The choir Sacred and Profane ends its season with a program called ‘A Star of the First Magnitude: Contemporary Women Composers’ this weekend. Artistic Director and conductor Rebecca Petra Naomi Seeman, celebrating her 15th season leading the ensemble, wanted to highlight works by women composers, who are less frequently programmed onto concerts than their male counterparts.
There’s more information about the concert at the Sacred and Profane website.
“All of the composers are living women, going from people born in the 1980s all the way to Alice Parker, who’s in her nineties now.” There’s actually one exception to that, the original woman composer, and one of the very first individuals to have specific pieces attributed to them: Hildegard of Bingen, the German mystic from the 12th Century. Her work will begin the concert, followed by works that owe at least some small debt to her for blazing the trail. She was setting new standards for what a woman could accomplish even back then. “Distilled through a religious lens, and kind of woven into sacred texts, but there still is that feminist essence of her work. So it felt like that was an important place to begin, and then to move into music composed by women now because they’re the ones that need the support.” Other highlights are a work by Swedish composer Karin Rehnqvist, whose pieces are performed frequently by Sacred and Profane. “We are returning to a piece that we performed exactly ten years ago, a work for women’s choir called Triumf att finnas till, which means ‘The Triumph to exist.’ It’s a really powerful, intense piece. She tends to give us music that represents our strength, and our power, and in some ways our rage. And it has all of those elements, there’s a lot of distilled intensity in this work.” There’s also a collection of pieces by five composers, called Quilt Songs. “The pieces were commissioned for VocalEssence, and one of their benefactors commissioned these pieces in honor of his wife, Kay McCarthy, who’s a quilter. And they selected five women composers and asked them to choose a different quilt produced by Kay, and to write a piece with that quilt as an inspiration.” Those composers are Alice Parker, Libby Larsen, Bay Area local Gabriela Lena Frank, Sweet Honey in the Rock singer Ysaÿe Barnwell, and Carol Barnett, composer of the Bluegrass Mass.