Fifteen years ago my friend, colleague and composer Heather Seaton along with several of her fellow student composers founded the Women Composers Festival of Hartford. Their collective anger came from the fact that not one woman composer was represented on the Hartt School of Music’s recital programs. For the next nine years, Heather and her friends saw their initial season of the Women Composers Festival blossom into an international event. See my blog post of September 2011.
Six years ago Heather invited Martin and I to perform Life! Love! Song! A Visit with Gena Branscombe in Hartford The following day there was a concert of Gena’s instrumental and choral works. A weekend of celebrating Gena Branscombe, her life and music was a dream come true.
At the end of her ninth season as director, Heather gave up her leadership and handed off the management role to Daniel Morel. He has kept the Women Composers Festival moving into the future.
In late February Heather phoned asking me to perform her solo work, “Credo” at this year’s festival. As a founding member, Heather had been invited to return as a featured composer and to participate on a panel discussion. This was a well deserved honor for Heather!
Quickly Heather e-mailed me her “Credo", graciously agreed to rewrite some sections of the piece then, I was off learning her beautiful music. On March 5, 2015, Heather and I performed her “Credo” on The Invisible Woman concert for the Women Composers Festival of Hartford - 2015!
Other featured music on the concert was spirituals sung by Alika Hope, JS Bach/Anna Magdalena Bach cello suites performed by Maria Martinez and Barbara Strozzi’s “Begli Occhi” sung by Anna Hayrapetyan and Amelia Nogoski accompanied by Penny Brandt and Maria Martinez. Between the performances Penny Brandt presented commentary about the composers, their music and the history of women in music. It was an honor to return to this important event.
Six years after Heather’s departure, the festival’s president, Penny Brandt, and Executive Director Daniel Morel oversee scheduling, performances, performance spaces, panels, performers, budget problems and fund raising. Women composers as well as performers who play works by women submit proposals to the festival for consideration. All this culminates in a five day March weekend celebrating women in music.
This year’s composer-in-residence was Dr. Lisa Renée Coons whose music was performed and who presented a lecture. The concerts and presentations throughout the five days were diverse as well as inspiring for all who attended.
The future of the Women Composers Festival of Hartford is bright. Heather Seaton and friends set the foundation for the festival and we are thankful for their initiative. Promoting women’s music is imperative for history has shuffled female composers to the background. There is a rich repertoire of women’s music from the past and present that must and will be heard in concert halls throughout the world. And, the performance of women's music has had a helping hand from the Women Composers Festival of Hartford.