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14 April 2015

Musica Viva's Hildegard Project: more exposure and commissions to female composers

Natalie Williams Image: Natalie Williams  
© Megagraphics Photography

Musica Viva's new initiative, the Hildegard Project will see one of the world's leading chamber music presenters commission more women to write chamber music. Participants of the project will receive the support Musica Viva offers to its composers, including publicity around performances, and opportunities to connect with the organisation's network of performers, patrons and other composers.

The official launch of the new program took place after a performance, at last weekend's Musica Viva Festival in Sydney, of a new string octet by Natalie Williams - a work commissioned for Musica Viva by Linda Matthews and Robin Budden in honour of their mothers. The Hildegard Project itself has its origins in a generous gift made by Katherine Grinberg in honour of the late Adrienne Nagy and her sister Yolanda (Nagy) Daniel. The Nagy sisters were passionate about making a difference in the music world, with particular interests in the areas of education and composition, and reaching those who were finding participation a challenge.

'There is never a simple panacea for gender imbalance, but my hope is that the Hildegard Project, by shining a spotlight on women composers, will bring to the fore talented women who may have previously been overlooked', said Musica Viva's artistic director, Carl Vine. 'Ultimately we hope that this will encourage more young women to consider a career in composition, and start to amend the current imbalance in Australia that sees female composers outnumbered three to one.'

Currently about a quarter of living composers represented by the Australian Music Centre are women. The Hildegard Project has been named after Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century German nun considered to be one of the earliest women composers whose work has survived.

Inclusion in the Hildegard Project will be by invitation, which is the case with all Musica Viva commissions, explains Musica Viva's Director of Artistic Planning, Katherine Kemp:

'Matching of a composer with an opportunity is a detailed and complex decision, so inclusion in this project will be by invitation only. However, we're keen to find new pieces and composers, and protocols for artists and composers who would like to inform us about their activities can be found on our website. And of course we will continue to seek out and program high quality chamber music from all demographics; we're not about to neglect men! We are also very grateful for the wonderful resource that is the Australian Music Centre, without whom our goals for Australian music would be much harder to achieve.'

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