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Blog Category: women in music

Female voices creating disharmony

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female voices creating disharmony
The decision by St Paul’s Cathedral to appoint its first fulltime female chorister, Carris Jones, has led a leading counter-tenor and conductor, Grayston Burgess, to comment, “This ‘politically correct’ decision appears to have been taken without a thought for the musical aspect or its consequence —the next logical step is to appoint another female alto to ‘balance’ the two sides of the choir”. (The Daily Telegraph).

The indignation in this I find hard to understand. As a clarinettist my expertise admittedly is in passing an airstream through a wooden tube rather than across vocal cords but the amount of energy that is extended to keep tradition for its own sake continues to confound me.

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Young Composer Voices in Cambridge

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10th November saw An Evening of New Music curated by young composers Jay Richardson and Alex Woolf, under the aegis of Young Composers’ Network*. Jay is reading Music at Pembroke College, Cambridge and Alex is in his final year at St John’s College, Cambridge. Both already have impressive CVs which include performances with national orchestras and broadcasts on national radio.

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Last Night in the hands of a woman!

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“The sound of a glass ceiling breaking.”  This is how the BBC Proms website describes the innovation of a woman conductor being appointed to take charge of the iconic The Last Night.  Marin Alsop, Chief Conductor of São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, first made her name in the UK as Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.  I remember attending a performance by Alsop and the BSO of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony when she drew an exhilarating performance from the players.

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Women Composers in the Minority

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An interesting statistic came to light recently which claimed that of the 75,000 music-writers – composers, songwriters and lyricists – that are members of the UK royalty collecting society, PRS for Music, only 14% are women.

I think that this could relate to other genres rather than contemporary classical where there is a lot of exciting new music being created. Part of it was even discussed in breakfast time on radio 4 and there, it was emphasised quite correctly I think, that it is not so much whether they are women composers but whether they are good composers.

I remember quite vividly being told by my professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London, that he felt it was more important for his male students to succeed as they had to support a family where as most of the women when they left would give up anyway, get married and have babies. Well not this person! Incidentally, I was also told that I would have a much better chance of succeeding as a classical clarinettist, if I did not speak with a Derbyshire accent and if I went to an Anglican Church rather than a Methodist Church – but hey that was a long time ago!

It did not deter me because in the end it was the playing of music that was important to me and let’s face it to the listener as well. I suppose what can make it more difficult is that not enough women get in at the highest level in order to influence decisions.

I am still one to support good compositions and good performers whether they are male or female. However, what is important to us at tutti.co.uk and on the impulse music website is to support composers and performers so that they are at least seen and heard. Just to even the balance a bit here is a link to women composers of a great range of styles on the tutti website.

Geraldine Allen

A spark has been lost from the world of opera

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I was very sorry to hear today that Marie Hayward Segal has passed away. Whenever I think of Marie I think of her laughter. She was on several musical committees with me and we would meet at various events and I would always be glad to see her as she would brighten up every occasion that she attended. Marie was a dramatic soprano and distinguished opera singer performing at the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne and in Europe. She has died at the age of 72 and the music profession will greatly miss her. She is survived by her son Benjamin and her grandson George who was born just after her death.

Geraldine Allen

Remembering a great clarinet player

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It seems like ages ago now that I was asked to write a biography on my fellow clarinettist and friend Georgina Dobree for the online edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. It has been published this month at www.oxforddnb.com. The stuff of biography is by its nature the achievements of a lifetime but somehow you cannot convey the friendship and the laughter and the kindness of a person in such a formal setting. As well as being a terrific clarinettist, editor and publisher, Georgina was known by people in the clarinet world for her parties. Whenever there was a visiting clarinettist or bassett horn player in London there would inevitably be a party in her home to which all the clarinet fraternity would be invited too. Georgina in the 50’s and 60’s at the Darmstadt Festival intriduced more ground breaking contemporary music with composers such as Peter Maxwell Davies, Oliver Messiaen, Luciano Berio, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez than most players will do in a lifetime. She was meticulous in researching editing and performing early music as well as commissioning new works. She died in 1998 having greatly enriched the clarinet repertoire and having been a wonderful supporter of music and players alike.

Geraldine Allen

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