It's the first time in two years I'm attending a choral concert, and it's my first choral concert in the UK. Sure I've "attended" online concerts of choirs during the pandemic, and I've been listening to choral music and pieces more since the pandemic began but this was different. For the first time in two years, maybe three, I got to watch a choir perform live. In an actual concert hall. Last winter, I got excited at the mere sight and sound of carollers on the streets of York; to have the opportunity to attend a choral concert live and indoors felt like a dream. I was really excited leading up to the concert and kept checking if I actually bought a ticket and where it was, double checking my plans so I didn't accidentally miss that weekend concert.
I didn't do much reading before the concert. It was enough for me that I knew it was mainly the London Oriana Choir showcasing works from female composers. I came in expecting a mixture of classical and contemporary pieces with maybe one or two newly commissioned works from female composers and the rest of the repertoire existing works. I also expected that the concert would be around an hour and a half — at most two hours — long, which was the standard length of a choral concert I knew. Instead I was blown away by the fact I got to hear four choirs that night and 15 commissioned works that were a product of the Five15 project of the London Oriana Choir.
Over the course of 5 years (which turned to 6 years due to the pandemic), the Oriana choir commissioned 5 female composers to write 15 works, which was roughly 3 works per composer for a year. The project also included educational projects with other choirs, recordings, and other initiatives; all of which being tied together with the final festival held last 9th of July 2022, the concert that I went to.
It was an amazing night! We got to hear from the directors and conductors, along with a few of the composers-in-residence. They didn't sing ALL of the commissioned works but all of the pieces sung that night was composed by a female composer. My favorite pieces sung that night were In Lak'Ech composed by Tara Mack, a soprano member of the London Oriana Choir who was inspired to write her own compositions because of the Five15 project, These Things Shall Be composed by Ailsa Hoad, which is part of the 15 commissioned works, Butterfly by Mia Makaroff, sung by the Southern Spirit Singers and the English version of We Will No Longer Sing Into the Silence composed by Aileen Sweeney, sung by the Edinburgh Singers. My heart felt full from hearing live choral music in a concert again after years. It made me miss being a part of a choir.
But most importantly, it made me uncomfortably aware how seldom choirs sing and programme repertoire composed by female composers at my own time as a chorister, I can't remember any piece that was composed by a female composer. And even looking past choral composers in history, rarely do we actually study and hear the lives of female musicians and composers. But there have always been notable female singers and musicians, from prominent historical figures like Florence Foster Jenkins, to the patron saint of music herself, St Cecilia. So where are the women musicians in history? What are their stories and music like?
This makes the Empowered Women Tour of The Telling even more precious in my eyes. We'll be touring three productions this Summer 2022, all of which focus on women in history and present how their lives may have been through music and theatre. Here's a chance to hear about what females in medieval Europe may have gone through and their thoughts and life stories! Many years may have passed since they have lived, but their struggles and stories remain relevant today. After all, they were also human beings dealing with life, love, and living. You can learn more about our productions and where we're headed in the Diary section of our website. Though I'd have to say, our lineup for this summer really does sound amazing and interesting. If I wasn't a trainee already, I would buy a ticket to see the shows near me.
I can't wait to see it and share more with you! Until next time!