Illuminate Women’s Music

Illuminate Women’s Music was set up by Dr Angela Elizabeth Slater in 2017 for the promotion of music, both historical and contemporary, composed by women. Illuminate Women’s Music also supports talented female performers, giving repeat performance opportunities across the UK.

2018 was an amazing first year for Illuminate Women’s Music. To begin to readdress the gender imbalance in the UK classical music industry, Illuminate hosted a touring concert series that solely programmed music by women composers from the past and present. In 2018, Illuminate Women’s music programmed ten successful concerts across the UK that supported five emerging women composers. We also programmed historical works by Amy Beach, Morfydd Owen, Marie-Louise Simon, Clara Schumann, Hilda Jerea, Grażyna Bacewicz and Lili Boulanger.

Clip of performance of Amy Beach’s Romance by violinist Sabina Virtosu from Illuminate 2018 concerts.

2018 marked a wonderful year for celebrating women’s music with new organisations, projects and individuals working with unwavering dedication and passion to raise the profile of this fabulous music. Examples include a number of excellent resources: Archiv Frau und Musik, Composer Diversity Database, Music Theory Examples by Women (MTEW), International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM), The Daffodil perspective (a radio show dedicated to women composers), A Modern Reveal, Salon Without Boundaries, along with Illuminate Women Music’s own blog series to name a few. There are also lots of wonderful festivals and organisations that have recently been established including Lili Boulanger Initiative, Scordatura, Sounding the Feminists and - new to 2019 - Cambridge Women’s Festival, to name but a few.

In 2019 Illuminate has already had two seasons celebrating more women composers and performers than before. Illuminate’s first 2019 season supported five new commissions from composers, Kerensa Briggs and Laura Shipsey and Illuminate composers in residence, Angela Elizabeth Slater, Sarah Westwood, and Blair Boyd, for new works for Boston-based Prism trio and UK- based Ethel Smyth Trio. Having been premiered in Boston, MA earlier this year several UK performances soon followed, with visits to Brighton, York, Stafford and Oxford. Historical works by Morfydd Owen, Grażyna Bacewicz and Ethel Smyth will be programmed alongside these new works.

Summary video of 2019 Season I US and UK concerts

Illuminate Season II (September-November 2019) has seen the formation of the Illuminate string quartet with Clarice Rarity (violin), Christine Cornwell (violin), Katherine Clarke (viola) and Cecelia Bignall (cello), with soprano Patricia Auchterlonie. Season II and has commissioned Illuminate composers in residence as well as Caroline Bordignon, Yfat Soul Zisso, and Joanna Ward. Season II concerts started at the University of Bangor’s Second International Conference on Women’s Work in Music on 5 September, highlighting the historical composers Rebecca Clarke and Barbara Strozzi. This is particularly significant as 2019 marks the (birth) anniversaries of composer Barbara Strozzi, and the 40th anniversary of the death of Rebecca Clarke.

Summary of upcoming Season II 2019 Illuminate concert series

Illuminate season II continues with events in Huddersfield on 7 November, Oxford on 4 and 8 November, and Cambridge 9 November, with programmes featuring music by Ruth Crawford Seeger and Elizabeth Lutyens. Illuminate Women's Music 2019 is supported by Ambache Charitable Foundation (season I & II), PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund for Organisations (Season I), RVW Trust (Season II) and Arts Council England (Season II) and sponsored by Snape Maltings, Ulysses Network and the ISM.

Composer Angela Elizabeth Slater discusses her new work 'Ways of Looking at a Blackbird'