Three Women Program Notes
By Amelia LeClair, Cappella Clausura Artistic Director
Thank you for joining us in celebrating 20 years of the Boston Women's Memorial! We are so delighted and honored to have you with us today.
A couple of years ago, I watched a wonderful Youtube presentation by my friend and colleague, public historian Susan Wilson, who you will hear from today. In her video, Susan featured the Boston Women's Memorial, which I somehow had not seen in all my years year. It quickly became clear that I was not alone– most people I asked knew nothing about it.
When I first saw the Boston Women's Memorial for myself, I was so impressed by what sculptor Meredith Bergmann created. Abigail Adams, Lucy Stone, and Phillis Wheatley do not stand idly on their granite pedestals. They have descended to use them for work: Lucy Stone writes, Phillis Wheatley ponders, Abigail Adams leans defiantly, as though standing up to John in defense of women. I wanted to find a way to honor these three women somehow.
And so Cappella Clausura commissioned three composers with Boston training to set the words engraved in the granite pedestals. It was important to us to highlight a diverse cohort of young women to set these hundred-plus-year-old words to demonstrate that they resonate still, for every one of us who lives here in Boston.
This program is the culmination of work by Cappella Clausura in collaboration with the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, artist Meredith Bergmann, public historian Susan Wilson, and Suffrage100MA. We are deeply honored to celebrate with those who made the Boston Women’s Memorial come to life 20 years ago. In addition to the music, you will hear about the creation of the Memorial by sculptor Meredith Bergmann, and its history by public historian Susan Wilson.
We have asked leaders in the Boston artistic and political communities to read an introduction to each new piece. The performances feature Cappella Clausura’s professional voices and early music band members. You will see and hear: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass singers; a viola de gamba; a Baroque flute and bass recorder; a riq, bodhran, and frame drum; a Renaissance harp; and a theorbo– a very large lute that can accompany anything.
We begin our program with a luminous work by one of our favorite composers, Patricia Van Ness, who is composer in residence at First Congregational Church in Cambridge. Van Ness has been called the Hildegard von Bingen of our day and is deeply influenced by medieval chant. The accompaniment has been improvised by our early music band.
For your listening pleasure we have added three Medieval, Baroque, and Modern pieces from Cappella Clausura's archives– a tiny portion of the works women have been composing since music began to be written down. Hildegard von Bingen was a polymath in the 12th century who wrote an entire book of original signed chant – a first! "O Deus" is a final chant from her Play of the Virtues, what I consider to be the first opera. Barbara Strozzi was a working singer/composer in 17th century Venice: "Priego ad amore" is her plea to Love to always keep her in mind– listen to hear her name, Barbara, embedded in the piece!
As Boston Women's Heritage Trail Board member Mary Smoyer says “What better way to ‘Remember the Ladies’ than enjoying a program filled with music, history, imagery, and hope.” We're grateful to have you with us for this monumental event and we hope you enjoy the program!