(AND WHY YOU SHOULD CARE!)
SHOWCASING CLASSICAL MUSIC THROUGH
If you’ve attended any of our concerts (online) you may have noticed you are listening to composers you had never heard of - they do not make up even a small part of mainstream classical repertoire. We discovered these composers through our research and investigation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are interested in adding the voices of minority ethnic composers (or ‘global majority’ composers) and female composers to the core repertoire of string ensemble music.
It is our opinion that the public has been robbed of an opportunity to hear some truly fantastic chamber music in an existing and already extremely popular classical ensemble - the string ensemble. We want to give this music a voice in one of classical music’s favourite chamber music settings.
It’s important to represent this repertoire because we, the musicians, have the skill set and ability to perform this music. We are acknowledging our responsibility and role as part of the community of musical gatekeepers who hold the keys to the lived performance of this repertoire. We understand that the performance of this work is the critical link in disseminating research of previously undiscovered works to the public, highlighting each composition's substantial contribution to the canon of string ensemble repertoire whilst opening up new areas of public knowledge and understanding within this field. We hope that this will help to widen tastes and create a platform and appetite for public discussion around classical music traditions in programming.
Having the opportunity to curate this programming without the pressure of appealing to certain audiences and sticking to ‘tradition’ allows us to present a programme that has not been watered down in any way. The underrepresented voices can complement one another and make up a full programme entirely in their own right. We do not feel any of this repertoire needs it’s hand holding by pairing with some of the other string repertoire greats; Tchaikovsky, Elgar etc. It is our perception that these are the female and global majority heavy weight equivalents to our household names. In some cases, it could be argued that the compositions of these hidden voices even go beyond and surpass some of their male counterparts who are currently firmly entrenched in standard string ensemble repertoire due to their race and gender. This programme has been tailored to specifically showcase underrepresented voices in classical music.
We don’t want to avoid the hard questions that face the classical music industry, particularly in chamber music programming where we have a significant opportunity to make change as individuals, from a grass roots level. Our programming is a musical response to our own growth in terms of no longer being passive, but beginning to embody ‘anti-racism’ in our work, instead opting for intentional programming. This growth includes understanding our own privilege regarding race, social status and the protected characteristics, and applying this understanding to our work and programming in classical music.
Whilst we individually educate ourselves about race and structural racism in the wider world and our lives beyond music, we must look closely at classical music and seek out the difficult questions that address our own biases and knowledge gaps. Listening to others who think in a different way to us is one such way, as well as being prepared to be vulnerable in our discomfort, whilst promoting and advocating for programming that is anti-racist. Part of our mantra at SFE, is to speak plainly and clearly through music and classical programming, about how racism harms our profession and the gender inequality female composers historically faced and still face today.
We hope our work at SFE draws attention to the large proportion of classical repertoire that still remains hidden from public view today. We hope the quality of the music we have chosen and the popular setting of the string ensemble present a comfortable and welcoming opportunity for audiences to engage in important conversation around classical music programming, whilst possibly beginning to change the tastes and expectations, and we hope, inspiring an appetite for fair and well-rounded programming from the audience themselves. We are passionate about all of our chosen works, and believe our programming exemplifies the highest standards of classical composition, regardless of the colour of the composers skin and their gender.