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