(The following is an edited version of my article in GScene magazine, March 2016)
To mark International Women’s Day (8 March 2016) I’ve looked back at my columns for the last year or so, looking
out for women performers, composers and conductors. Out of around 40 CDs reviewed, just four
feature women composers, and about ten have female lead performers (that
doesn’t include women in mixed chamber ensembles and groups). None feature women conductors. So what’s going on here? Now I clearly have my part to play here, as I
have choice over the CDs I review – although in my defence, I sought to review
two CDs by one female composer, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, after hearing one of her works performed live in the BBC Proms. And perhaps herein lies the key –
exposure is often achieved best through concert performances, often via the
championing of well-known performers. On
this occasion, it was The Tallis Scholars who had commissioned a new work for
their Prom concert.
|Alice Coote (credit: Chris Christodoulou)|
|Fiona Shaw (credit: John Enoch)|
|Credit: Robert Piwko|
Deborah Roberts also conducted and performed with Musica Secreta, the CelestialSirens (both all-women ensembles) and the Brighton Festival Youth Choir in a programme directed by herself and Laurie Stras, about Lucrezia Borgia’s daughter Leonora d’Este, with the first modern performances of music potentially by her. And again, she directed and sung in a consort of music by Strozzi, Caccini and Cozzolani, with the BREMF Consort of Voices, a concert that was later broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
|Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (credit: Jay L Clendenin)|
Also in the Brighton Festival, Indian violinist and composer, Kala Ramnath will be performing her own piece for Indian violin and orchestra The Seasons of India with the Philharmonia Orchestra. And BREMF Co-director, Clare Norburn brings her play, ‘Breaking the Rules’ about the composer Gesualdo, performed by an actor and the Marian Consort. The play was piloted at BREMF in 2013, and was a hit then, so it’s great to see it returning in a new reworked version to Brighton. She is also writing a play about Galileo for the Monteverdi StringBand and the Marian Consort which will premiere at BREMF this year.
|Marin Alsop (credit: Grant Leighton)|
|Alice Farnham (© Catherine Ashmore)|
So if you think classical music is all music by dead white men performed by living white men, well, perhaps that’s still often the case. But things are hopefully changing, and as I began by saying, the key is exposure and the support of performers and concert programmers. And maybe we’re doing better than some places here in Brighton, with the help of imaginative programming at the Brighton Festival and the out and out championing of women in music at the Brighton Early Music Festival – long may this continue!