Music for International Women’s Day

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, churches all over the world are honoring women composers and lyricists by offering their music in worship on March 6.  Each piece of music that we will share in worship on this day has been carefully selected not only to enhance the words spoken at the pulpit, but also to lift up the voices of underrepresented musicians and writers.

Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) was a French composer who became the first woman to win the prize in the famous Prix de Rome, earning her a publishing contract.  Although she only lived to be 24 years old, she had a remarkable career as a musician and composer, and is buried with her sister, Nadia, who was also an influential teacher and conductor.  One can hear her influences of Claude Debussy in this piece, as she often quotes his works in her own.

Arianne Abela (b.1986) is the Director of the Choral Program at Amherst College.  In addition to performances and artistic residencies, she engages in creative educational outreach to audiences and students, particularly in communities of color, and promotes the study, research, performance, and recording of music from various eras with special attention to the intersection of arts and social justice.  “Rise” is one of her pieces that can be found in the Justice Choir Songbook.

Claudia F.I. Hernaman (1838-1898) was born at Addlestone, Surrey.  She composed the lyrics for more than 150 hymns, a great proportion of which are for children, and also some translations from the original Latin text. This hymn, “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days” is commonly sung on the first Sunday in Lent, and has been set to a tune from Day’s Psalter from 1562.

Stephanie S. Taylor is a member of ASCAP and a composer for Shawnee Press.  Her choral anthem, “Speak the Truth in Love,” uses a powerful mix of English and Swahili to share the message that one should not be afraid to speak up for what is right, while doing so with love for God and love for each other.

Rebecca Helferich Clarke (1886-1979) was a British-American classical composer and violist.  Internationally renowned as a viola virtuoso, she also became one of the first female professional orchestral players.  Although her output was not large, her work was recognized for its compositional skill and artistic power.  The Rebecca Clarke Society was established in 2000 to promote the study and performance of her music.  She arranged this folk song for voice and piano; it has been adapted for viola for today’s worship service.

Hildegard von Bingen (c.1098-1179) was a German Benedictine abbess and polymath active as a writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, visionary, and as a medical writer and practitioner during the High Middle Ages.  She is one of the best-known composers of sacred monophony, as well as the most recorded in modern history.  There are more surviving chants by Hildegard than by any other composer from the entire Middle Ages, and she is one of the few known composers to have written both the music and the lyrics.  The excerpt that you will hear this morning, the Ordo Virtutum, is an early example of liturgical drama.

Melva W. Costen (b. 1933), a native of South Carolina, was Professional of WOrship and Music, choral director, and chair of the church music degree program at Inter-denominational Theological Center in Atlanta, George.  She subsequently became the Visiting Professor of Liturgical Studies at the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale Divinity School.  She remains active in the Civil Rights Movement and as a teacher and consultant in church music, liturgy, and curriculum development.  She has arranged this favorite version of “Let Us Break Bread Together” for many churches across the globe.

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette (b. 1961) is an American Presbyterian pastor and composer.  her hymns have been sung by congregations in every state of the US and in several other countries, not to mention on PBS and the BBC-TV.  Her hymns are found on the national websites of the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR, the Presbyterian Church (USA), American Baptist Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Reformed Church in America, the Souper Bowl of Caring, the National Council of Churches, and Church World Service.   She has graciously given us permission to sing her words to “Everyone is Welcomed Freely” this morning.

Nancy Price (b. 1958) is a nationally known clinician and festival conductor.  She has been writing with her former teacher, Don Besig, since 1980, and together they have collaborated on more than 300 compositions for school and church choirs.  She holds Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in Music Education from Ithaca College and is the recipient of several ASCAP Special Awards.