2018 was the centenary of women being granted the vote in Britain. This significant anniversary was marked by Notes for Women, a year-long celebration of music by women composers by the Bristol Ensemble, Bristol’s professional orchestra.

Although there have been plenty of women composers throughout history, they and their works are little known, despite often being at least as good as those of their more famous male counterparts.  One reason for this is related to the historical role and status of women, the same issue that deprived them of the right to vote.  Following the first World War, and the 1918 Representation of the People Act, there has been a slow shift in the direction of equality, although female composers are still in the minority today.

Throughout 2018 the Bristol Ensemble celebrated the lives and works of women composers, with the aims of

  • presenting top quality musical works by women composers in order to excite and engage audiences unfamiliar with the quality and range of this repertoire;
  • educating: by telling these women’s stories, and drawing parallels with the wider movements for women’s suffrage;
  • encouraging and inspiring future musicians, by showcasing contemporary music by women composers, and giving them opportunities to compose for themselves; and
  • leaving a legacy of greater interest and awareness of music by women composers among local audiences and performers, plus some resources to facilitate the continued performance of this repertoire.

At the heart of the year’s celebration was a concert at St George’s Bristol, beginning with music by Hildegard of Bingen and including music by Baroque and Renaissance composers. The Ensemble also programmed music by female composers in its other concerts in the Henleaze Concert Society series, its chamber series in Nailsworth, and at other concerts throughout the year.

Composer profiles

Grażyna Bacewicz

Amy Beach

Lili Boulanger

Francesca Caccini

Marie de Grandval

Sadie Harrison

Hildegard of Bingen

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre

Hannah Kendall

Isabella Leonarda

Cecilia McDowall

Fanny Mendelssohn

Clara Schumann

Maddalena Laura Sirmen

Barbara Strozzi

Maria Walpurgis

Grace Williams

Autumn 2018 Concerts featuring Works by Women

September 16: 3:00 pm – Nailsworth
Lili Boulanger Cortège

September 23: 6:30 pm – St George’s Bristol
Hannah Kendall Processional
Sadie Harrison Coretta

October 11: 7:30 pm – Redmaids’ High School
Maria Walpurgis Sinfonia from Talestri

October 13: 7:30 pm – Henleaze Concert Society
Maria Walpurgis Sinfonia from Talestri

October 14: 3:00 pm – Nailsworth
Grażyna Bacewicz Andante from Concerto for String Orchestra

November 3: 7:30 pm – Henleaze Concert Society
Isabella Leonarda Sonata For 2 Violins Op. 16 No. 1

November 18: 3:00 pm – Nailsworth
Isabella Leonarda Sonata For 2 Violins Op. 16 No. 1

December 9: 3:00 pm – Nailsworth
Amy Beach Quartet For Strings Op. 89

Previous Concerts…

Notes for Women: The Early Years

Saturday 28 April 2018 at 7.30pm
St George’s Bristol

Hildegard von Bingen: O Vis Aeternitatis (Responsorium), Ave Maria, O Auctrix Vite (Responsorium)
Barbara Strozzi Che si puo fare; Sino alla morte; Bedli Occhi; Lagrime mie
Elisabeth Claude Jacquet De La Guerre Prelude from Cembalo Suite No. 1 in D minor
Francesca Caccini Ciaconna
Isabella Leonarda Sonate duodecima
Maddalena Laura Sirmen Violin Concerto No.3 in A

Choir of Royal Holloway
Mariana Flores soprano
Natalia Lomeiko violin

Marking the centenary of women being granted the vote in Britain, the Bristol Ensemble is staging Notes For Women, a year-long celebration of music by women composers. This concert, staged in collaboration with St George’s Bristol, illustrates the history of women composers before 1800 with a selection of works from the medieval to Baroque periods. The women of the Choir of Royal Holloway perform music by the medieval German Benedictine abbess, composer and mystic Hildegard von Bingen. The professional orchestra is joined by the soprano Mariana Flores to perform exquisite songs by Barbara Strozzi, the most prolific composer – man or woman – of printed secular vocal music in Venice in the middle of the 17th century. Natalia Lomeiko performs the Third Violin Concerto by the Venetian-born composer and violinist Maddalena Laura Sirmen, a pupil of Tartini who became a celebrity soloist of the day.

Henleaze Concert Society series

Saturday 20 January at 7.30pm

Maddalena Laura Sirmen String Quartet in B flat
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Clarinet Quintet
Franz Schubert Octet in F D803

Saturday 10 March at 7.30pm

Grace Williams Sea Sketches
Copland Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra
Elgar Serenade for Strings Op.20
Vaughan Williams Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus
Grieg Holberg Suite Op.40

Saturday 12 May at 7.30pm

Maddalena Laura Sirmen String Quartet No.6 in E
Mozart Divertimento in F major, K.138
Mozart Piano Concerto No.12 in A major, K.414
Beethoven Piano Concerto No.2 Op.19 arr. Lachner

Saturday 9 June at 7.30pm

With the Choir of Royal Holloway
Rupert Gough conductor

Cecilia McDowall Ave maris stella
Joanna Marsh New work
Tõnu Kõrvits Kreek’s Notebook
Vivaldi Gloria

Nailsworth Chamber Music series

A series of Sunday afternoon concerts at Christ Church, Nailsworth. Tickets £10 on the door.

Sunday 21 January at 3pm
Maddalena Laura Sirmen String Quartet in B flat
Schubert Octet

Sunday 18 February at 3pm
Fanny Mendelssohn Piano Trio
Lili Boulanger D’un Matin de Printemps
Brahms Piano Trio No.3 in C minor

Sunday 11 March at 3pm
Marie Grandval Romance, Scherzo, Gavotte for oboe and strings
Vanhal Oboe Quartet

Sunday 15 April at 3pm
Clara Schumann Piano Trio in G minor Op.17
Felix Mendelssohn Piano Trio No.1 Op.49

Sunday 13 May at 3pm
Maddalena Laura Sirmen String Quartet No.6 in E
Mozart Piano Concerto No.12 in A major, K.414
Beethoven Piano Concerto No.2 Op.19 arr. Lachner