Luther year calendar”.

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Organ music by female composers – part 3

In my last blog post on this topic, I wrote that one day I would go through IMSLP.org and try and find the names of female composers who’ve written music for the organ.
This is the list of names I came up with (excluding a few people I already mentioned in other blog posts):
Amy Marcy Beach
Cécile Gauthiez
Donata Bohlscheid
Eva Pelucchi
Florence Norvel
Florence Price
Katharine E. Lucke
Liana Alexandra
Mary Howe
Mary A. Laselle
Michelle Diehl
Nadia Boulanger

Recently, I bought “12 Orgeltänze” (12 organ dances) by Maja Bosch Schildknecht. And I shouldn’t forget to bring up June Nixon – I will probably play at least one of her works in the coming advent/Christmas season.

As always, please contact me if you can add names and/or information. This goes for my previous blog posts on this topic, too 🙂
You can find them here:

On December 4th, I’ll play the organ during a service that is being prepared and held by women, and two years ago, I started the “tradition” to play music by female composers for this service, and I will do so again this year. I haven’t made up my mind what I will play, but there’s such a great variety of pieces so I’m sure I can find something. Suggestions welcome 🙂

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My summer music

It’s roundabout 30 degrees outside, the sun’s shining and the neighbour’s kids enjoy the last days of vacation. I’m not a summer person, but I’m happy for all the others who are.
Still, in summer, there are festivals, and there’s always time for music.
August has been a rather musical month so far. I’ve played four Sunday services (organ), the choir rehearsals started again after a short break and I had the pleasure/challenge to be our only soprano in two rehearsals – so it was kinda being a soloist getting a full choir to accompany you 😉 This week Saturday, we’ll meet with all the choirs our MD is conducting and there will be an evening full of singing and probably lots of laughter.

At the beginning of August, we went to the Rheingau Musik Festival and listened to Randi Tytingvåg, Dag Sindre Vagle and Erlend Aasland. The concert was in a wine-grower’s yard – a laaaarge yard, and it was sold out, as far as I could see. Standing ovations at the end of the evening, and well deserved.

One week later we were in Nieder-Moos. In case you haven’t heard of this place yet, each summer the local church hosts a music festival and the trip is well worth it. We met with two friends and had the enormous pleasure of seeing and hearing the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Now, these guys and gals are just amazing and if they’re playing at a place near you, don’t miss them! Not everyone in the audience seemed to speak enough English to get all the jokes, but you don’t need language to enjoy good music, and it was standing ovations again.

Those who read my blog regularly or follow me on twitter know that I like a variety of styles and listen to more than one kind of music. So I was very happy to see that two of my favourite Icelandic musicians had new albums coming.
One is “Ypsilon” by guitarist Andrés Thor and his trio: https://andresthor.bandcamp.com/
and the other is “constant movement” by bassist Toggi Jonsson and his quintet: https://toggijonsson.bandcamp.com/releases
You can listen to the tracks online, but I’m all for supporting fellow musicians, so of course I will recommend that you go and buy the albums. 🙂

Last but not least, I’ve finally set a date for my organ concert next year. It will take place on the 2nd of September 2017, however, it’s not clear yet which organ I will have available. I will let you know when I know more. In addition to the official public recital I will also play a smaller concert for a different audience: I was invited to play for the inmates of the local jail, so this will be a new and interesting experience.

Coming up is a concert with two choirs and me doing one or two organ solo pieces and maybe also singing a solo or duet, so watch this space and/or my twitter account for details.

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New on my bookshelf, and some music stuff

Yes, I know, I know, it has been rather quiet here on the blog, and I hope to change this in the days (weeks) to come.
I have been busy. Doing a lot of stuff on the weekends, like teaching first aid, playing the organ, playing the accordion, going to family gatherings, knitting… and occasionally reading books.
I have read Frank Westworth’s “The corruption of Chastity” and I read “A last act of Charity” to make myself more familiar with the world of JJ Stoner. There’s a separate blog post coming soon where I will also explain why I read the books in the “wrong” order 😉

Recently, Ben Aaronovitch (https://twitter.com/Ben_Aaronovitch), whose books I adore, recommended a new novel (the first?) by Andrew Cartmel (https://twitter.com/andrewcartmel): “The Vinyl Detective”. I finally got round to getting the book and started reading this morning on the train. What should I say, I almost missed my stop because I was immediately hooked. It’s a page turner, at least for me. And it deserves a blog post of its own which I will write when I’m done with the book (I need a few more train rides, though).

Linda MacFadyen (https://twitter.com/LindaMacFadyen), who organised the wonderful “Thin Ice” blog tour, mentioned Natasha Walter’s “A quiet life” which is next on my reading list and already sits on my bookshelf. Well, to be honest, it sits on the kitchen table, but will move onto the bookshelf soon.

What else was I reading? I re-read “Punk Rock People Management: A No-Nonsense Guide to Hiring, Inspiring and Firing Staff” by Peter Cook, “Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations” by by Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone, and I read lots of music. 😉

Speaking of music, yesterday evening I had the pleasure of playing a nice small grand piano at a service held by and for women. Men were invited, too, but none came. So we were a female-only congregation, and, as it often happens, I was the youngest.
I played Clara Schumann’s prelude in B flat, an Andante Espressivo by Hedwige Chretien, and another Andante espressivo by Helene Liebmann. Also, I played a piece by Margreeth de Jong, originally for organ, but it was manuals only and sounded quite nice on the piano. And of course I accompanied all the songs we sang during the service.
Afterwards, the pastor came to me and said that the piano hadn’t sounded so good for ages. I accepted the compliment gracefully (I hope!), but wondered at the same time who the other people might be who play that piano regularly. The perfectionist inside me didn’t think my playing was that good, but I made her shut up 🙂

Thanks for coming back to the blog in quiet times, and I hope to see you again soon!

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Organ music by female composers – part 2

When I wrote the blog post on organ music by female composers in December, I knew I would have to do an update one day. This day is today. It would have been perfect if I had managed to write this post on time for international womens day, but, hey, we can’t have everything, and perfectionism is often not helpful anyway. At least in my case 😉

So, the music. In my first blog post I mentioned several composers and publishers (if you haven’t read it yet, you can do so here: https://andijah.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/organ-music-by-female-composers/ ) and I would like to add some more today.

One publisher worth checking out is Vivace Press: http://www.vivacepress.com/
For example, they have done an album called “Organ Music by Women Composers before 1800”.
I don’t own this yet, but I own the “Women Composers’ Album”, pieces selected and edited by Charles Callahan. It’s a lovely collection of not too difficult pieces for organ, both manuals only and with pedals. The publisher is Morning Star Music.

On imslp.org I came across the works of Carlotta Ferrari (born 1975). This is her website: http://carlottaferrari.altervista.org/
I had already mentioned that imslp lists more than 300 names in their section of women composers, but so far, I haven’t got round to checking who has done organ music.

Today I’ve made an alphabetical list (sorted by first name) of female composers who have written for organ. Maybe some day I shall find the time to sort this list by historical period or difficulty, but let’s start with the simple list. I haven’t mentioned the composers again whom I had mentioned in my other blog post, and any addition from my readers is most welcome!

Adaline Shepherd
Anne Sheppard Mounsey Bartholomew
Barbara Dennerlein
Barbara Harbach (also editor of “Toccatas And Fugues On Hymns By European Women”)
Beate Leibe
Brita Falch Leutert
Caroline Charrière
Christiane Michel-Ostertun
Christina Harmon
Emily Porter
Emma Lou Diemer
Heather Hammond
Johanna Senfter
Liselotte Kunkel
Maddalena Lombardini Sirmen
Marga Richter
Maria Scharwieß
Marianne Kim
Mary Jeanne van Appledorn
Mel Bonis
Odile Pierre
Rolande Falcinelli
Rosalie Bonighton
Ruth Norman
Sarah Watts
Sharon J. Willis
Ute Springer

A good source in Germany to buy music by these composers is bodensee-musikversand.de, but any music store should be able to order the sheet music for you.

Last Sunday, I played “Andante patetico” by Kate Boundy as introduction to the service, and it has been well received.

Please get in touch if you have further suggestions and/or links.

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