Too Much Mozart: towards a truly diverse and inclusive classical repertoire.

Growing up as a mixed race teenager in Hertfordshire, a talented and promising pianist and clarinettist, Elizabeth de Brito, felt completely disengaged from the world of classical music as it was being presented to her: “surrounded by nothing but white men.” Feeling marginalised and ignored, she spent 12 years completely away from classical music until she started to find the hidden composers with whom she could identify, composers like Cécile Chaminade, William Grant Still, Chen Yi, Florence Price, Tania León, Mari Iijima, Galina Ustvolskaya, Ruth Gipps, Maria Szymanowska, Karen Tanaka and Anna Thorvaldsdottir.

It was, she told the Music Works podcast, the moment when she grew up. She also knew she had to do something to address this glaring imbalance.

“I went out searching for all these female composers and black composers, and all these people, that I’d never heard of… [ and I thought] I’m in a position to create change now.”

By then Elizabeth had a background in radio and so creating a radio show was the obvious next step. The Daffodil Perspective was born with the declared mission to give a platform to all those brilliant overlooked composers who had been effectively written out of the repertoire.

She knew that she had to move beyond the kind of tokenism that saw the occasional performance or broadcast satisfying what programmers and promoters saw as new pressures to increase diversity. Her avowed aim was to bring those composers into the mainstream, challenging the very idea of what constitutes the perceived “core repertoire.”

“If you play Beethoven 100 times over the course of the year and you’re playing one black female composer, there’s something not right there…It’s not about just fitting it in and bringing people to the table, it’s creating a different table where there is space for all these different people and all these different voices.”

The logic is straightforward: if you add in all these female, black, Asian and other ethnic minority composers, that immediately expands access to the range of music out there. And by making this music more accessible that gives more people more of a choice to be interested in classical music.

It should be a win-win, but challenging prevailing attitudes can be hard. Promoters often have fixed ideas about what their audiences like or will tolerate and fight shy of anything that seems unknown or new. There’s also the prejudice against contemporary or modern music as hard to listen to, atonal and difficult to engage with as well as a general lack of knowledge and understanding out there.

To combat this, Elizabeth also offers repertoire consultancy to help anyone who wants to make their programming more inclusive, but doesn’t know where to begin.

As she says: “[if] you’re not serving the whole population…who are you serving?”

You can find out more about Elizabeth’s work here: http://www.thedaffodilperspective.com, and also listen to The Daffodil Perspective by following the link below. We guarantee you’ll be blown away by the resources she offers and come away with a whole new and enriched perception of the music that is out there. These composers are only overlooked and unheard if we don’t see them or listen to their music, and, thanks to Elizabeth de Brito, we now have no excuse for that.

If you enjoy this conversation, please subscribe, check out our other great episodes, and even better leave us a review. You can also follow us on social media and sign up to our mailing list at www.polyphonyarts.com/mailing-list  for updates and news about Music Works and Polyphony Arts.

You can find Music Works and this episode here on the website: https://polyphonyarts.com/music-works-podcast/ or you can listen on all the usual podcast channels.

“Never mind, maybe next time” — The Need of Closing the Gap between the Arts and Disabilities

By Graziana Presicce

My dad has Parkinson’s disease. It’s one of those things which, unfortunately, just happens. As with any disability, new circumstances inevitably bring some adaptations and new routines in one’s everyday life: whether involving medicines, more frequent visits to the toilet, or the need of taking into account how tired the body may feel on particular days, making walking more challenging than usual.

Through my work, being fully immersed in the arts, there are numerous events to which I wish to bring my parents along. Yet, there are often times where the answer eventually turns into a “never mind, maybe next time”. Being a classical pianist myself, my love for classical music, attentive audiences and concert halls is granted. Yet, the expectation of a still, quiet audience often does not make these concerts an ideal environment for people affected by Parkinson’s. It is unpredictable how strong the uncontrolled movements or shaking may be on certain days or times of the day. It is also unpredictable who is going to sit next to you: there might be the occasional glance on you; and it’s an uncomfortable feeling. Stress certainly does not help towards the effects of Parkinson’s, and such events should certainly not be a reason for stress—quite the opposite! Anyone, regardless of one’s condition, should have the chance to fully enjoy music, without having to think twice whether “it’s OK or not” to attend. 

It’s thrilling to see initiatives from the arts in taking a step closer towards disabilities; for instance, through relaxed performances. If you are in Hull and surroundings, we are excited to be hosting Hull Chamber Music’s very first relaxed concert ‘A Musical Journey’ at the Ferens Art Gallery, Friday 21st February 2020 at 11am! Carers and under 18s are welcome to attend for free (Standard Ticket: £10). Anyone attending will be free to move around, without any need of sitting still and quiet. The performance will also be BSL interpreted, as BBC Music Magazine’s Instrumental Award winner violinist Fenella Humphreys, alongside international pianist Nicola Eimer, will guide the audience through a musical journey around the world. Babies and toddlers are also most welcome to the event.

To book, visit: https://www.hullboxoffice.com/event/hull-chamber-music-and-culture-tots-present-a-musical-journey-around-the-world/

It would be lovely to see you there — do spread the word!

One final note: we recently launched a Crowdfunding campaign to give away tickets to those who cannot otherwise afford them. Tickets are distributed through local charities, including Parkinson’s and Mind, among others. We would be incredibly grateful if you could chip in to let us reach our new target; if this is not possible for you, simply sharing the link below and encourage your friends to do so would be immensely helpful (we have only 8 days left to achieve this!):

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/hullchambermusic

We have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity so far. We hope to reach our new target and making chamber music more accessible to all.

Thank you for reading. Now let’s make the difference together! 


Graziana

How being a doula has improved my work on inclusivity in the arts

By Katie Beardsworth, Founder and Director, Polyphony Arts

I trained to be a volunteer doula in 2018.

For those of you who don’t know what a doula is (as I didn’t, until I was introduced to the concept after my son was born), it is a birth companion who supports women through pregnancy, birth, and postnatally.

Goodwin Doula and Breastfeeding Support Service

My doula training took place with the fantastic Goodwin Doula Project in Hull. The training is the equivalent of an A level; the eye-opening training topics including pre- and post- natal support, birth support including vaginal and C-section births, breastfeeding, safeguarding, domestic abuse awareness, FGM awareness, and many other things.

I went into the training considering it to be completely separate from my working life, and seeing no relevance to a career in arts management; this was about my personal development, and a desire I had to be a volunteer supporting families going through the life-changing experience of having a baby.

However, the training gave me an unparalleled (in my experience) insight into the makeup of society (especially in Hull, my home town) and the various issues that people could be facing at any time. The Doula Project deals with vulnerable women across the full range of social, economic, racial, and health backgrounds, and I had my eyes opened to the huge range of factors that might (among other things) prevent someone from accessing the arts.

I always considered myself to be understanding of the challenges that people face, and I was certainly sympathetic, but in order to write about this experience, I have to acknowledge that I was definitely in my own bubble of experience; I think we all are, to varying extents, and acknowledging this is important.

Goodwin Doula and Breastfeeding Support Service

I used my new understanding to write a successful funding bid for funds to re-structure Hull Chamber Music, in order to allow them to offer considerate and appealing chamber music offerings to people from all the social backgrounds found in Hull, and not just those of a certain economic and educational background.

The funding has lead to a new vision for HCM, and a new long-term strategy for offering inclusive chamber music to as many people from Hull and the surrounding area as possible.

We launch their new season this Friday, 23 August, and I am incredibly proud of this work; it is a real career highlight for me, and we’re only just getting started!

Have you had an experience of training in one aspect of your life affecting another? Did it surprise you?

#inclusivity #inclusivearts #doula #womensupportingwomen #hullchambermusic #chambermusic #hull #goodwin #volunteer

Interested in becoming a doula or breastfeeding peer supporter? It is truly rewarding and wonderful volunteer work. This wonderful team is always happy to welcome new members. Get in touch here.