women composers

color photo of Caroline Shaw
Kait Moreno / carolineshaw.com

Six years ago, fifty bucks and an outside-the-box choir helped Caroline Shaw become the youngest person to win the Pulitzer Prize for music. Here's a look at some of what she's been doing more recently.

color photo of the Dessoff Choirs performing
publicity photo/The Dessoff Choirs / http://www.dessoff.org/gallery

She was an African-American woman trying to make it in a white man’s world – and she succeeded, performing with world-class orchestras and winning three highly coveted ASCAP Awards, among other accolades.

Recently, Margaret Bonds’ music received another honor with the release of the world-premiere recording of The Ballad of the Brown King (Avie Records).  Bonds considered it her magnum opus... a Christmas cantata set to a text by noted Harlem Renaissance poet, and Bonds’ longtime friend, Langston Hughes.  The work will be featured this Christmas season on The American Sound.

Malcolm J. Merriweather leads the New York City-based Dessoff Choirs and Orchestra in a performance featuring soprano Laquita Mitchell, mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford and tenor Noah Stewart as soloists.

color photo of Chamber Brews in performance
publicity photo/Chamber Brews / https://www.chamberbrews.com/about-1

Question: How can music by women composers be performed on more concerts?

Answer: Perform it.

That’s what the Columbus-based string quartet Chamber Brews is doing. And they're joining a growing number of professional ensembles in their quest to showcase music by composers who, by virtue of their sex, their race and/or their socioeconomic background, have traditionally been underrepresented on  classical music concerts.

photo of Antoine Clark conducting the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra
Ronald Hoehn / https://www.antoinetclark.com/photos

Columbus conductor and clarinetist Antoine Clark wants women musicians and musicians of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to be heard.

head shot of Anna shelest
Dmitri Shelest / https://www.annashelest.com/

There was a time when a woman composer was a relatively rare phenomenon. There was also a time when music critics drew a clear line between "masculine" (read: strong, powerful, large) music and "feminine" (read: gentle, sweet, small) music.

If the Ukranian-born pianist Anna Shelest had lived during that time, her new recording of solo piano music by women composers would not have come to fruition and, thus, would not have been able to showcase women's music in its own power.

Andrew Weber / theearlyinterval.com

“I think of her as the Beyoncé of the Baroque.”

color photo of Scott Ewing and Debra Rentz
Hannah Roberts / Ohio Song Project

Imagine a vocalist singing heartfelt words and beautiful music directly to you.

That’s the kind of intimacy that Columbus’ organization devoted entirely to performing art song aims to create later this month in its first-ever public concert. 

B&W photo o Tailleferre and Hacquard
FH / Wikimedia Commons

Her father told her that studying music was no better than becoming, as he put it, a streetwalker. But that didn’t stop French composer Germaine Tailleferre from studying music and later becoming a pathbreaking modernist.

color photo of the U.S. Constitution
Josh Hallett / Flickr

Democracy has been called the worst form of government except for all the others. In the United States, democracy is inextricably linked with the presidency, that august office which votes fill, which pundits punch and where the buck famously stops for the commonweal. 

color photo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
European University Institute / Creative Commons

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the mother and mother-in-law. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the music lover. And, thanks to the Notorious R.B.G. blog, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the unexpected pop-culture icon.

Now, Ginsburg, 85, is also the inspiration for, and the subject and dedicatee of, a new recording of art songs — many composed specifically for her and in celebration of the quarter-century mark of her Supreme Court career.

color photo of composer Caroline Shaw
Kait Moreno / carolineshaw.com

During Women’s History Month, I continue my conversation with one of today’s most acclaimed women composers, Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw.

In part 2 of my October 2017 interview with Shaw, we talk about some of the most significant influences — musical and otherwise — on her music, the state of new music today, why music by women composers remains underrepresented on concert programs and how to begin changing that tradition.

color photo of composer Caroline Shaw
Kait Moreno / carolineshaw.com

As the saying goes, everything has a price. Had the entry fee for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize competition in music been more than $50, Caroline Shaw might not have become the youngest person ever to win that coveted award.

Wikimedia Commons

Maybe we have Antiques Roadshow to thank. Because of the cultural phenomenon of that PBS television show, many of us view anything found in an attic, basement or forgotten closet as a potential treasure. And now in the Digital Age, it’s easier than ever to quickly research and back up a hunch about the value of found items.

New finds and rediscoveries can even amend history as we know it. Composer Florence Price has been, in large part due to race and gender, a footnote in American musical history when she should have been a chapter. But an unlikely unearthing of Price papers has revived her story and brought to light music that was thought to be lost.

color photo of Maren Montalbano and Melissa Dunphy
melissadunphy.com

A young Norse woman dresses up as a man, sails to the distant island where her ancestors are buried and demands that her dead father hand over a powerful sword as her birthright.

No, it’s not a role-playing game. It’s Philadelphia-based composer Melissa Dunphy’s Hervararkviða​, or The Incantation of Hervor, a set of three songs for mezzo-soprano, violin and harp whose texts tell a story as unusual as the sound-world Dunphy’s score creates for it.

black-an-white formal photo of Harriet Neff Murphy
Ronald Murphy

A piece of music written more than 70 years ago by an Ohio composer but only recently brought to light will finally be heard this Saturday and Tuesday evenings on Classical 101, as part of  Women of NoteThe American Sound’s celebration of women composers during Women’s History Month.

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