This International Woman’s Day, Music Durham are taking the chance to celebrate the ever-increasing number of influential female musicians making invaluable contributions to the University’s musical sphere. This article aims to showcase the women representing Music Durham over a diverse range of fields; through conducting, performing and composing to working as integral members of ensembles’ executive committees.

This Tuesday, Music Durham, in partnership with the Music Department, presented their first International Women’s Day concert. Organised by the 2018-19 Music Durham executive committee (all female except their treasurer Oliver!), the concert showcased female performers and composers.

As Dr Katherine Hambridge emphasised in her welcome to the concert, female composers have and continue to be, undeniably, silenced by history. In 2019, following movements like Kings Place’s Venus Unwrapped series in London focusing on the creative firepower of women composers, more female composers are gaining recognition for their creativity and a greatly deserved increase in performance time. Amy Beach’s ‘Romance for Violin and Piano’ and Madeleine Dring’s ‘Trio for Flute, Oboe and Piano’ were among the works performed in the International Women’s Day Concert, alongside pieces written by student composers Megan Cunnington and Finola Southgate.

This year, across the choirs, orchestras and bands that represent Music Durham, 40.91% of Conductors and Musical Directors are women. Of 2018-19 concerto soloists, 50% are female and, finally, a remarkable 73.68% of Music Durham presidential positions areheld by women; this includes our very own powerhouse of a Music Durham president, Pamina Husseini.

Of course, the contribution of women to music in Durham doesn’t end there. Notable also are Durham’s student female composers, whose works are being performed more and more frequently across the Music Durham scene. Lizzy Hardy, a Masters music student, recently had a work commissioned by Durham University Chamber Choir, ‘Hear the Mellow Wedding Bells’, which was performed at their recent concert in the Chapter House. Furthermore, multiple female composers are collaborating with Durham Student Theatre and writing original music for productions; recently notable are Emily Winters’ original orchestral score for Wrong Tree Theatre’s ‘Inferno’ and Georgie Proctor’s soundtrack to ‘Twelfth Night’ that toured to New York.

From the formation of new all-female jazz sextet, The Satin Dolls; to the excellent musical directorships of Durham University Big Band’s Honor Hornsby and Voices’ Melody Bishop; to the exceptional presidencies of Naomi Solomons and Laura Cooper of Durham’s leading orchestras; to the founding of an all-new Music Durham A Cappella group, Footnotes, by Gabrielle Raw-Rees and Tara Munnelly, this has been, and continues to be, a fantastic year for women in Music Durham.

With it also being the time of year that many Music Durham ensembles hold conductor and musical director auditions, as well as the election of new executive committees in annual general meetings, Music Durham hopes to inspire even more female musicians to get involved and dare to try something new. Keep checking the weekly Music Durham newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out on opportunities to apply for 2019-20 positions!