Gender balanced radio show The Daffodil Perspective 17th January 2020

Herstory Rewritten exploring the life and music of Romantic composer, pianist, teacher and trailblazer Louise Farrenc in this week's show.

A is for Auerbach in the start of my A-Z of contemporary composers, every show featuring composers at the forefront of the classical scene.

A brand new world premiere of Florence Price by pianist Lara Downes.

Plus new albums by Nicholas Phan, Yolanda Bruno, Paula Gudmundson and music by Reicha, Ades, Arutiunian, Lili Boulanger and more gender balanced fun.

https://www.mixcloud.com/TheDaffodilPerspective/the-daffodil-perspective-17th-january-2020/

Ailsa Dixon, composer, 1932-2017 - a guest post by Josie Dixon

Among the many women composers side-lined in musical history who are becoming the focus of new interest, Ailsa Dixon (1932-2017) only began to receive her share of recognition in the last months of her life.  While there were a handful of performances during her most fertile period of composition in the 1980s and ’90s (most notably by Ian Partridge, Lynne Dawson, and the Brindisi Quartet), there followed several decades of almost complete neglect.  Then, in 2017, a work that had been lying in manuscript for thirty years was chosen for premiere as part of the London Oriana Choir’s Five15 project highlighting the work of women composers.  These things shall be received its first performance in the spectacular glass-roofed concert hall surrounding the keel of the Cutty Sark just five weeks before the composer’s death.

Five 15 at the Cutty Sark, July 2017.  Photo: London Oriana Choir / Kathleen Holman

It was sung again at memorial concerts in London and Bristol, and is now showing signs of entering the choral repertoire, with subsequent performances by choirs in Oxford and Cambridge and festivals from Little Missenden to Romsey Abbey.  With its vision of a future when ‘New arts shall bloom’, it seems especially apt that it came to light in the context of the enterprise to give due prominence to the work of women composers.  

Ailsa Dixon (centre) at the premiere of These things Shall be in July 2017, with fellow composers Dobrinka Tabakova (left) and Cheryl Frances Hoad (right).  Photo: London Oriana Choir / Kathleen Holman

Born Ailsa Harrison, she came from a musical family background: next to the piano in the cottage where she grew up was a portrait of her musical ancestor Feliks Yaniewicz (1762-1848), the Polish composer and violinist who co-founded the first Edinburgh Festival.  She played the violin in the London Junior Orchestra, studied the piano with Hilda Bor, took her LRAM, and went on to read music at Durham University in the early 1950s.  It was here that she first began playing the lute, which she later studied with Diana Poulton.  There was no formal tuition in composition, but by the time she left university she had written her first work for string quartet (a Scherzo recently rediscovered in her archive), though it was not until some decades later that she returned to composition in earnest.

Ailsa (with lute) and contemporaries at Durham in the early 1950s

The intervening period was spent teaching and singing, but her musical life took a new turn in 1976 when she undertook a production of Handel’s Theodora. This was an all-consuming project, and left her with such withdrawal symptoms that afterwards, to fill the gap, she began to conceive an opera of her own, Letter to Philemon (based on an episode in the life of St Paul) which was performed in 1984 and proved to be the start of her most fertile period as a composer.

In the following two decades she wrote three works for string quartet (Nocturnal Scherzo, Sohrab and Rustum, and Variations on Love Divine), chamber works including a set of 3 fugues on Biblical subjects, and Airs of the Seasons, a sonata for piano duet (4 hands).  Among her vocal compositions are a variety of songs and duets, including settings of two Shakespeare sonnets for soprano and tenor, a cycle of 5 Songs of Faith and Joy for mezzo soprano and guitar, a set of 3 songs for soprano and string quartet entitled The Spirit of Love, and Shining Cold, a vocalise for high soprano, ondes martenot and strings. 

Many of these works went unperformed in her lifetime, but recent discoveries in her musical archive have stimulated a raft of new performances, including posthumous premieres of Airs of the Seasons at St George’s Bristol in 2018 and The Spirit of Love (in February 2020).  Plans are underway for a recording of her complete works for string quartet by the Villiers Quartet.  Her manuscript scores are now being digitised as part of a project in Finland to preserve the work of neglected female composers, and there are plans to deposit her archive at Heritage Quay, where the British Music Collection is held.

Religious themes are a strong element in Ailsa Dixon’s works, while literary texts (from medieval Latin lyrics to Shakespeare, Matthew Arnold and Walter de la Mare) inspired many of her compositions.  When asked about her musical influences in an interview in the ‘Meet the Artist’ series shortly before she died, she cited ‘Fauré (for his harmonic suppleness), Britten (for his powers of evocation and empathy), and Bartok (studying his compositional processes at Durham stimulated an interest in his lively variations of time signature and the elasticity of musical motifs)’, while observing that ‘the Greats preside over it all’.  Her interest in counterpoint is especially prominent in the three instrumental Fugues and the quartets, and was often deployed to figure the interplay and resolution of conflicting emotions, as in the Nocturnal Scherzo, and a farewell fugue sung by four characters in Letter to Philemon

Frances Wilson wrote of her musical style in a review of Airs of the Seasons, ‘The opening chords… are reminiscent of Debussy and Britten in their distinct timbres, and the entire work has a distinctly impressionistic flavour. Ailsa’s admiration of Fauré … is also evident in the harmonic language, while the idioms of English folksong and hymns, and melodic motifs redolent of John Ireland and the English Romantics remind us that this is most definitely a work by a British composer with an original musical vision.’    

More details at www.ailsadixon.co.uk   To subscribe to occasional newsletters featuring recent and upcoming performances of Ailsa Dixon’s works and news on the availability of scores, please use the Contact page on her website.



Composer Sally Currie is a winner of the Emergent Commissions for Disabled Musicians 2019/20

'Winners announced for national 2019/20 Emergent Commissions for Disabled Musicians 

Three emerging Disabled musicians have been awarded national commissions by Drake Music and its partner, Sound and Music. The winners of the 2019/20 Emergent commissions - Dyr Sister, Robbie Ashworth and Remi Fox-Novak - will create new work which brings together music and film, responding to the question: “What does it mean to be you and living in today’s society?”.

The composers, from Nottingham, London and Hull, come from very different musical backgrounds, including contemporary folk music, underground techno and composition for moving image.

The commissions aim to support emerging Disabled musicians to take the next step in their musical and career development, offering a supported opportunity to create new work and push their practice further.

The two organisations are working in partnership to raise the profile of Disabled composers within the UK contemporary music scene. As well as partnering each musician with a film-maker, the organisations will support them to become part of the British Music Collection, an online space and discovery platform for new music and creators in the UK.

Carien Meijer, Chief Executive of Drake Music, commented:

“This is the third year of our Emergent commission programme and it is wonderful to see the quality of the musicians coming through. 

"Disabled people are massively under-represented in the UK music scene, so it is exciting to be working in partnership with Sound and Music to bring these talented musicians to a whole new audience.”

 

The three Emergent Commission winners are:

Dyr Sister (Hull)

Sally Currie is a Multi-Instrumentalist based in Hull who is partially deaf and has an extensive history writing and performing music with bands and solo. Her main instruments are the Viola and the Piano which she learnt as a child, subsequently playing in local orchestras and string ensembles. As a solo artist she has performed her work all over the UK at venues and festivals sharing bills with acts like Laetitia Sadier, This is the Kit, Ruth Theodore, Thomas Truax and The Dead Rat Orchestra.

Sally’s current project is The Dyr Sister, a contemporary folk band which expands on her previous solo work and is described as ‘Fairy tales for the Modern Gentleman’.

Sally says:

“I am very excited as a deaf artist about turning my music into visual art and all the different possibilities that this entails. Being able to add another dimension to the presentation of my work that is accessible to the deaf community is something that means a lot to me and I feel privileged to be able to join the programme and explore this.”

 

Robbie Ashworth

A composer, performer and entertainer from South West London. His main instrument is piano but he also enjoys playing guitar and African djembe drums. He has a music degree from Kingston University and an HND from North East Scotland College. His favourite genres are jazz, blues and 1950s rock and roll but has also been classically trained to Grade 8 (piano).

“I am thrilled to be able to compose a piece of music set to a moving image which highlights how inclusion is still in its infancy with regards to people with hidden disabilities as well as visual ones. I would like my music to show how living in today’s society can be an isolating experience for those who are different.”

 

Remi Fox-Novak

Emerging from the Nottingham underground, Remi Fox-Novák is a producer, live performer and sound artist as a member of the Surfacing collective. This summer he released his first solo record ‘+’ and has begun performing his angular brand of dancefloor techno live.  A self-confessed music technology nerd, he is passionate about finding ways to make playing music accessible for all.

Remi adds:

“I am so pleased to be working with Drake Music. It’s a great opportunity to push my sound design skills in partnership with film makers and make connections with other artists.”

 

The Emergent: A Music Legacy programme is funded by Help Musicians UK to support new artistic and career opportunities for Disabled musicians and composers.

Drake Music brought the three artists together for a collaborative and exploratory music making session in November and they are now working on their commissions individually. In early 2020 they will be matched with film-makers, ready to release the new work in spring.'

Source: Drake Music https://www.drakemusic.org/blog/becky-morris-knight/emergent-commission-winners-2019-20-announced/


Music intertwining women from past and present, from Asia and Europe - a concert of memory and hope, 24 January 2020

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Rachel Beckles Willson brings her quartet Beyond Mode to London, animating a unique soundworld of voice, oud, bowed tanbur and double-bass interwoven with Indian tabla. The programme combines music by a female musician at the Ottoman court in 18th-century Istanbul, Dilhayat Kalfa, and newly-written instrumental pieces, songs and extemporisations for this unique quartet.

At the heart of the programme is Beckles Willson's Sing no Sad Songs for Me, the composition that launched the ensemble, exploring the poetry of Christina Rossetti, child of Italian exiles in 19th-century London. Sing no Sad Songs for Me expresses the mysteriousness and poignancy of parting in death, while bringing together in music the spaces of Europe and Asia all too often held apart.

Beyond Mode emerged from musical encounters at Labyrinth Musical Workshops, Crete. Rachel Beckles Willson is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and researcher, Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, University of London. Her work is dedicated to seeking out and amplifying unheard voices - often those of women, often those of people on-the-move.

Evgenios Voulgaris is one of Europe’s leading multi-instrumentalists in traditional repertoires of the Mediterranean, and a leading exponent of the yayli tanbur, the bowed long-necked lute of Turkey. Ciro Montanari has emerged as one of the most significant European tabla players and is currently based in Barcelona, while Kostas Tsaroukis is increasingly in demand as oud-player and double-bassist in Greece and internationally, while working mainly Athens.

Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/soas-concert-series-beyond-mode-tickets-83698828449?fbclid=IwAR2EWn1A-Fr4Abd-ikW1HUR3ZTvZ6-fVlAcMMESzalCYhKP91tdpOONlkC0

£4 online booking required to guarantee seat allocation.

https://www.rachelbeckleswillson.com/Beyond-Mode/




And The Stats Are out! - 1 year Analysis of gender balanced classical music show The Daffodil Perspective

1 year, 42 shows, 55 hours of music. How did it go?

409 composers including 204 female composers, 155 living composers and 40 BAME composers/composers of colour.

33 hours of music by women composers, 13 hours of music by living women composers, 6.75 hours of music by BAME composers/composers of colour

584 pieces including 339 by female composers.

14 pieces per week on average including 8 by women, 3 by living composers and from May onwards every show had at least 1 piece by a BAME compose/composer of colour.

Most Played Composer: Florence Price (14 times)

Mozart was played twice, Bach twice and Beethoven once.

See the full infographic report here: 

https://daffodilperspective.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/the-daffodil-perspective-1st-year-analysis-1.pdf