Chandos Chamber Choir will celebrate the music of women composers at their forthcoming London concert on 4 July, at St Pancras Church. They will perform a wonderful selection of choral works by women composers through the ages, with an exciting programme ranging from medieval works through to contemporary composers including Kerry Andrew, Cecilia McDowall, Carlotta Ferrari and Chen Yi.

portraits of the featured composers
portraits of the featured composers (Top L-R: Laura Snowden; Roxanna Panufnik (photo ©Benjamin Ealovega); Clara Schumann; Kerry Andrew. Bottom L-R: Fanny Mendelssohn; Sally Beamish (photo ©Ashley Coombes); Libby Larsen; Cecilia McDowall)

The performance will take the audience on a musical journey charting the way in which female composers have challenged expectations of their role in society and music throughout history. Women, such as Hildegard von Bingen who pushed the boundaries of traditional monophonic Gregorian chant with her fluid, expressive melodies, and Clara Schumann who held her own against her composer and pianist husband Robert, despite her doubts as a young 20 year old: “I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose—there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?”.

This timeline of music by female composers will be brought up to date with the premiere of a new work by guitarist and composer Laura Snowden. Laura has been paired with the Chandos Chamber Choir through the prestigious Adopt a Composer scheme, and choir and composer have been working together to develop some exciting ideas. In keeping with the theme of the concert, Chandos and Laura considered a number of texts, written by women, settling on a poem entitled Evensong by Cherry Smyth.

Laura says, “When a member of Chandos Chamber Choir suggested using the text of Cherry Smyth’s poem Evensong as a starting point for this new work, I immediately fell in love with the poem. Cherry’s words are so colourful and evocative, and seemed a perfect fit for the choir. It has been a wonderful process to work with the choir and their brilliant director James, and I’ve hugely appreciated their willingness to share and try out new ideas.”

This concert will be the culmination of the Chandos Chamber Choir’s work with Laura, with the performance being recorded for potential broadcast by Radio 3. Adopt a Composer is run by Making Music in partnership with Sound and Music, in association with BBC Radio 3, and funded by PRS Foundation and The Philip and Dorothy Green Music Trust.

We were thrilled to be selected for the Adopt a Composer scheme this year. A couple of choir members met Laura and mentor Jenni Pinnock for the first time at the Adopt a Composer launch in September. However, our rehearsal on 6 November was the first chance for Laura to meet the rest of the choir.

Laura enchanted us by playing one of her guitar compositions.

She and Jenni introduced her musical background and the Adopt a Composer programme before joining in our rehearsal of early Christmas music (including Tallis, Praetorius, Byrd and Gabrielli). Laura also got the chance to have a chat with some of the choir members during our break.

Laura had asked the choir to fill in a short questionnaire prior to the rehearsal, to help her to get to know us. She asked for ideas from the choir for the piece she’s going to write. We had a good discussion of ideas on our choir WhatsApp group which we’ve passed on to her to see what she makes of them! So far members of the choir have been musing on themes related to landscape or sea, following Laura’s interest in nature.

We have been thinking about a concert of music by women composers for a while so Laura’s piece will be the perfect centrepiece for this.

We’re all very excited to be part of this collaborative process and can’t wait to see what Laura comes up with.

Here's what she said about the evening:

I've always wanted to write a piece for choir, and now thanks to Making Music UK's Adopt a Composer scheme I will have the chance to write a commission for the brilliant Chandos Chamber Choir! Had a great time yesterday meeting and hearing the choir for the first time, and starting to brainstorm ideas 😍

After several years of trying, we’ve finally been selected for Making Music‘s “Adopt a Composer” scheme!

And the composer we’ve been paired with is…

Laura Snowden

Laura is an award-winning classical guitarist and composer who, amongst many other accomplishments, was hand-picked by Julian Bream to give the Julian Bream Trust concerts at Wigmore Hall in 2015 and 2017. She was the first guitarist to graduate from the world-renowned Yehudi Menuhin School, where she now teaches.

More information about her can be found on her website.