What’s the big deal?

Hi! I’m Lisa Newill-Smith, and I’m a classical soprano living in Germany. In the classical music world we perform a lot of music in the “canon” – works by Mozart, Bach, Strauss, Wagner, Stravinsky, etc. I love singing this music! So much of it is absolutely incredible and a joy to sing. But. (There’s always a but isn’t there?) All of this music was written by men.

I didn’t really consciously think about that until I started singing some of Libby Larsen’s song cycle “Try me Good King”. It’s an amazing cycle – go listen to it! Singing that made me think that maybe there were other composers out there I hadn’t heard of yet. So, I started actively trying to find music written by women. I started with Clara Schumann, Alma Mahler and Amy Beach. And then I read Anna Beer’s Sweet Sounds and Airs. It’s incredible informative and so well written. And it made me want to learn about even more composers. Eventually, while researching for a women-only programme of Baroque and Classical repertoire, I came across Women Composers: Music Through the Ages edited by Sylvia Glickman and Martha Furmann Schleifer. Guys, seriously this collection of books is amazing. They’ve compiled so many composers, from the 1500s through 1800s, and they even have vocal scores! The downside is that these books are only really available in libraries – and only one library here in Berlin had them.

So. Why am I writing this blog if all these resources exist?

Well. My idea for this blog is to introduce these composers to people who have no idea they exist. I’ll write a brief bio, and I’ll let you know where you can find more information if you’re interested! I will tell you where you can find the sheet music (and possibly supply some decent copies as well!) And lastly, I’m going to record selections from each composer. Two of the hardest things that I’ve found while doing my research is one: finding music, and two: finding recordings if I do manage to miraculously find the sheet music.

I will also be starting a resource page with recommended books, websites and institutes with more information.

Thanks for reading and I hope you come back for my first blog post – which will be about German composer Clara Schumann!


By lisanewillsmith_soprano

American soprano Lisa Newill-Smith’s Despina was described by the Hastings Observer as “one of the must subtle performances I can recall, splendidly sung and totally alive to the text.” 2019/2020 highlights included a role debut as Servilia. In 2020, she transitioned to lyric soprano, studying roles like Ilia, Infantin, Marguerite, and Giulietta. In previous seasons, she has sung Despina, Echo (Ariadne auf Naxos), Gretel, Hélène (Hin und Zurück), Prima Ancella (Medea), Josephine (H.M.S. Pinafore) and Wanda (La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein). Lisa has performed in two world premieres, and is an advocate for the performance of classical music written by women. She has been a finalist in the Iuventas Canti Competition, Chicago Oratorio Award and the Opera Classica Europa competition.

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