The International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM) Blog

Daring Divas 3: Finding Repertoire: Publishers to Explore, Part One

Posted in Julie_Cross by iawmblog on May 24, 2010

Greetings all!  There are quite a few wonderful resources for classical vocal music to explore, and I’d like to share a bit about each that I’ve found.  If I haven’t mentioned one that you know about, please do feel free to share their information in the comments section. The first two companies have absolutely huge catalogues with an amazing selection.

The first company is Classical Vocal Reprints, owned by Glendower Jones.  Mr. Jones is passionate about his repertoire, extremely knowledgeable, and always more than willing to share information about the music he has in his catalog.  If you call the company’s main line you will likely speak with him directly.  He is a generous man; in 2007 I participated in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Intern Program, and he generously donated multiple music scores to all twelve of us! He is the main publisher for Lori Laitman’s songs, and also carries the music of IAWM members Judith Cloud and Joelle Wallach.  In addition to Laitman’s music, I purchased a wonderful selection of spirituals by Jacqueline Hairston (niece of African-American choral composer/actor Jester Hairston) from his site, and highly recommend them for singers of all levels.  I also see that Jones carries the music of American composers Lora Aborn, Vivian Fung, Valerie Saalbach, Evelyn Simpson-Curenton, and Joyce Hope Suskind. He also carries some music of Beach, Chaminade, and publishes Baroque music through Green Man Press.   So much to explore…and when budget allows I cannot wait to explore the vocal music of many more of these composers.  The website: http://www.classicalvocalrep.com/

Company #2 has a similar wonderful owner: Walter Foster of Recital Publications.  He carefully selects each piece of music he carries, and is very accessible for dialogue if you are interested in the music of a particular composer. (He even put me in touch with an additional European publisher for a composer I was researching.) His focus is on late 19th and early 20th century art songs from many countries, with some additional genres such as concert arias, duets, and vocal chamber music.  I researched and discovered the music of Giulia Recli, Mary Turner Salter, Adela Maddison, Bertha Frensel Wegener-Koopman, Mathilde von Kralik, Yvette Guilbert, Helen Hopekirk, and others through Foster’s great reprints.  Many items in his catalog are public domain materials reprinted for modern use.  This is a bonus for recording and performance purposes!  In addition to the above composers, the following female composers are included in the RP catalogue: Frances Allitsen, Dina Appeldoorn, Adele Aus der Ohe, Agathe Backer-Grondahl, Amy Beach, Lili and Nadia Boulanger, Gena Branscombe, Cecile Chaminade, Henriette Coclet, Eva Dell’Acqua, Cécile Dufresne, Eleanor Everest Freer, Mme. Marie de Grandval, Marie Hinrichs, Augusta Holmes, Elisabeth Kuyper, Margaret Ruthven Lang, Liza Lehmann, Lise Maria Mayer, Catharina van Rennes, Clara Kathleen Rogers, Lady John (Alice) Scott, Hilda Sehested, Rita Strohl, Julie Weissberg, Maude White, Elsa Laura von Wolzogen, and others.  If I win the lottery I will purchase the complete catalogue!!!  In the meantime, there is much to explore and many female composers worthy of research and consideration.  I highly recommend this company and its incredible owner.  The website: http://recitalpublications.com/

In order to do each publishing company justice, I will continue this discussion in another post.  Stay tuned, and please comment if you have any experiences to share or any composers you recommend from the above publishers. Thanks for reading!

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Julie Cross, Treasurer of the IAWM, is a mezzo teaching voice, diction, and vocal literature at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. She blogs about how performers choose repertoire.

Daring Divas: All for One and One for All!!!

Posted in Julie_Cross by iawmblog on March 12, 2010

A few weeks ago I ran into a male composer from out of state who, after grilling me on my choice of research on women composers, puffed out his chest and said with pride that he could not wait to start his own American Male Composers concert series.  He was gleeful at the thought that it would garner much press, considering the controversial nature of said series.  He then proceeded to generously inform me that singers were a unique breed…”not very bright” but interesting nonetheless.  I gave him two opportunities to redeem himself by gently and jovially saying “hey now”, but he did not jump at the opportunity to remove me from the “not very bright” category.  I bit my tongue and did not seek further dialogue with said composer.  Still, this is a well-known person who teaches at the university level and influences young minds.

I counter that attitude with an exceptionally well-written article by one of my dear mentors, George Shirley. http://operagasm.com/2010/02/opera-and-the-black-singer/ In this article, Shirley discusses the subordination of the voice in the larger-than-life art form of opera “to the shallow realm of visual looks.”  While he is addressing the black singer in particular, his article mentions the universality of his concerns.  When African-American singers are not allowed to express themselves fully on the opera stage (particularly tenors as love interests), this is unfair.  At the heart of this inequality is racism, ageism, sizeism, sexism, etc.  If the black tenor cannot be the love interest, and the fat lady must be too large for anyone to consider her attractive, then the old woman could not possibly be the sassy maid, the large-bellied bass is destined for comedy only, and the Japanese woman must always play Madame Butterfly.  Instead of art defining life, life becomes compartmentalized and standardized and defines the unrealistic realm of opera.  The virtuoso requirements of operatic vocal writing then must submit to typecasting, to the detriment of all involved.

I return to the introductory questions of this blog series: What does it mean to be a woman who performs music by women?  What does it mean to be a woman performer in general?   The aforementioned composer was closed to all possibilities that felt threatening to his success within the status quo, to anything outside the “box”.  George Shirley, on the other hand, is able to look beyond his own individual concerns and see the universality of need for equality.  Those who view the fight for equality as threat against their turf are unable to see the larger picture…that we are all interconnected in a desire for high caliber artistry, plain and simple.  Are we true to our art form as musicians — whether composers, performers, or teachers — when we do not seek to challenge ourselves to our very limits, to the ultimate integrity of our artistry?

When we work to bring equality to one group through the medium of music, it assists other groups as well.  This is an interconnected process.  When we seek out the music of women composers, this is not to the detriment of male composers.  This is not an “us vs. them” world, unless we make it such through exclusionist attitudes.  No matter how many valuable artists and musicians are out there, the world always needs more.  By assuring that underrepresented groups get full attention in the arts community, we are setting the stage for future performing artists to move forward boldly.  If this were an artistically finite world, I could see the aforementioned composer’s concern.  Since nothing is threatening our individual artistry, his comments are without validity.   George Shirley says: “Barriers of one sort or another will always be players…given this verity, one must determine to destroy, go around, go over, or go through them in order to realize one’s potential and live the life one is given.”  In addition, as each barrier is knocked down, the way is paved for others to follow suit.  We work together for a world of equality, one step at a time.  We are truly interconnected.

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Julie Cross, Treasurer of the IAWM, is a mezzo teaching voice, diction, and vocal literature at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. She blogs about how performers choose repertoire.

Daring Divas: An Introduction

Posted in Julie_Cross by iawmblog on January 21, 2010

What does it mean to be a female performer?  What does it mean to focus on women’s music throughout your performing career?  How do others perceive you as a woman performing women’s music, or a woman performing music in general?  How do you choose and program repertoire?

A friend once said that one could identify mediocre singers by their focus on the music of women composers and/or new and contemporary music.  This opinion is not unique to my friend: many musicians have heard it before, whether spoken directly or implied.  How does this affect those who wish to focus on such music?   Furthermore…women’s music has continually been labeled as a separate entity in many performing circles. How do women composers infiltrate the mainstream?  Where is the balance between “niche focus” and assimilation?  How many groups are regularly programming the music of women composers?  Are there any generational tendencies?

I’m a voice professor and performer who tries to find balance on these issues.  I try to introduce my students to the songs of women composers while assuring that they study the so-called “standard” male composers as well for their own depth of knowledge base.  I sing some song recitals consisting solely of female composers, some of male composers (by default), and most incorporating both genders.  As a female singer, I encounter fewer biases considering voice types than those who play various instruments.  I will be writing from the perspective of a vocal performer, but will converse with others for an instrumental point of view.  There are many wonderful publishers and recording companies/artists who focus on the music of women, and I will mention their offerings from time to time as well.  I have a passion for song literature, and will discuss themed recitals, women poets whose words have been set to song, and issues of women singing songs originally intentioned for men (such as Schubert’s Winterreise.)

I’m thrilled to be able to blog about these issues, to unearth preconceived notions, tendencies, thoughts, concerns, celebrations, and joys about performing women’s music, choosing repertoire of female composers, and being a woman in the performing arts world.  There’s so much to discuss!  It is my goal to approach these topics with a positive, proactive attitude.  We are not victims, but dedicated musicians interested in the highest possible artistic integrity for all in our field.  This is essential!   If you have any special requests for discussion, please feel free to leave a comment.  I can’t wait to begin to navigate through these questions and more, to set up a large-scale dialogue about women and the performing world.  Let’s begin!

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Julie Cross teaches voice at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and is Treasurer of IAWM.  She recently recorded a CD entitled Songs of Forgotten Women, with songs of Giulia Recli, Bertha Frensel Wegener-Koopman, Mathilde von Kralik, and Adela Maddison.