Old Ottawa South Community Association

Inner Voice: Exploring Women’s Voice and Identity through Music

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On the heels of the International Women’s Day, Music at Trinity presents a concert entitled Inner Voice: Exploring Women’s Voice and Identity through Music. The program features two important works of the English composer and violist Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979), Morpheus and her Sonata for viola and piano along with Johannes Brahms’ (1833-1897) Zwei Gesänge op.91 for mezzo-soprano, viola and piano. Violist Kathryn Cobbler, along with mezzo-soprano Heather-Lynn Smith and pianist Sonya Sweeney will perform this lovely program on March 10, 2018 at 4:30pm.

Rebecca Helferich Clarke with viola.
Photo by Hopkins Studio.

Rebecca Clarke studied at both the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music where she was one of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s first female composition students. Clarke sang for Ralph Vaughn Williams in a student ensemble dedicated to the music of Palestrina and became one of the first professional female orchestral musicians when she was selected by Sir Henry Wood to play in the Queen’s Hall Orchestra.

Entitled Morpheus, after the Greek god of dreams, we are introduced to Rebecca Clarke’s French inspired impressionist compositional style. This piece for viola and piano was premiered in New York, at Aeolian Hall, February 13th,1918. It was presented in Rebecca Clarke’s pen name Anthony Trent along with other compositions that were accredited to the fictitious Mr. Trent. The work was given notable success and later performed at Carnegie Hall.

With her viola sonata, Rebecca Clarke broke free from her false identity of Anthony Trent. Her sonata tied for first place in a prominent composition competition in 1919. Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge sponsored the competition, along with the Berkshire Festival of Chamber music. Though Mrs. Coolidge broke the tie, awarding Ernest Bloch’s viola suite first place, the sonata was noted as an “eloquent testimony to Clarke’s power as a composer [that] speaks with direction and authority.” Reporters speculated that ‘Rebecca Clarke’ was only a pseudonym for Bloch himself, or at least that it could not have been Clarke who wrote these pieces, as the idea that a woman could write such a work was socially inconceivable. Through this work, we receive a window into Clarke’s experience as a women composer and performer. This work paints a vivid picture of Clarke’s struggle to share her creative heart with a society and culture that was not ready to receive her for all that she is.

Johannes Brahms’ Zwei Gesänge op.91, Gestillt Sehnsucht (Longing) and Geistliches Wiegenlied (Lullaby for the Christ Child), were composed by Johannes Brahms for his two friends, Amalie, a prominent opera singer and Joachim a solo violinist and violist at the time. Gestillt Sehnuscht, or Stilled Longing, captures a scene of golden evening in the countryside to restless feelings of love. The second, a lullaby begins with the melody of the German lullaby, “Josef, lieber Josef mien,” celebrating the birth of Joachim and Amalie’s first son.

This concert will be on March 10, 2018 at 4:30pm at Trinity Anglican Church (1230 Bank Street @ Cameron) with Kathryn Cobbler, viola, Heather-Lynn Smith, mezzo-soprano and Sonya Sweeney, piano. Admission is by freewill offering.

Fabien Tousignant is the Artistic Director at Trinity Anglican Church. 

Originally published in the March 2018 OSCAR.

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