MUSIC HERSTORIES: Genesis
Updated: Mar 5
It's the 7th of December, 2016 and I’m waiting anxiously in the foyer of Eden Hall, the residence of British High Commissioner in Singapore. Servers float by offering delicious and impeccably presented appetisers. I politely decline. (I’m the kind of nervous performer that can’t eat anything beyond cereal or toast on the day of a performance.)
“So, will you be playing some Beethoven and Chopin?” A man in a smart business suit asks. He clearly hasn’t read the programme.
“No, I’m playing music by all women composers,” I tell him.
The programme is called A Celebration of Women in Music.
It is a ticketed event that is advertised by the British Chamber of Commerce, Singapore with the following blurb:
“As the final event for Women in Business’s parity theme for 2016, this session challenges people’s perceptions that musical composers, both historical and current, are male. The audience will learn about female composers and have the opportunity to listen to music and enjoy food & drink in a convivial pre-Christmas setting at Eden Hall.”
I’m not sure how he missed it.
In any case, this is where it all began. My programme was unlike anything I’d ever performed before:
- Sonata in E minor Florence Price
- Homage Zenobia Powell Perry
- Troubled Water Margaret Bonds
- Automne Cecile Chaminade
- April Prelude no.1 Vítězslava Kaprálová
After the performance, conversation ensued about the music and the lives of women behind it. I became aware of the extent to which my message could resonate with different audiences. This experience transformed the way I felt about music, about myself as a pianist and about my path as a scholar and educator. Two years on from my first step into the world of these incredible music herstories, it seems almost surreal that I've been able to share this repertoire and much more via my recording Four Women and in venues across Singapore, the UK, the US and Australia. Next year, I look forward to new collaborations and further performances in South East Asia and the US. The conversation that started on 7 December 2016 is not about to end any time soon.
I am still learning what it means to be the kind of classical musician that no one expects to see, playing the kind of classical music that no one expects to hear (even when they're at your concert smh). It's a reality that is both empowering and encumbering: encumbering because I am not immune from self-doubt or the pangs of Imposter Syndrome, but empowering because despite all of this, each performance, lecture, review and interview is a reminder of how far I have come, and how much I have overcome. I am further strengthened by the support and faith shown in me by people I greatly respect.
I can now see that my story is just beginning.