by Jarrett Hoffman
Both the music and the history of women composers are very much underexplored. So it’s fitting that Les Délices will begin its celebration of Women’s History Month with a new entry in their SalonEra series of performances and conversations — there will be plenty to hear, and plenty to learn.
Premiering online on Monday, March 15 at 7:30 pm, and remaining available for another 48 hours, “Women in Music” will feature instrumental and vocal works from the 17th-19th centuries by Francesca Caccini, Barbara Strozzi, Isabella Leonarda, Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Maddalena Sirmen, and Clara Schumann. See the full program and register here. It’s free to watch, but a donation is suggested.
Les Délices artistic director Debra Nagy, who is also the host of SalonEra, will be joined by harpsichordist Byron Schenkman, violinist Shelby Yamin, and soprano Michele Kennedy (above), who share a commitment to researching, performing, and recording music by women composers.
I reached Kennedy by telephone in Oakland, California to talk about the selections by three 17th-century Italian composers: Caccini, Strozzi, and Leonarda. We also discussed the societal restrictions on women of that era, and in some cases, the connections that helped these composers establish their careers. And we closed our phone call on the topics of equity and representation in classical music — particularly, Kennedy’s efforts to further that work while sheltering at home.