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GRADUATE CHORAL CONDUCTING RECITAL: Literature

My daughter is seeking assistance in locating a piece of choral music for her upcoming M.A. conducting recital at CSULA. The size of the choir will probably be around 20-24, SATB with divisi possible. The broad area of concern is "Women's Choral Literature,"  i.e., pieces about women and their place(s) in society, but not necessarily composed by women. The piece can be of any voicing (male or female), from any era, not more than 6 parts, acc. or not. She is particularly looking for a text which describes women as being the victims of condescension. If you have any clues, please reply. It would help if the piece is still in print. 
 
 
I thank you in advance, 
 
Dean M. Estabrook
Replies (5): Threaded | Chronological
on January 23, 2014 8:09am
Hi,
I invite your daughter to have a look at "Winter Stars", for 3 part women's choir. Text by American poet Sarah Teasdale. It was featured in last week's Composition Spotlight on ChoralNet. -Rich
 
Composition Spotlight:
 
Score:
on January 23, 2014 10:19am
Very nice Rich ... it shall be passed along ...
 
Dean
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 24, 2014 1:16pm
Hello Mr. Estabrook,
 
Conducting recital at CSULA: then I must know your daughter! Or I must have at least seen her. I attended the summer choral event at CSULA last summer where they worked on French repertoire. I’m sure she would recognize me because I was, besides Dr Vallée, the only francophone on campus!
 
I must admit that your daughter decided to take the hard road with her program, but what a challenging idea! Before answering your post, I googled for a while and read a few articles. I came across many websites listing women composers (including instrumental music). Two of them were: http://www.classical-composers.org/page/female_composers or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Women_classical_composers. I also did an advanced search by gender on www.centremusique.ca [the Canadian Music Center, an extraordinary resource for any conductor willing to discover new music!].
 
As I read articles, it became clear to me that most women composer were victim of gender condescension. As you state it, your daughter seems to be looking for a song where the text is clearly related to condescension or mockery. I do not know of any song where the text relates directly to that subject, either in English, in French or in any other language. However, many songs exist where women are the subject, or let’s say part of the text and the story! But I don’t feel that’s what she is looking for!
 
Women composers have been fighting for recognition of their work for centuries. In the Antiquity, the women practicing music was even related to prostitution. I believe that the
For a long time, women were treated as being inferior to man in many fields, and music was clearly one of them. Until recent times, women’s main social roles was to be honourable housewives, taking care of the kids and being supportive of their husband’s point of views, whether they were composers or not! Music composed by women was also banned from most catholic churches (though nuns were allowed to write music to be sung by their community): no need to look for reasons why some women published their music under masculine names!
 
Here are a few important figures of women composers in the western tradition and a brief description on how I think they could be helpful to your daughter’s search.
 
Hildegarde von Bingen
Interest in woman in the medieval church has led to the rediscovery of her music by many Ancient Music ensembles. Von Bingen was a Benedictine abbess and it is said that she was one of the first woman to have her music sung in public, although Sappho is said to be the first composer. It is said that she was writing her music under God’s “dictation”. She has a few interesting works and some I heard in concert a few months ago. However, most of her music is monophonic (could be considered as Gregorian). Some of  those works are Symphonia armoniae celestium revelationum and Ordo Virtutum.
 
Maddalena Casaluna
Casaluna is said to be the first woman whose works were published and printed. Her first book of madrigals was dedicated to Isabelle de Médicis with the following note: “I want to show the world, as much as I can as being a woman composer, the error men are doing thinking that they are the only ones to possess the gifts of intelligence and that such gifts are never given to women.” Here is a link to that famous first book of madrigals: http://www1.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Maddalena_Casulana. And for the second book and other scores: http://imslp.org/wiki/Category:Casulana,_Maddalena
 
Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre
Although not a choral music composer, she wrote a few sacred and secular cantatas, and her story is interesting. She was married to organist Marin de La Guerre, but had an independent career which was very rare at the time. The Suite pour clavecin [1687] is one of the only book of harpsichord works printed in France in the 17th century along those of Lebègue, d’Anglebert and Chambonnières. Évrard Titon du Tillet, a music critic, said about her: “We can say that no one of her gender has ever had such talents for music composition and for the admirable manner she would perform it both on the harpsichord and on the organ.” The 1694 lyrical tragedy was not a success and musicologists [wish my source would say who!] say that it failed more because of her gender than because of the quality of her music. In 1715, she composed Cantates Françoises consisting of 3 cantatas and 1 comic duet. After reading the dedicatory note and the concluding comment of the work, it is obvious to me that she was being a victim of condescension, thanking profusely Maximilien II (Emmanuel de Bavière) [all her works were presented/offered to King Louis XIV] for granting him the opportunity to present a public and striking proof of her zeal. Interesting fact is that she has also worked in collaboration with composer Sébastien de Brossard.
 
Clara Schumann [Robert Schumann’s wife], Fanny Mendelssohn [Felix Mendelssohn’s sister] and Cécile Chaminade
Times are changing slowly in the Romantic period.
  • Robert Schumann’s wife, although we do not know of any choral work from her, was being considered by Schumann himself one of the only person who could truly understand his music. This helped her in having much less trouble with condescension (although I am sure it was very hard for her). She was a talented and gifted pianist.
  • Fanny Mendelssohn was a truly flourishing composer. She wrote A LOT of music and among them, at least 13 works including an Oratorio on Scenes of the Bible. I sang, when I was taking voice lessons, a lieder and I remember it was wonderfully written. A list of these works can be found at: http://www.classicalarchives.com/composer/35732.html under “Choral Works”
  • Cécile Chaminade is a very little know French composer who received her training by Benjamin Goddard. She toured in England and in France. She made her debuts in USA with the Philadelphia Orchestra. She has a lot of choral music to offer, mostly for women chorus. A catalogue of her works is available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20041205095047/http://www.home.earthlink.net/~cecilechaminade/catalog.htm. There is also a very interesting Mass for two voices, available on imslp.org (as are most of her works!) which would be quite interesting in a graduation recital!
 
Alma Mahler, Lili Boulanger and Germaine Taillefer
  • Before meeting and marrying Gustav, she was an ambitious young woman. She was of great help to make her husband meet important people. However, it was a relationship where condescension was most probably present…
  • When Lili Boulanger became the first woman to win the Grand Prix de Rome in 1913, it was such a surprise for the organizers who had not planned that a woman could win: they couldn’t host her at Villa Médicis and had to rent an apartment for her in town. Your daughter is aware of that composer (we sang her setting of Psalm 24 last summer!). She has very few, but VERY interesting works, almost never sang! And it is in French: how fabulous, isn’t it? Link: http://www.classicalarchives.com/composer/2229.html
  • Germaine Tailleferre can be seen as a very modern composer and she was a member of Groupe des Six. My former teacher Jacinthe Harbec, at Sherbrooke University, made her PhD degree on her works and Nicole Paiement, teacher at University of California, Santa Cruz, recorded many of her works. Tailleferre has a few choral works and I’m sure they haven’t been much recorded nor heard. Your daughter might want to get in contact with the two ladies to help her find the scores!
 
And two very interesting and talented Canadian composers: Eleanor Daley and Ruth Watson Henderson. They have great music!
 
Arthur Honnegger’s “Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher” could also be a very interesting work. It is a full oratorio, but excerpts could easily be done! Taken on the Montreal Symphony orchestras website:
Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher (Joan of Arc at the Stake) came about as a collaboration between French poet Paul Claudel and Swiss composer Arthur Honegger. A seminal vocal-choral work of the 20th-century, this masterpiece evokes the difficult life and tragic fate of this mystical heroine and bears witness to the questions that were surfacing in the seething social and political atmosphere of Europe during the 1930s.
 
Hope it can be of some help to your daughter. This research was a real pleasure to do!
 
Have a good weekend!
 
Guillaume St-Gelais, M.Mus
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 24, 2014 7:36pm
What a fantastic post .... I hope I can get it all to Adrian, whom, as you have said, you probably know!  I can't thank you enough for the time and energy you took to delve into this topic ... I learned a huge amount just by readiing it  .... now I'll try and copy it all and get it where it belongs.  And yes, you're correct about the level of quality in this 3 year program ... I couldn't be more excited about what she has learned.
 
Take Care,
 
 
Dean (proud father)
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 25, 2014 7:48am
Dean & co -- Great ideas here, thanks.  May I suggest "Song  (Now Let Us Honor)," my setting for SSATBB of a terrific May Sarton text -- now there's a woman to include in this program!  The text is a powerful testament to perseverence and love in the face of adversity.  A composer-singer friend of mine insisted on it for a concert "Give Me The Roses While I Live," which she organized to hear her favorite music on a big birthday, noting she didn't want it all sung at her funeral when she couldn't enjoy it!  Another great idea for programming...   Anyway, details at this info page on my website.  Best wishes to Adrian (and her family),
 
chris
Christopher J. Hoh
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