On Sunday, 5th March, Salisbury Cathedral’s organists marked Women Composer Sunday with a performance of three organ pieces composed by women.
Held on the Sunday nearest to International Women’s Day (8 March), Women Composer Sunday coincides with the Cathedral’s pre-tour concert, a fundraiser for the choir’s upcoming tour in the Channel Islands. The following works were featured: Nocturne, one of only two organ pieces written by Germaine Tailleferre, the only female member of Les Six, a celebrated music group that included Poulenc, that drew its inspiration from the poetry of Jean Cocteau and the music of Erik Satie.
Attende, Domine by Jeanne Demessieux, one of the few women to achieve stardom in the male dominated early C20 organ world and the first female organist to receive a recording contract.
Demessieux was signed up by Decca in 1947 and left a rich legacy of recorded music.
Air from Organ Suite by the American composer Florence Price, the first female Black composer to have a symphony performed by a major US orchestra and the author of over 300 works.
Price’s Air from Organ Suite was one of the pieces played by the music team during the vaccination sessions at Salisbury Cathedral in 2021.
David Halls, director of music at Salisbury Cathedral said: “Traditionally, the pre-tour concert gives the home audience a chance to hear some of the music that will be played and sung on the tour, but we felt it was also important to mark the extraordinary, and often unsung, contribution women have made to music.
“Regardless of race or gender, these three women were exceptional musicians and as a Cathedral that has championed female voices and introduced the first English Cathedral girls choir to sing on parity with the boys, it is fitting we mark the day.”
Organ soloists for the concert were assistant director of music John Challenger, the mastermind behind the Cathedral’s recent Planets concert, and Christopher Too, Salisbury Cathedral’s organ scholar. Christopher was recently appointed the Organ Scholar of Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral, a role he will take up in September.
Other works featured in the concert included Allegri’s Misere Mei Deus with its soaring top ‘C’s, God so Loved the World by Stainer, Parry’s Lord Let me Know Mine End and the Latin Magnificat Op 164 by Stanford.
The Pre-tour concert was the start of a busy spring schedule for the choir which will be singing for services, concerts and workshops on Guernsey and Jersey between 27 March and 1 April, and returning to perform The Crucifixion by Stainer in the Cathedral at 19.30 on Wednesday 5 April, part of the series of services and music