Lent 2022 – featuring music by women composers

 

March 2, Ash Wednesday – Swedish composer Elfrida Andrée (1841 – 1929) began her musical training with her father. At the age of 14 she traveled to Stockholm to train as an organist, but the Royal Academy of Music there would not admit women so she studied privately and passed the exam as an external candidate in 1857. She then discovered that women were not eligible for regular employment as organists in Sweden, and so she and her father enlisted the support of members of Parliament to have the law changed. In this way she became Sweden’s first officially appointed female organist. Today we hear two of her compositions – Larghetto (from 4 organ pieces, composed in 1893) at the prelude before mass, and Andante (from the same collection) as the postlude at the end of mass. It is interesting to note that she was born just 3 years before the laying of the cornerstone of SSPP.

 

March 6, Lent 1 – Despite having lost her sight before the age of 5, Austrian musician Maria-Theresia von Paradis (1759 – 1824) enjoyed a vast musical career, including being commissioned to perform an organ concerto by Salieri and performing as a singer and pianist in numerous Viennese salons and concerts. It was widely reported that she had over 60 concertos memorized, as well as a large repertoire of solo and religious works. Her most famous composition is the Sicilienne for violin and piano. We will close our mass on March 6 with the beloved song Lead Me, Guide Me by African-American composer Doris Akers. Having wrote over 500 songs, Akers is widely considered to be one of the most underrated gospel composers of the 20th century.

 

March 13, Lent 2 –African American composer Florence Price (1887 – 1953) enjoyed a highly successful musical career despite the challenges presented by societal attitudes concerning race and gender. Price composed over 300 works, and was the first African American composer to have a composition performed by a major orchestra. Although her training followed the European tradition, her composition style is purely American and reveals her southern roots, using sounds and ideas that fit into urban society and frequently borrowing from music of the African American church. Her composition Adoration, Heard as today’s prelude, is the best-known of her many organ compositions, and in fact has been re-arranged for many different combinations of instruments. Today we will hear it arranged for flute and piano. Our Lent 2 liturgy will also include the song Christ, Be Our Light by beloved Catholic composer Bernadette Farrell. Farrell is known for her strong commitment to social justice, including her involvement with the social advocacy group UK Citizens.

 

March 20, Lent 3 – Amy Marcy Chaney Beach (1867 – 1944) is known as the first female composer to have a composition, her “Gaelic Symphony,” performed by a major orchestra. A child prodigy, her first public performance was in 1883. After marriage she abandoned her performing career and turned to composition. Through the duration of her marriage she maintained one performance per year, donating the proceeds from such to charity. Upon her death she left over 300 published compositions, and more have been published in recent time. As today’s Mass falls so close to St. Patrick’s Day, we will hear her Prelude on an Old Folk Tune as today’s prelude. This is a revision of an earlier piano work, and is based on the Irish tune The Fair Hills of Eiré. This week  we also again hear from Bernadette Farrell, this time singing her hymn Praise to You, O Christ Our Savior.

 

March 27, Lent 4 – Today we are blessed to hear from some of our own resident musicians and composers. At ten years old, Terry Gonda was inspired by Sister Beth Ann and the folk mass at her childhood parish of St. Valentines Redford Township to pick up the guitar and start her ongoing journey towards music ministry. At fifteen, she wrote her first song: a love song to Jesus. As a college student, she was hired at St. John Fisher parish to lead their Saturday evening mass and began composing music for the parish, including a mass setting: the Mass of Joy. In 1994, Terry met flute player Kirsti Reeve, and the two of them quickly formed a creative musical co-writing partnership. Their involvement with Young Adult ministry, particularly the twice-yearly retreats, resulted in a whole new challenge: writing theme songs that reflected the topics of each retreat, and could be easily learned and sung by the participants. Many of the songs from the first ten years of retreats were released as “Children of God: Songs for the Spiritual Journey”. Their compositions sing of an inclusive, welcoming God and reflect a deep mystical spirituality. They are delighted to have found a musical home here at Ss Peter and Paul Jesuit Parish and to be able to share their gifts with this vibrant community.

 

April 3, Lent 5 – This week we feature two women whose musical careers were impacted by their gender. The names Mendelssohn and Schumann are no doubt familiar to any classical music lover, or even anyone who took piano lessons as a youth. But the members of those families we meet today may not be the ones who would first come to mind when hearing those names. Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805 – 1847), whose Melodie we hear today, was the older sister of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Her compositions include a piano trio, a piano quartet, an orchestral overture, four cantatas, more than 125 pieces for the piano, and over 250 songs, most of which went unpublished in her lifetime. Although praised for her piano technique, she rarely gave public performances outside her family circle. Clara Schumann (1819 – 1896) was the wife of composer Robert Schumann. Regarded as one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era, she is known for changing the format and repertoire of the piano recital from displays of virtuosity to programs of serious works. She also composed solo piano pieces, a piano concerto, chamber music, choral pieces, and songs. Today we hear the first piece from her Four Fleeting Pieces.

In the case of both of these women their careers were limited by societal expectations for women in their time, and their ongoing legacies are still overshadowed by the more-oft remembered men with whom they are associated.

 

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