Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

Music has always been a part of my life to the point that I could not envision a career outside of music. During my undergraduate study, I found myself more drawn to musicology than performance. However, it wasn’t until my PhD that I realised the power in forging a career that bridges both.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My parents encouraged me to pursue music. My professors at university opened up so many possibilities for what that path could look like. I found wonderful support during my study abroad year at McGill University. That is where I first learnt about the composer Florence Price. Studying the history of this incredible woman of African descent then opened up the career path I’m on now.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

As I’ve begun to grow more into my identity as a pianist-scholar, one of the biggest challenges has been embracing public performance. Musicology has always felt much safer and a little more anonymous—the perfect match for my introvert self! But public performance has pushed me to embrace more open and vulnerable ways of communicating my passion.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my Four Women recording. The album focuses on four composers from the first half of the twentieth century: Florence Price, Vítězslava Kaprálová, Ethel Bilsland and Margaret Bonds. The album title alludes to Nina Simone’s 1966 song of the same name. I have always been so moved by Simone’s aspiration to become a classical pianist and wanted to bring her influence into the recording. Four Women is very autobiographical and represents my first real venture into communicating my passion with openness and vulnerability.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Florence Price’s Fantasie Negre and Vítězslava Kaprálová’s Dubnova Preludia (April Preludes), Op. 13.

As someone who champions music by women composers, how do you make your repertoire choices?

My repertoire choices are often inspired by the kind of research I’m doing. For example, my research on Florence Price and her Chicago community has led me to programme works by Chicagoan African-American women composers, past and present. Other times, my choices are inspired by collaborations. Working with violinist Er-Gene Kahng has broadened my repertoire to encompass more duo and chamber material by Price and her peers. I am also excited to be in the midst of preparing Doreen Carwithen’s Concerto for Piano and Strings as part of a collaboration with the Singapore-based organization Music For People.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Earlier this year, I gave a recital at the Chicago Cultural Center. The programme was called Of Folk, Faith & Fellowship: Exploring Chicago’s African-American Women Composers. I performed Florence Price and Margaret Bonds alongside Regina Harris Baiocchi and Dolores White. Baoicchi and White are contemporary composers and it was such an honour to have them attend the concert. What’s more is that the Chicago Cultural Center used to be a library and Price and Bonds would regularly visit. The whole performance was so immersed in the wonderful history that it sought to present. It was an unforgettable experience.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Defining success became much easier once I formed a mission statement for my work as a musician. I recognized that my mission would evolve alongside my own creative growth. But as it stands, my mission is to challenge systems of oppression and amplify historically silenced voices. My success is defined by every opportunity I have to perform or record the music of marginalized composers, particularly as these moments are often grounded in even greater historical or cultural significance. And so, my definition of success stems from my ability to fulfil my mission.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians? 

To not be afraid to shape your path in your own image. Championing music by women composers has been empowering for me. And so, to aspiring musicians, I encourage you to embrace and involve your fullest self along your journey.

What is your present state of mind?

A mix of hopeful, excited, determined and eager.


Samantha Ege is a British scholar, pianist and educator. Her PhD (University of York) centres on the African-American composer Florence Price. As a concert pianist, Ege’s focus on women composers has led to performances in Singapore, Australia, the UK and the US Ege has also championed Florence Price’s repertoire alongside violinist Er-Gene Kahng with duo recitals in Singapore, Hong Kong and the US.

Ege released her debut album in May 2018 with Wave Theory Records, entitled Four Women: Music for solo piano by Florence Price, Vítězslava Kaprálová, Ethel Bilsland and Margaret Bonds. The album featured the world première recording of Bilsland’s The Birthday Party, which led to Ege preparing an edition of the suite, now published by Faber Music. Four Women has been described as “an impressive collection…performed with virtuosic assurance.” Ege has also been commended “for her goal to bring the music of these composers to greater public awareness.”

www.musicherstories.com


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Over on my sister blog A Piano Teacher Writes…. I recently cited two new anthologies of piano music, which on face value seemed a useful addition to the student pianist’s repertoire. On closer inspection, however, I found that one anthology contained not a single piece by a female composer, and the other contained a piece composed by the author, who happens to be a woman. This lack of diversity troubles me – and it’s not some kind of gender identity/feminist virtue signalling on my part, but rather a wish to offer students and piano enthusiasts as broad a range of music as possible. We are so lucky as pianists to have access to a vast repertoire, yet too many anthologies focus on the core canon, which is mostly music written by long dead white guys.

Read my article here

In an ideal scenario, we wouldn’t need to differentiate between male and female composers, but unfortunately while inequality of representation exists in anthologies and concert programmes, I believe it is important to highlight this. And so, as a positive step, I’d like to compile an online resource via this blog of graded piano music written by female composers. I hope this will be of use to teachers and piano students in seeking new repertoire.

Please feel free to submit music for inclusion, ideally with an estimate grade/ability level and a link to the score or publisher information.  Use the comment box below or Email Me with your nominations. I have also created a collaborative playlist on Spotify to which you are welcome to add tracks

Here are a few of my own suggestions to get us started:

Sadie Harrison

  • Lunae – Four Nocturnes for Solo Piano (Advanced/Grade 8/Diploma/University of York Music Press)
  • Northern Lights (Intermediate/Grade 5-6/UYMP)
  • Four Jazz Portraits (Advanced/Grade 8/Diploma/UYMP)

Jenni Pinnock

  • Rains (Intermediate/Grade 5/available via Jenni’s website)
  • Captive (Advanced/Grade 8/available via Jenni’s website)
  • Frost (Intermediate/available via Jenni’s website)

Cheryl Frances-Hoad

  • Homages Book 2 (Advanced/available via Cheryl’s website)
  • Love Song for Dusty (as above)

Meredith Monk

  • Railroad (Travel Song) (Intermediate/Grade 6/Boosey & Hawkes)

Karen Tanaka

  • Northern Lights (early intermediate/Grade 4/ABRSM Spectrum series)

June Armstrong

from Strangford Sketchbook

  • Still Light on the Lough  (Grades 6-7/available via June Armstrong’s website)
  • Temple Dancer in Blue (Grade 6/available as above)

Jennifer Linn

  • ‘Un phare dans la brouillard’ from Les Petites Impressions (Intermediate/Grade 6/available as digital download or in anthology)

Germaine Tailleferre

  • Impromptu (Advanced/Grade 7-8/Editions Jobert)

Alison Wrenn (Berry)

 

DONNE Women in Music | Showcase Concert,  St Gabriel’s Church, London, 7th March

Guest review by Karine Hetherington

On the eve of International Women’s Day, I attended a concert at St Gabriel’s Church, Pimlico, showcasing women’s music.

Soprano, Gabriella Di Laccio, the powerhouse behind the musical initiative Donne: Women in Music, welcomed us and introduced us to her musicians for the evening: James Akers guitarist, soprano, Susie Georgiadis and pianist Clelia Iruzun. I was pleasantly surprised to see a male musician in the line-up.

Akers produced a Romantic guitar, which is smaller than the classical guitar. I realise that night that my knowledge of the classical guitar was limited to Andrés Segovia, Julian Bream and John Williams. My mother played their records over and over during our childhood in the early 1970s.

James Akers, I learnt, had a few misgivings about the Father of the Guitar, André Segovia. Whilst acknowledging Segovia’s brilliance, he believed that guitar masters had limited the guitar repertoire we have been exposed to. Women composers especially had suffered as a result of Segovia’s promotion of Spanish male composers. This evening was the occasion to redress the balance.

He played works by Emilia Giuliani (1813-1850) who shared the stage with Franz Liszt, and Athénaïs Paulian (1801- c.1875) who was a child prodigy, was well known in British society and had a biography written about her. Prelude 2 by Giuliani was particularly appealing; however Akers’ delicate, dexterous play could have benefited from some amplification in the church. I listened to extracts from his Le Donne et la Chitarra CD later and was struck by the colour and expression he brought to each work. Highly recommended.

Next, Gabriella Di Laccio interpreted songs by Clara K.Rogers (1844-1931) and Avril Coleridge-Taylor (1903-1998). Can Sorrow Find Me by Coleridge-Taylor is a beautiful, dramatic and haunting work. Di Laccio had the power in the higher register but her voice felt a little tight in the lower notes and pianissimos. I was delighted however to hear her sing the same work again on BBC 3’s In tune the following day for International Women’s Day. This time Di Laccio broadcast it to the nation perfectly!

Meanwhile soprano, Susie Georgiadis, performed a variety of Italian and Brazilian songs, all very different in tone and all beautifully sung. Georgiadis’s voice is warm and controlled and rich with emotion.

Most memorable was Cardellina, a charming song about a little bird and Sul Fiume (By The River), an intensely romantic composition. The composer, Giulia Recli (1890-1970), together with many other female composers, appears on Susie Georgiadis’s CD Homage, just out.

The evening ended fittingly with a Brazilian protest song entitled Marielle presente (2018). Composed by Catarina Domenici, in memory of the Rio de Janeiro councillor Marielle Franco, who was assassinated last year, it was a rousing song in honour of those women who had died recently in Brazil for their political activities.

All in all a tantalising introduction to the world of female composition.

Hats off to Gabriella Di Laccio for her remarkably enlightening project, which can only grow and grow.


Both of the CD’s below are available from the Donne Musica online shop.

Le Donne e la Chitarra with James Akers.

Homage: Women Composers from Italy and Brazil – Susie Georgiadis, Soprano & Angiolina Sensale, Piano

Gabriella Di Laccio & Clelia Iruzun
Susie Georgiadis
James Akers

Karine Hetherington is a teacher and writer of novels, who also blogs on art and music. Her two published novels, The Poet and the Hypotenuse, and Fort Girard, are set in France in the 1930s and 1940s. Karine promotes singers and musicians performing in the fast-growing Kensington and Olympia Music and Arts Festival. She is also a reviewer for ArtMuseLondon.com

DONNE, Women in Music | SHOW CASE CONCERT | Thu 7th March, 7pm 

Launched on International Women’s Day 2018, this ongoing project aiming to champion women composers’ equality is a new destination platform for information and content spotlighting brilliant composers, past and present.

Full details on:  http://www.drama-musica.com/Donne_Concerts.html

PROGRAMME DETAILS  

7pm – Pre-concert talk

With all recording artists as well as soprano Gabriella Di Laccio – Founder & Curator of Donne – Women in Music

7.30 – CONCERT

Presenting repertoire from both CDs:

LE DONNE E LA CHITARRA & HOMAGE

Guests Performes:

GABRIELLA DI LACCIO – soprano

CLELIA IRUZUN – piano

Presenting songs by Avril Coleridge-Taylor and Clara Kathleen Rodgers

ABOUT DONNE: 

DONNE’s dedicated website features an online database of more than 5,000 women composers on the Big List page , providing further information for anyone who would like to learn a bit more.  Throughout the year the website celebrates the women who are currently making their mark in society in the online series Composers of Today. DONNE also features the fascinating stories of so many forgotten women composers of the past with short video introductions on the Historical Composers page.DONNE’s dedicated CD Collection will release 5 albums featuring only music by women in 2018-1019 extending the equality initiative to the recording market as well.

This initiative has attracted the attention of many influential music institutions like the Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music, King’s College of London, City University of London, University of São Paulo, Oxford University, etc. And we will continue the to grow the collaboration opportunities for the project and future recordings.

The project is connected with the UK Independent Record Label Drama Musica.

On the 1st January 2019, DONNE started a new venture called: DONNE365 and for 365 this year DONNE is featuring  two women composers every day, with links to their website and where to find their music.

Soprano Gabriella Di Laccio is the Founder & Curator of the project. In November 2018 she was named by BBC World as one of the most inspirational and influential women in world in 2018 – BBC 100 Women 

DONNE Showcase Concert

 

A major new pioneering initiative to promote women composers
#avoiceforwomencomposers
  • 15 choral works commissioned from five women composers over the next five years
  • Educational outreach, recordings, publishing, competition, festival all part of the plan
  • Cheryl Frances-Hoad appointed as launch composer-in-residence
  • Leading names in the industry voice their support
  • Launch concert in the Dry Berth at the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, Wednesday 6th July, 2016
  • Independent IPSOS survey highlights gender gap in the public’s musical knowledge – only 4% of adults could name a woman composer

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The London Oriana Choir has announced the launch of a ground-breaking new musical venture championing the musical talent of women composers.

The heart of the project, known as five15, is the commissioning of 15 brand new choral works from five women over the next five years, but the plan is to include a programme of new performances, educational projects, recordings and other initiatives to raise the profile of classical music written by women across the UK, as well as helping to encourage and develop the talents of new young writers.

The first composer-in-residence is the award-winning Cheryl Frances-Hoad and the project will kick off in style this summer with a special concert at the Cutty Sark in Greenwich featuring new music from the first five15 commission, as part of a programme of events marking the re-opening of The Queen’s House this year.

This is also the start of a new, longer term collaboration between the choir and the Royal Museums Greenwich, involving its appointment as choir-in-residence for a three-year period, annual performances at the Cutty Sark amongst other events at the Royal Museums and involvement in its education and outreach programmes.

Dominic Peckham, musical director of the London Oriana Choir, said:

“The lack of exposure of the work of women composers is still sadly evident – the results of the independent survey we conducted show that very clearly. The London Oriana Choir has long been associated with commissioning and performing their music but felt that fresh impetus, new thinking and organisation is now needed to bring about greater change. I am very proud and excited to be involved with this project, which already has the support of several high profile individuals and organisations, and we hope that others will join us in developing five15 even further.”

Speaking of her appointment, Cheryl Frances-Hoad said:

“I am thrilled to be the launch composer of the five15 project and am looking forward to hearing the premières of all the new works by female composers that will be created in the next five years. I am sure the project will bring to the fore many positive role models for young composers.” 

The project has the backing of some major names in the classical music industry, including composer Cecilia McDowall who said: “The London Oriana Choir’s inspired project – five15 – brings a new and exciting perspective in highlighting the work of women composers. Conceived as a multi-faceted initiative it offers a broad spectrum of creative possibilities and will give many wonderful opportunities for showcasing new work in superb historic locations.

Composer and arranger Rachel Fuller observed:  “I’m really excited to hear that London Oriana Choir is launching this pioneering project to support and highlight the work of women composers. Composing and the development of young composers is frequently perceived as ‘a man’s’ profession. That’s changing!!”

BASCA welcomes the London Oriana Choir’s plans for commissioning 15 works by five female composers in the next five years,” Vick Bain, CEO of BASCA (British Association of Songwriters, Composers and Authors), commented. “This is just the sort of initiative that is urgently needed to address the obvious inequality in composition. Over 80% of all composers are male and thus win most commissions in an ever perpetuating cycle. So by creating demand and profile for new works by female composers this will give heart to existing female professionals and inspiration to those young women coming through the ranks just entering the profession.  We very much look forward to hearing the finished pieces!”  

British composer and performer Kerry Andrew commented: “I’m a strong believer in positive prejudice, and I’m loving the London Oriana Choir’s tiered approach to promoting great music by women, from turning the spotlight on existing work to creating opportunities for emerging composers. Go, Oriana!”

Anyone interested in learning more about all aspects of the project should visit the five15 website where full details and contact information are available.

(Source: press release)