Showing posts with label Nicola LeFanu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nicola LeFanu. Show all posts

Sunday, March 08, 2020

International Women's Day: a celebration!

It's time to celebrate International Women's Day, and alongside a number of fantastic programmes on BBC Radio 3, which is playing works by female composers all day, there's a lot more going on besides. Catch the new film Beyond the Grace Note about conductors who are female, on Sky Arts, directed by Henrietta Foster - 3pm today. Writer Anna Beer and composer Debbie Wiseman are giving a talk later today at Kellogg College, Oxford. Kathryn Stott has just announced a terrific range of music by women that will be heard later in the year at her Australian Festival of Chamber Music (more about that very soon). The list could continue.

For our own celebration here on JDCMB, I've assembled some of my favourite pieces by female composers, for your musical delectation. They are in no particular order and have not been chosen for any representative geographical or temporal spread. I've picked some because they are specially well played, others because they will have wide appeal, one because it shows the composer playing the violin, and all of them because they are fantastic pieces that ought to be performed more widely, as should the other music by their composers. If you are a musician and enjoy these, please use the selection as a jumping-off point for further exploration of their works and consider adding them to your repertoire.

Have a wonderful IWD, everyone!

CLARA SCHUMANN: PIANO TRIO, Op. 17. I personally think this is her best piece, but feel free to pick another if you prefer!

LOUISE FARRENC: SYMPHONY NO. 3. Ought to be 'standard repertoire' the world over.

GRAZYNA BACEWICZ performs her own OBEREK (1952) - chose this one because it is rare film of the composer playing her own music, but there are MANY wonderful pieces by her

BARBARA STROZZI: L'ERACLITO AMOROSO. If you like Monteverdi, you'll adore this. A beautifully made music-video film performed by Heather Newhouse and Le Concert de l'Hostel Dieu.

ROXANNA PANUFNIK: FOUR WORLD SEASONS, smashing violin concerto written for Tasmin Little. Here's the last movement, 'Indian Summer'.

ERROLLYN WALLEN: MIGHTY RIVER. Wonderful piece combining spirituals and contemporary techniques to reflect on slavery and freedom.

NICOLA LEFANU: TOKAIDO ROAD, chamber opera performed at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. A spare, sensitive, magical work inspired by the life of the artist Hiroshige.

VITEZLAVA KAPRALOVA: PARTITA FOR PIANO & ORCHESTRA. Martinu's star pupil (and more), she should have been a leading Czech voice of the 30s, but she died tragically at the age of 25. This is a dazzling and ruggedly challenging piece...

ELIZABETH MACONCHY: STRING QUARTET NO. 1. This is the just the first of a major series of quartets that should by rights be heard as often as certain other 20th-century cycles. Next, hear all her others.

SOFIA GUBAILDULINA: CHACONNE. Performed by the magnificent Sofya Gulyak. Any pianist looking for a contemporary work by a female composer to add to their regular concert repertoire should have a look at this brilliant piece right away.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Birthday concert for a very special composer tonight

Nicola LeFanu.
Photo: Michael Lynch

Please come along to The Warehouse, Theed Street SE1, tonight to hear Lontano and Odaline de la Martinez give a special concert devoted to the music of Nicola LeFanu, celebrating her 70th birthday. In a 'Meet the Composer' session I'll be the lucky person interviewing her before the performance (6.30pm). It's a major retrospective with a selection of six works from 1974 to 2017. Congratulations, too, to Lontano for planning this more than timely celebration of such a special and marvellous composer. (As it happens, talking to composers is one of my favourite things in the whole world, so this is going to be a treat and a half.)

Book at Eventbrite, here.

Nicola LeFanu was born in England in 1947, the daughter of Irish parents: her father William LeFanu was from an Irish literary family, and her mother was the composer Elizabeth Maconchy. LeFanu studied at Oxford, RCM and, as a Harkness Fellow, at Harvard. She has Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Durham, Aberdeen, and Open University, is an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s College Oxford, and is FRCM and FTCL.

She has composed around one hundred works which have been played and broadcast all over the world; her music is published by Novello and by Peters Edition Ltd. She has been commissioned by the BBC, by festivals in UK and beyond, and by leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists. Many works are available on CD, including music for strings (Naxos), Horn Concerto (NMC) and Saxophone Concerto (NEOS).

She has a particular affinity for vocal music and has composed eight operas: Dawnpath (New Opera Company, London, 1977), The Story of Mary O’Neill, a radio opera, libretto Sally McInerney, (BBC, 1987), The Green Children, a children’s opera, libretto Kevin Crossley-Holland, (Kings Lynn Festival, 1990), Blood Wedding, libretto Deborah Levy (WPT, London 1992), The Wildman, libretto Crossley-Holland, (Aldeburgh Festival, 1995), Light Passing, libretto John Edmonds, (BBC/NCEM, York, 2004), Dream Hunter, libretto John Fuller (Lontano, Wales 2011, London 2012) and Tokaido Road, a Journey after Hiroshige, libretto Nancy Gaffield, (Okeanos, Cheltenham Festival, July 2014.)

She is active in many aspects of the musical profession, as composer, teacher, director and as a member of various public boards and new music organisations. From 1994–2008 she was Professor of Music at the University of York, where many gifted composers came to study with her. Previously she taught composition at Kings' College London; in the 1970s, she directed Morley College Music Theatre.

In 2015 she was awarded the Elgar bursary, which carries a commission from the Royal Philharmonic Society. In 2017 she was BBC Radio 3 ‘Composer of the Week’.

Recent premieres include works for chamber ensemble, with or without voice, for solo instrumentalists, and for orchestra. Threnody was premiered in Dublin in 2015 (RTE NSO) and The Crimson Bird, the RPS commission, at the Barbican, London, in 2017. BBCSO/Ilan Volkov with Rachel Nicholls, soprano soloist.

Friday, February 17, 2017

"The tragedies of thousands of years ago are the tragedies of today"

The splendid composer Nicola LeFanu introduces her major new piece The Crimson Bird, which will have its world premiere tonight at the Barbican, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Ilan Volkov and soprano Rachel Nicholls as soloist. The work was commissioned under the Royal Philharmonic Society's Elgar Bursary. It's on BBC Radio 3 and the iPlayer thereafter - don't miss it! You can listen to Nicola's introduction here. The concert kickstarts the celebrations of her 70th birthday, which will continue through 2017.

The Crimson Bird sees LeFanu collaborate with poet John Fuller, who also wrote the libretto for the composer's 2011 chamber opera Dream Hunter. Fuller's work also forms the basis of The Crimson Bird's libretto, whose text has been adapted from his poem 'Siege'. 'Siege' examines the bond between mother and son as it is tested within an environment of war and terror - 'When death is the work of hands, Anyone may be a murderer or a hero. Which is it that you claim?' In The Crimson Bird, LeFanu brings Fuller's text to life by making use of her extensive experience of writing for the voice in the eight operas she has composed.
Speaking on The Crimson Bird, LeFanu said,
"In its exploration of love, fear and death, 'Siege' has a universal scope that speaks to human experience throughout time. Coverage from conflict zones under siege fill our TV screens every day. A mother sees her son caught up in the conflicts raging around her country. Is he a hero or a murderer? Composing for the BBCSO and the dramatic soprano Rachel Nicholls, I had a marvellous opportunity to explore these perennial issues."

Saturday, December 26, 2015

"Two steps forward and one step back - is this forever our future?"

Do have a listen to this interesting conversation, from the BBC World Service's Newsday, between conductor Odaline de la Martinez and composer Nicola LeFanu about the changing - ? - situation of women in their professions. One problem they raise is something that is increasingly being recognised: prejudice is not something conscious. They discuss the potentially great figures of the past whose talents are lost to us. And they wonder what the future may hold. I'm glad to say that there is optimism alongside the realism.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A missing tribute

We had an amazing day yesterday at the BASCA Women in Music discussion. It was a huge privilege to chair the event and find myself sharing a stage with seven extraordinary composers. I'll be writing it up in some detail for the BASCA journal, which will be out in mid December. The energy of the event was so excellent and the audience so engaged and responsive that it is possible there'll be another in the new year, but I can't confirm that yet - please watch this space.

Meanwhile, I was shocked to hear from Nicola LeFanu that yesterday was the 20th anniversary of her mother Dame Elizabeth Maconchy's death and while commemorative festivals of her music were held as far afield as Graz and Austalia, nothing - 00000 - was done about it anywhere in the UK. Please take a minute to listen to her gorgeous setting of Ophelia's Song, sung here by Caroline McPhie with pianist Joseph Middleton.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tomorrow: meet SEVEN fascinating composers who happen to be women

I am very excited about this event tomorrow afternoon. BASCA (the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Arrangers) has drafted me in to be a Dimbleby to a panel of no fewer than seven composers, all female, each born in a different decade, to compare - so to speak - notes. A more exciting, versatile, intriguing group one couldn't imagine. It's a rare chance to get them all into the same room, round a table, to tell it like it is. They are:

Betty Roe
Nicola LeFanu
Judith Bingham
Shirley J Thompson
Mira Calix
Cheryl Frances-Hoad
Dani Howard

The discussion takes place at the Jermyn Street Theatre at 1pm (finishing shortly before 3pm) and you can book on Eventbrite via the BASCA site, here.

This is a real one-off, so do please try and join us! Here's the info off the BASCA page...

Women In Classical Music

Jermyn Street Theatre
16b Jermyn Street - London
Map data ©2014 Google
Women In Classical MusicDate/Time
Date(s) - 11/11/2014
1:00 pm - 2:50 pm

jessicaduchenClassical music journalist and author, Jessica Duchen, will interview seven female composers of classical music in the intimate setting of the Jermyn Street Theatre.

  • Betty Roe MBE, Professor Nicola LeFanu, Judith Bingham, Dr Shirley J. Thompson, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Mira Calix and Dani Howard will be sharing their life and work experiences.

Jessica will delve into each composers’ working experiences, as well as their inspirations, to discover what it means to be a female composer in a traditionally male-dominated area of music. If you have a question for the composer(s), you should ask in advance by email to
Ticket price (excluding booking fee)
  • BASCA member: £9.50
  • Non member: £12.00
  • (Students of BASCA’s Academic Supporters: £7.50)
***** BIOGRAPHIES *****
BettyRoe1Betty Roe’s versatility has enabled her to build a highly successful career as a composer, musician, singer, conductor and teacher. She studied piano and cello at the Royal Academy of Music as a Junior Exhibitioner and Senior Student (GRSM) where she gained LRAM, ARCM and FTCL Diplomas.
In 1970 Betty founded Thames Publishing with her late husband, John Bishop. As well as her own extensive list of works, Thames has published many English composers, of both contemporary and historical interest.
Betty was elected an Associate of the RAM in 1991 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1993. In January 2011, Betty was awarded an MBE for her services to classical music and composition.
NicolaLeFanu1Professor Nicola LeFanu has composed around one hundred works which have been widely played, broadcast and recorded. Her catalogue includes a number of works for strings, and chamber music for a variety of mediums, often including voice. She has a particular affinity for vocal music and has composed eight operas, which have been staged in UK, Ireland and USA. Her new opera, ‘Tokaido Road, A Journey after Hiroshige,’ was premiered at the Cheltenham Festival, July 6, 2014.
She is active in many aspects of the musical profession, as composer, teacher, director etc. From 1994-2008 she was Professor of Music at the University of York.
She was born in England in 1947 to Irish parents; her mother was the composer Elizabeth Maconchy. LeFanu studied at Oxford, RCM and, as a Harkness Fellow, at Harvard.
JudithBinghamBorn in Nottingham in 1952, and raised in Mansfield and Sheffield, Judith Bingham began composing as a small child, and then studied composing and singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She was awarded the Principal’s prize in 1971, and six years later the BBC Young Composer award. Recent composition prizes include: the Barlow Prize for a cappella music in 2004, two British Composer Awards in 2004 (choral and liturgical) one in 2006 (choral) and the instrumental award in 2008.
Judith Bingham was a member of the BBC Singers for many years, and between 2004 and 2009 she was their ‘Composer in Association’, during which time she wrote a series of choral works. Several of these were for the BBC Singers, but there were also pieces for other professional, amateur and collegiate choirs, including Salt in the Blood, written for the BBC Symphony Chorus to perform at the 1995 Proms.
In 2007 she was made a Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music for distinguished services to church music.
ShirleyJThompsonThe music of composer Shirley J. Thompson is performed and screened worldwide and often described as “beautiful and powerful” (Le Figaro). A visionary artist and cultural activist, Thompson is the first woman in Europe to have composed and conducted a symphony within the last 40 years.
Her work, ‘New Nation Rising, A 21st Century Symphony’ performed and recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, was originally commissioned for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. The concept was latterly assumed as a framework for the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony. She has also composed extensively for TV/film, theatre, dance and opera production.
Shirley J. Thompson is Reader in Composition and Performance at the University of Westminster and has served for over 10 years on several national arts institutions, including the Arts Council of Great Britain. She is a member of BASCA’s Classical Executive Committee and has been named in the Evening Standard’s ‘Power List of Britain’s Top 100 Most Influential Black People in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015’.
works-30-cover-rgb-Cheryl Frances-Hoad was born in Essex in 1980 and received her musical education at the Yehudi Menuhin School, Gonville and Caius College (University of Cambridge) and Kings College London. She was Music Fellow at Rambert Dance from 2012 – 2013, and from 2010-12 was the first DARE Cultural Fellow in the Opera Related Arts in association with Opera North and the University of Leeds. Cheryl won the BBC Young Composer Competition in 1996 at the age of 15 and since then her works have garnered numerous prizes and awards, including the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize (UK, 2007), the Sun River Composition Prize (China, 2007), The International String Orchestra Composition Competition (Malta, 2006), The Bliss Prize (UK, 2002), the first Robert Helps International Composition Prize (University of Florida, 2005), the Mendelssohn Scholarship (UK, 2002) and the Cambridge Composer’s Competition (UK, 2001).
Most recently in 2011 Cheryl was awarded a PRS Women Make Music award to write a new brass quintet for Onyx Brass, which was toured around the UK as part of the 2011/12 Music in the Round season.
MiraCalix1Mira Calix is an award winning composer, artist and performer based in the United Kingdom. She is signed to Warp Records, on which she has released five albums.  Although her earlier music is almost exclusively electronic in nature, in more recent years, she has incorporated classical orchestration into her work for installation pieces, film soundtracks, theatre and opera. Mira has been commissioned to write new works for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic-Ensemble 10/10, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Aldeburgh Festival,Bang On A Can, London Sinfonietta, Opera North and The Manchester International Festival amongst others.
In the autumn of 2009 she won a British Composer Award for her composition, ‘My Secret Heart’. The installation, commissioned by Streetwise Opera, and featuring the voices of a 100 strong choir, was also the recipient of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award in 2009 and was a finalist in the arts category of the National Lottery Award in 2010. Mira is currently working on a collaboration with artist Conrad Shawcross and a large scale cross media installation to premiere at the Sydney Festival 2015.
Dani-HowardDani Howard is a scholar at the Royal College of Music, London, supported by a Douglas and Hilda Simmonds Award and the Henry Wood Trust. She has had her compositions performed internationally in Europe and Asia in prestigious concert venues including the Royal Academy of Arts, National Gallery, St. Martin in the Fields and Cyberport HK among others. Recent commissions include a work for solo percussion for performance in the BBC Young Musician of the Year Percussion Final and a fanfare for large brass ensemble for the RCM Graduation Ceremony.
Most recently Dani won third place in the International Antonin Dvorak Composition Competition Junior Category in Prague, and was awarded winner of the Sound:Vision Competition presented by the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) and IdeasTap. Dani has developed a keen interest in percussion writing, and a working relationship with the RCM percussion department led to the premiere of Introspection for 24 percussionists in May 2013. Earlier this year she was commissioned to write a Percussion Octet which was performed on tour in Basel, Switzerland. Throughout 2014 she has had two compositions aired on BBC Radio 3, and one televised on BBC Channel 4.

[** BASCA reserves the right to cancel this event at any stage, if deemed necessary in its opinion, and if circumstances arise outside of its control. We also reserve the right to alter or change the programme and line-up without prior notification.] 
Photographer credits: Lisa & Darren Coleman / Patrick Douglas Hamilton / Andreea Tufescu Photography