Voces Inauditae is very lucky to reside in a city full of brilliant artists and a flourishing choral music scene. We’re always looking for new opportunities to engage with the community and start new projects. Check out our updates and news below!
“Regarding Concerts of Music by Women on International Women’s Day”
~By Caroline Lesemann-Elliott (Musical Director)
Every New Year’s Eve, we look at our past year to gauge events that have led us to where we our today. Today, on International Women’s Day, we look back over the year, over the decade, over the century at the progress that has made for 50% of the population, and what progress means for different parts of that 50%. Whether they be women of colour, women in the LGBTQ community, or the women around the world who face intense poverty and violence in wartorn communities, it is important to remember that the narrative for women around the world is diverse and complicated, and deserves more than just one day to explore.
Every IWD, concerts featuring music written by solely by women litter programmes across the country. Their purpose represents a deeply problematic attitude held by musical directors when it comes to non-canonical music (namely, that it has a place and time, and that place and time is virtually never). As such, I would like to list some sentiments that have informed me when it comes to choosing repertoire with Voces Inauditae, in the hope that it will help illuminate some different ways of thinking that are slowly becoming more mainstream in the British choral community:
1. While it is excellent to perform “women’s day” concerts celebrating female composers and acknowledging their struggles, those concerts have little effect unless those works are then worked into the general repertoire. One day out of 365 is not an equal share of time for female composers. There has got to be more effort every day to incorporate works by female composers into concerts, services, and music education, such that these incredibly prolific and versatile composers become mainstream. There are works from across history by women, from symphonies to madrigals, that suit perfectly to any need one could have. It just requires the bare minimum of digging, which any musician should be excited for! After all, who doesn’t like spending time poking through music collections online and on Spotify?
2. Women of colour have routinely been overlooked as creative minds, and faced far more instances of pigeonholing and degrading attitudes than white women historically. If we want to appreciate a culture, it’s important we acknowledge the works written by people within that culture, and appreciate their artistic products just as much (if not more so) than white or Western interpretations of that artistic style. We suggest every musical director acquire a copy of the Oxford Book of Spirituals, as it is an excellent source of spirituals written by African-Americans throughout the 20th century, and indeed features multiple works by Black women (such as Undine Smith-Moore, Lena McLin, Evelyn La Rue Pittman, and more). There are also a plethora of works by Rosephanye Powell, many of which (alongside the aforementioned works) would be perfect for concerts and services alike. Consistently performing spirituals only when they’re arranged by white composers results in black composers not receiving the revenue for their cultural products, and sends a distinctly problematic message regarding why we value Black music when we aren’t willing to acknowledge its creators.
4. Lastly, I’d encourage musical directors to look at and aid in developing Cecilia’s List, a resource that categorises sacred music in accordance with the liturgical year. Developed by Kathryn Rose, it’s very useful for the church musician who may have less time than she or he would like to look for new music.
We CAN make sure that the next generation knows that our great Western choral tradition is made up of more than just white men, and it always has been. There have been so many phenomenal, unique music that have been left out of anthologies and volumes because as women, they weren’t paid attention to. It’s not enough to devote one day to works by women. It’s not enough to feature the occasional female composer in a concert, or in an anthology of works.
In March of 2017, Voces Inauditae provided commissions and recordings for ECA student Florence Richardson’s third year exhibition, Running Up That Hill. She describes her project as follows:
“Running Up That Hill is an exhibition showcasing the burgeoning art practices of third year Edinburgh College of Art students from the four disciplines of Painting, Intermedia, Sculpture, and Photography. The exhibition encapsulates different perspectives that reflect our varied approaches to contemporary art practice through the navigation and critique contemporary society, the exploration of the everyday, the recontextualization of visual and aural stimuli, the creation of imagined worlds and narratives, and the re-examination of existing conditions and principles rooted in art history.
Run Up That Hill, away from your realities and into ours.”
The commissions (written by alto Sarah Gross and alto/conductor Caroline Lesemann-Elliott) worked to incorporate and shape around Richardson’s works, both in the physical notation and in the music’s interaction with the texts.
Recordings of the project can be found here.
In April 2016, we were lucky enough to work with a fantastic orchestra comprised of students and academics from around the University of Edinburgh, for our anniversary concert in the Reid Concert Hall. The concert especially featured Sally Carr, a well-established soprano within Edinburgh.
Sally Carr is a soprano who has sung regularly with Voces Inauditae for the past year. She began singing as a chorister at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh. She attended St Mary’s Music School where she studied voice with Susan Hamilton and cello with Ruth Beauchamp as joint principal studies. She has just completed her third year of BMus at Edinburgh University where she continues her vocal coaching with Susan. She regularly sings with the National Youth Choir of Scotland and the Edinburgh University Singers, and is the current soprano choral scholar at Old St Paul’s. Last year she held a place on The Sixteen’s young artists programme, ‘Genesis 16’, and currently performs with ‘echo’, a new ensemble comprised of graduate Genesis members, led by former conducting scholar, Sarah Latto. Sally has appeared several times as a chorister and recitalist in concerts as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where last year she also made her second appearance with ESO in the role of Julia Bertram for their production of Jonathan Dove’s ‘Mansfield Park’. She has recently been featured as a soloist alongside ensembles such as the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union, Voces Inauditae, the Edinburgh Practice Choir, the Roseneathe Singers and the Scottish Bach Players and is engaged as a freelance soprano and cellist throughout the year.
Lastly, check out a wonderful blog post by an audience member way back from our first concert that encapsulates our mission perfectly:
““I so enjoyed the vast range of musical selections. It was a journey through time of female musical empowerment!”