Tag Archives: organ music

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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Advent and Christmas music for the organ

I’ve been doing my personal #project5050 at the organ for several years now. This means that I choose music from both female and male composers for all the church services I play, be it the traditional Sunday service, a wedding, a funeral… In my “main” church, I write a small poster with information on the pieces and the composers every time I play and put it up where the congregation can see it. And I’ve had quite a few good conversations about this over time.

Sometimes my 50-50 ideas lead to interesting conclusions among the parishioners. Once I had a piece by Pasi Lyytikäinen in my set, and someone asked, please, could I tell him which country Madam Pasi came from? And I said, well, it might be a lesser known name, but it’s not Madam in this case. 😉

Advent (and Christmas) is approaching and I thought why not share some of the names of female composers whose works could be played and thus made heard and known in one or more of the hopefully many services we organists have on our list.

So, here are some suggestions – and I’d be happy to hear from you if you have any additional names, resources, ideas…

Carlotta Ferrari has written many, many pieces for organ. I especially like her Pastorales, and you will find suitable pieces for both Advent and Christmas in her oeuvre.

Mel Bonis, Pastorale op. 156. A lovely, not too difficult piece in G major, playable on small and large instruments. Get the Edition by Georges Lartigau (Editions Fortin-Armiane) – the pastorale is in volume 2.

In Cécile Chaminade‘s op. 171, La nef sacrée, you will find several pastorales, playable manuals only or with pedals. You can get this opus from B-note.

Emma Louise Ashford has written a lovely piece called “Christmas Chimes” – unfortunately the website where I found the sheet music seems to be offline.

In the “12 Chorale Preludes on Gregorian Chant Themes”, op. 8 by Jeanne Demessieux, there are two pieces for Advent and Christmas: the meditative “Rorate Coeli” and the lively “Adeste fideles”. You need two manuals for both pieces. Op. 8 is available by Alfred Publishing.

Dorothy Wells is the editor of a collection of Christmas hym settings and adaptions published by de Haske and has contributed a version of “Away in a manger” – not too difficult, and you will need two manuals.

Two pieces by Rosalie Bonighton and two pieces by June Nixon can be found in the Kevin Mayhew collection “The Christmas Organist”.

Margaretha Christina de Jong, another prolific contemporary composer, has written several Christmas season pieces, fantasias, variations… for a short manuals-only piece have a look at “Weihnachtsgedanke” (Christmas thoughts) in op. 71 (publisher: Butz).

There’s a fantastic collection of modern Advent and Christmas pieces by Swedish Gehrmans Musikförlag (“Lux Bethlehem”) which includes pieces by Maria Löfberg. Two or more manuals required.

Last but not least the marvellous “Tales of Christmas” published by Certosa with contributions by Elizabeth Austin, Andrea Csollány, Emma Lou Diemer and Julia Schwartz. Some pieces need two manuals, others can be done on smaller organs, too.

This list could probably (hopefully!) be longer, and as I said before, if you would like to contribute, feel free to get in touch.

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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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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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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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(Organ) Music by female composers

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 😀

Kathryn pointed me to Barbara Kennedy (http://barbarakennedy.co.uk/composing/) and Jenni Pinnock (http://www.jennipinnock.com/).

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/

Then there are two publishers worth mentioning if you want to buy sheet music by female composers: http://furore-verlag.de/shop/noten/orgel-solo/ and http://www.certosaverlag.de/

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!




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