some years Women in Music (UK) has been doing a survey of the numbers of women
represented in the BBC PROMS season. The
Proms is the largest classical music festival in the world. This year there are
57 main evening orchestral concerts, as well as chamber music concerts, daytime
events and late-night concerts. The audiences in the Royal Albert Hall are of
many thousands, and all the concerts are broadcast, many on television.
year the Proms Director, David Pickard, has publicly proclaimed that he intends
to redress the balance between men and women. As far as composers are concerned
he says his aim is to increase the number of BBC commissions to women until
half of new commissions for the Proms season are for women by the year 2022.
The figures for women in the
2018 BBC Proms season are:
Composers: 19/133 (14%) [Last year
composers: 17/43 (40%) [Last
year was 8/36]
Commissions: 12/19 (63%) [Last
year was 4/13]
Conductors: 4/58 (7%) [Last
year was 7/57]
year I have made a new category for the number of living composers whose works
are substantial (more than 15 mins) and are featured in main evening concerts.
This is because many of the new commissions this year are for short pieces in
chamber concerts or “family” concerts.
works by living composers: 5/14 (36%)
women composers are: Kerry Andrew, Lili Boulanger, Tansy Davies, Bushra
El-Turk, Suzanne Farrin, lisa Illean, Hannah Kendall, Anna Meredith, Isobel
Mundry, Thea Musgrave, Laura Mvula, Olga Neuwirth, Roxanna Panufnik, Eve
Risser, Nina Senk, Caroline Shaw, Ethel Smyth, Jessica Wells, Agata Zubel
conductors are: Marin Alsop; Karina Canellakis; Sian Edwards; Jane Glover.
analyse the results: These figures are substantially better than
they have ever been. The previous best for composers was in 2015 when there
were 12 female composers in the Proms season. The number of female conductors
is down from last year, but that was an all-time high. Last year when I looked
at the duration of the works by living composers I found that only one woman
composer had a substantial work (15 mins or over), and that was not in a main
evening concert at the Royal Albert Hall. That was compared to 17 substantial
works by male composers in the main evening concerts. To have 5 substantial
works by women this year is unprecedented.
seem that there is a marked improvement regarding the proportion of women
composers in the 2018 BBC Proms season, with promise of this continuing. I take it that this is, in part, a response to
the publicity generated by Women in Music (my survey started in the 1980s) and
taken up by other music journalists and publicists. Result!
have never implied that the BBC Proms season is any worse than any other
substantial classical music season or festival – only that it is
representative. I will now have to think whether to continue the Proms survey,
or maybe switch attention to other seasons elsewhere.
NOTE: Anyone is welcome to quote these statistics, but please mention the source. The figures for past Proms seasons are also available on the Women in Music (UK) website: www.womeninmusic.org.uk