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Topic Thursday

The Woman Behind Chopsticks

Today’s Topic Thursday is about one of the most well-known piano pieces of all time. No, I’m not talking about Claire de lune or Moonlight Sonata. I’m talking about Chopsticks.

If you ever had a music class in school, you probably tried this easy ditty out, and if you had a piano at home, you likely drove your parents mad by playing it over and over.

But… did you know Chopsticks was written by a woman? Although it was published under a male pseudonym, Euphemia Allen, a Glaswegian, wrote “The Chop Waltz” as a 16-year-old.

Euphemia Allen

Euphemia Amelia Nightingale Allen was born in 1861 in Glasgow to a musical family. Her father was a highly regarded dance instructor and her brother, Mozart Allen, went on to become a music publisher.

In 1877, Euphemia composed “The Chop Waltz”, at the tender age of 16. She published two versions to allow for solo playing or a duet. It earned the title chopsticks because she instructed players to hit the keys with a chopping motion.

Euphemia went on to become a piano teacher and a music publisher, but never published another piece of her own.

Popularity

Chopsticks is probably one of the most widely known piano pieces. I had no idea who it was by, let alone that a woman wrote it, until a few weeks ago. It’s been featured in other composers’ works, movies, TV shows, and pop music. From Sesame Street to Bugs Bunny, Chopsticks is everywhere.

Next time you hear someone say “but if women wrote good music, it’d be well-known” send them a recording of Chopsticks.

By lisanewillsmith_soprano

Soprano Lisa Newill-Smith has performed across Europe and the United States. A passionate advocate of music by women, she is the founder of www.womenwhocomposed.com, performing livestream concerts and spreading information about female composers. Also a keen performer of contemporary music, Lisa has created roles by living composers, including Queen Gwenevere in Keith Beal´s Merlin, and Young Martha in David Wishart´s Absolved Passions. Lisa brings the energy from these passions to her performance of standard repertoire: her Despina was described by the Hastings Observer as “one of the most subtle performances I can recall, splendidly sung and totally alive to the text.” An extremely versatile performer, Lisa´s performance credits range from Servilia, to Gretel to Donna Elvira. Lisa has sung in masterclasses with Angel Blue, Dame Felicity Lott, Miriam Gauci and Renata Scotto. Her oratorio and concert works include Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, Mozart’s Requiem and Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem. Lisa was a finalist in the Chicago Oratorio Award with the American Prize, the Opera Classica Europa competition, the Iuventas Canti Competition and a semi-finalist in the American Prize professional opera division. Lisa is from Virginia, USA and is currently based in Germany. For more information visit www.lisanewillsmith.com.

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