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Gerald Carpenter: Quire of Voyces Puts Ladies First

The Santa Barbara Quire of Voyces, under the direction of founder and artistic director Nathan Kreitzer, presents its Spring Concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 5, and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 6, in St. Anthony’s Chapel at the Garden Street Academy, 2300 Garden St.
The theme of the concert is Women’s Works: Celebrating Female Composers.

The composers to be celebrated are St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), Maria Löfberg (b. 1968), Imogen Holst (1907-84), Emma Lou Diemer (b. 1927), Susan LaBarr (b. 1981), Phyllis Zimmerman (1934-2012), Williametta Spencer (b. 1932), and Alice Parker (b. 1925).
The longest work on the program will be Holst's "Mass in A Minor (1927)" in its American premiere. Kreitzer has broken up the work into its several movements and placed them throughout the concert as intermezzos.

The Quire will also perform Holst's "Hymne to Christ (1940)," a setting of a poem by John Donne, Williametta Spencer's "At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners" (Donne's "Holy Sonnet No. 7").

On the program as well are St. Hildegard's "Spiritus Sanctus Vivificans Vita;" Löfberg's "Salve Regina;" Emma Lou Diemer's "Ring Out, Wild Bells;" Tina Andersson's "The A

ngel" (solo by Nichole Dechaine); Susan LaBarr's "Angele Dei." and "Grace Before Sleep;" Phyllis Zimmerman's "I would Live in Your Love" (a poem by Sara Teasdale); and two hymns by Alice Parker, "Saints Bound for Heaven" and "Hark! I Hear the Harps Eternal."
A generous program, and a beautiful one.
It is only in the last half-century or so that women composers have succeeded in establishing themselves on their own merits. Formerly, their only hope was to hitch their star to a male luminary. Fanny Mendelssohn had a famous brother; Clara Schumann a famous husband; and so on.

On this program, Holst was the daughter of Gustav Holst, and was trained by Ralph Vaughan Williams, though she was, throughout her life, exponentially better known for conducting her father's works than writing her own.

Parker spent much of her early and middle career as an assistant to the great choral conductor, Robert Shaw, preparing many arrangements of his performances.
Those women who excelled as performers on an instrument (Clara Schumann and Amy Beach on piano; Rebecca Clarke on viola, etc.) would seem to have an advantage, but it seldom worked out that way, since they had to make their living playing other people's works, which left them with little time or energy to compose their own.

Women managed to make their way as soloists early in the 19th century, but women as orchestral players were only accepted in the 20th. Rebecca Clarke, indeed, was one of the first.

As late as the 1980s, Herbert von Karajan had to threaten to resign his post as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic before the orchestra grudgingly approved his nomination of a woman as first desk clarinet.
All the works on this program can be enjoyed as beautiful music, without reference to the gender of the composer, which is, in fact, virtually the only thing they have in common. There is, after all, no such thing as women's music.

Tickets to this concert are $20, general admission, $15 students and senior. Tickets are available at the door or in advance at the Garvin Theater Box Office, SBCC West Campus, 965-5935, and at Chaucer’s Books until May 4.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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