Women Opening Up Classical Music
Two women who are changing the face of classical music.
Why is classical music still so male and pale, and what can be done about it? Kim Chakanetsa talks to two leading female musicians who are working to challenge the status quo and open up orchestras to more women and people of colour.
Of Nigerian-Irish parentage, Chi-chi Nwanoku realised that 30 years into an illustrious career as a double-bassist she was still one of vanishingly few non-white faces on the classical music stage. So in 2015 she started Chineke!, Europe’s first majority-black and minority ethnic orchestra. Her project is already bearing fruit, with one of her members Sheku Kanneh-Mason, playing solo at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Mei-Ann Chen is a conductor from Taiwan, and Musical Director at the Chicago Sinfonietta - a professional orchestra founded in the 1980s to showcase the talent of African American and Latino musicians. As well as insisting on diversity in her orchestra and the music they play, Mei-Ann is passionate about opening up the overwhelmingly male-dominated world of conducting to more women, and says she would never have succeeded without a female mentor.
You heard extracts from:
Dances in the Canebrakes by Florence Price, performed by the Chicago Sinfonietta conducted by Mei-Ann Chen, which will be included on a new CD released in March 2019 on Cedille Records.
The second movement of Dvorak's Ninth Symphony in E Minor "From the New World" performed by the Chineke! Orchestra, conducted by Kevin John Edusei. Available on Hyperion Records.
(L) Image and credit: Mei-Ann Chen
(R) Image: Chi-chi Nwanoku (credit: Eric Richmond)