The female composers you should listen to on International Women’s Day
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While female orchestra members are often told to cover their skin, remove piercings, keep their hair a natural color and hide their homosexuality, Ellie says that with Her Ensemble she “wanted create a place where people of marginalized gender would feel able to be accepted as they are, thrive and express themselves.
As well as the music, fashion was instrumental in this – with a laid-back costume theme allowing the pioneering orchestra to play with gender stereotypes.
Christine Anderson, violist and member of her ensemble, explains: “When I grew up and saw orchestras playing, they had a certain appearance and the ladies tended to wear long black dresses and that never came up.
“The first time we all put on a suit felt pretty badass, which is cool. In other industries, women wearing costumes might not be such a shock, but in orchestras, it’s something you never really see.
On Tuesday, to mark this year’s International Women’s Day, her ensemble presents its Forgotten in History showcase at Manchester’s Carole Nash Hall, a unique concert celebrating more than 2,000 years of female composers.
Combining aspects of the pop and classical music industries, the program features a range of arrangements and compositions from throughout history to the present day.
Before the concert, Consta and Anderson told us about some of these little-known and/or forgotten composers and the music that features in the show, and encourage everyone to listen to them on International Women’s Day and beyond. .
The Forgotten in History showcase begins with a composition by Jessie Montgomery – a modern day New York composer, violinist and educator. The piece his ensemble has chosen to perform is called star burst.
True to its name, Starburst features explosive musical gestures juxtaposed with fleeting melodies to create a multi-dimensional soundscape.
“Our lighting technician Belinda Best designed lots of bright star-like lights to circle the stage as we play,” Consta explains.
Hildegard Von Bingen
Hildegard Von Bingen was a German composer of the 1100s, which – as Consta puts it – “makes her one of the first female composers”. During his lifetime, Von Bingen composed over 77 unique musical works (alongside his extensive work as a writer, philosopher, mystic and visionary). For the concert, Her Ensemble chose to arrange their own version of their O Virtus Sapientie, adding electronics to modernize this first piece.
As one of the first openly transgender composers, Angel Morley left more than a musical legacy.
Reverie – the composition Her Ensemble will perform that evening – was written for violin and strings at the request of the BBC, who wanted a new piece to be recorded for the BBC Concert Orchestra during an interview on Radio 3 that ‘Angela gave to presenter Brian Kay in 2005, just 4 years before his death.
Anna Meredith is a current Scottish composer and performer of acoustic and electronic music, former Composer-in-Residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, who also won Scottish Album of the Year in 2016.
While fellow countryman Scot Anderson thinks all the music on the Forgotten in History program is amazing, she confesses: “I love Anna Meredith’s Tuggemo – it’s an absolutely amazing piece with electronics that’s quite danceable and really fun to play.”
Meredith’s music also brings back fond memories for Anderson, for around the age of 15, when she first toured with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, she played one of Meredith’s pieces, which was the first time she performed as part of a real symphony. orchestra. “So it’s really exciting to play another piece of her.”
Consta explains that “Florence Price was the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition performed by a large orchestra”.
During the lockdown, Her Ensemble recorded an excerpt from Price’s G major string quartet, arranged for strings and orchestra and they can’t wait to perform it live for the concert.
His Ensemble will perform ‘Forgotten in History’ at Carole Nash Hall, Manchester, on International Women’s Day on March 8. Tickets are priced from £6-15 and are available here. Her Ensemble releases “Forgive Yourself” with Caitlyn Scarlett on March 18.