International Women’s Day 2


Hildegard of Bingen heads every list of female composers.

BBC Radio Three’s trails for its plans for International Women’s Day – a whole day’s worth of programmes focussing on women in classical music – set me to wondering about SCS and women composers.

Our Archive Page provides a rich source of information about our story so far.  My limited knowledge of classical music suggested that a fifty – fifty representation of women composers would be too much to expect. What about ten percent? Oh dear!  According to our archive Strathaven Choral Society has sung music by female composers on ……. Zero occasions. Never.

Googling ‘women choral composers’ throws up 163,000 results; delete the word ‘women’ and there are 2.66 million results.

Hildegard of Bingen heads most lists of female composers of choral music and there’s a sprinkling of mentions of Lili Boulanger, Fanny Mendelssohn, Judith Weir, Thea Musgrave and quite a few more.  Now an admission: I don’t know much of the work of most of these women (well, I listen to Radio 3 and they’re devoting only 1/365 of a year to women composers) and so I cannot argue that SCS has been missing some great music.  Would the quest for gender equality be sufficient reason for poor quality repertoire? I don’t believe so and therefore I am neither complaining nor campaigning. Rather I simply offer a little food for thought on this International Women’s Day.

To finish on a positive: this year’s Making Music Adopt a Composer pairs six composers with amateur music groups and SCS is delighted to be working with Mark Carroll. Of the five others,  three are paired with female composers.

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2 thoughts on “International Women’s Day

  • Corinne blackstock

    This is obviously the case in many artistic fields -the dominance of men being obvious over the centuries for well known reasons. To balance it up a little perhaps it might be a reason to look at occasional inclusion of arrangements of ‘appropriate’ modern singer song writers like Carole king etc. ?(of course male ones too) Just a thought! My knowledge of female classical composers is ,I’m ashamed to say non-existent and would probably consist of those who composed music for children learning to play the piano!!
    Just a thought. As a very bad pianist with a rather thin classical knowledge I love how the society embraces very demanding stuff which is already educating me thoroughly but would like us to consider addressing more recent compositions even though some would consider them of a too ‘popular’ nature.

  • Alastair

    I’m not surprised at the result, but there were/are so few women composers. How sad! And to make matters worse, the lads culture regards singing in a choir as a sissy pursuit. You just can’t win!