I have been thinking of the "Into the Light" concert for years. Yet, thinking about it did little to prepare me for the astonishing journey that I would take while researching and creating it.
I knew that there were famous women composers who gained little, if any, recognition. But I was stunned to realize that, since the beginning of music notation, there were thousands of women composing. As I Googled name after name in search of their repertoire, I found little of their music was ever published even though, little by little, historians have been unearthing ancient manuscripts buried in cathedral and university vaults. Even in my own extensive music library, I found nothing written by women before the 20th century. I realized that my entire life has been dedicated to performing music written by men – and I had given it no thought. But I think about it now: a whole new world of music has been opened to me, and I am thrilled to become acquainted with the women who wrote it, to celebrate their achievements and share some of their works with you.
Don't misunderstand me, I treasure the music I have been privileged to know and perform throughout my life. And I have only highest regard for the men who wrote it. But I do wonder what has been lost to the music world by marginalizing women composers. I am heartsick to read Fanny Mendelssohn Henzel's comment, “It must be a sign of talent that I do not give up, though I can get nobody to take an interest in my efforts.” Or these words from George Bernard Shaw about the brilliant English composer Ethel Smyth who, having received an honorary doctorate degree in music from Oxford University and having been made Dame of the British Empire, still had a hard time getting her compositions performed:
...You have been almost extinguished by the dread of masculine music.... It was your music that cured me forever of the old delusion that women could not do man's work in art and all other things.... Your Mass [Mass in D] will stand up in the biggest company! Magnificent!
As a woman I am proud of the women composers I have come to know and admire on my journey to bring this performance to the concert stage. As a musician, I am grateful for all men and women of the arts who, over centuries, have enriched our lives by shedding light on the path to truth and beauty.
With a heart filled with gratitude,
With warm regards.
BarbaraBarbara Pickhardt, Artistic Director