Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Maud Powell Signature Women in Music Magazine: the latest spring 2009 Issue

The Maud Powell: Signature Women in Music Magazine is possibly one of the best on-line journals. And I say this not only because I have had a couple of articles published in its pages! It is a great balance of information, history and opinion: it is always beautifully illustrated and well-formatted.
Signature has two main objectives (I quote from the website):-
1. We believe in the value and importance of music as a fundamental and positive force in education, recognizing its influence on all aspects of our being--from emotional, intellectual and spiritual states to shaping character and stimulating the imagination.
2. We believe in the importance of creating public awareness of the achievements and contributions of women in music as a means to provide strong, wholesome and positive female role models, building a broader bridge of understanding between men and women.

It is clear that there is a huge need for a forum which is dedicated to the exploration of the achievements of women in the world of music. Certainly although most people are aware of a Hilary Hahn or a Maria Callas as performers, far too often the world assumes that musical composition is a man’s occupation. And I guess to be fair, most of the so called ‘greats’ have been men, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms etc…
But perhaps things are changing – we are gaining a different perspective. To parody that patronising comment – some of my favourite composers are women! And as I said to a friend recently "At least I know the names of umpteen composers from the 'distaff side'". It seems that Classic FM rarely recognizes that women write music too. I think of Grace Williams, Rebecca Clarke, Ruth Gipps, Dame Ethel, Thea Musgrave, Nicola Le Fanu, Betty Lutyens…
Furthermore, although most people will have a stereotypical view of a woman piano teacher, it is not recognised that women have also had a major impact in the training of musicians and composers in colleges and conservatoires.
Just take a look at the current issue of Signature. There are articles dedicated to Nadia Boulanger, Janet Hamilton, Betty Maconchy and Clara Schumann amongst many others. In case anyone is in any doubt, Boulanger was one of the greatest composition teachers of the 20th Century – her pupils included Aaron Copland, Lennox Berkeley, Lennie Bernstein, Roy Harris, Donald Harris, Joseph Horowitz – the list is almost endless. She was also a significant composer and conductor – although never eclipsing her sister Lili in her compositions. Then there is an interesting piece on Janet Hamilton, who wrote a few very fine songs, including a number of Housman settings which rival those by Butterworth, Somervell, and RVW. But it is not all about composers and teachers. Signature is also dedicated to exploring the contribution of women to performance as and musicology. There is a fine article about Midori and her work in residence with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and its ‘youth’ wing.
But for me, the highlight of this issue is an exploration of the forgotten composer Guirne Creith whose Violin Concerto has recently been released to acclaim on Dutton Epoch. She is a lady who well deserves rediscovery- or should I say discovery, as she has never really made an impact on the British music scene.
My own contribution is a short introduction to the music of Elizabeth Maconchy based round an exploration of some pieces that are currently available on CD.

Please download Maud Powell Signature Magazine: this is a .pdf file and enjoy what is a great read. And finally visit the Signature website and browse earlier editions of the journal…

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