Ethel Smyth: An introduction

Course Dates: 28/04/22 - 26/05/22
Time: 14:00 - 16:10
Location: KS - Keeley Street
Whilst she is perhaps best remembered now as a suffragette, conducting her fellow prisoners with a toothbrush in a rousing chorus of The March of the Women at Holloway, Ethel Smyth was a significant composer and writer with strong ties to the Austro-German traditions of the late nineteenth century. We explore her life and works, including selections from her own autobiographical writing.
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Full fee £109.00 Senior fee £87.00 Concession £66.00

This course has now started

Course Code: MD703D

Started Thu, day, 28 Apr - 26 May '22

Duration: 5 sessions (over 5 weeks)

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What is the course about?

Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) lived a life of defiance in order to succeed in her aspirations: first, to study music in Leipzig, against her parents’ wishes; then to succeed as a composer of large-scale instrumental and operatic work in the male-dominated British musical scene; and finally as a dedicated suffragette. This course introduces some of her most significant compositions, and places her within the rich network of artistic and political figures whose company she enjoyed.

What will we cover?

- An overview of Smyth’s training in Germany and her career, first as a composer-performer and later, after the onset of deafness, as a writer
- Early works in the Brahmsian style, such as the String Quintet (1880)
- Her opera The Wreckers, and her attempts to get large-scale works performed at home and abroad
- A selection of her other compositions, including the Mass in D (1891) and de Régnier Songs (1908)
- Her legacy, and recent revivals of key works.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- Summarise the biographical details of Smyth’s life
- List some of her most important compositions
- Outline the details of her career as a composer, conductor and writer (and suffragette!)
- Identify some of her most characteristic musical devices.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is intended to be accessible for anyone with an interest in western classical music. We will look at various scores and historical documents during this course but you do not need to read music notation to participate in these activities. All texts will be in English or accompanied by an English translation. Musical scores are all available free online via IMSLP.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Each class will involve a combination of spoken presentations from the tutor, recorded and live musical examples, and class discussion and activities. These will include tasks for pairs and small groups, whole-class discussions and individual activities. There will be some small tasks to complete between classes (usually brief reading and/or listening tasks), and all materials for these – such as video links and texts – will be made available online.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

All classes, learning materials and online resources are included in the price. Those who wish to continue their learning outside the classes will be offered suggestions for further reading and listening, but this is not compulsory in order to complete the course.
You will need to bring paper and writing implements to take notes and participate fully in group activities. All presentation material and class handouts will also be made accessible in digital format.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Please look out for music history short summer courses.

To find out more about music history classes Music history courses in London and online which lists our full programme of classes ordered by term, and by day of the week. You may then click on each title to read the full course outline.

Katy Hamilton Tutor Website

Dr Katy Hamilton is a freelance researcher, writer and presenter on music. She is fast becoming one of the UK’s most sought-after speakers on music, providing talks for a host of organisations including the Wigmore Hall, Southbank Centre, BBC Proms, Ryedale Festival and Oxford Lieder Festival. In addition, she regularly writes programme notes for the Salzburg Festival, North Norfolk Festival and the Philharmonia Orchestra, and is a frequent contributor to BBC Radio 3’s Record Review. Katy worked as Graham Johnson’s research assistant for his monumental Franz Schubert: The Songs and their Poets (Yale University Press, 2014) and is co-editor of Brahms in the Home and the Concert Hall (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and Brahms in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2019). In addition to her research and presentation work, Katy has taught at the Royal College of Music, City Lit, the University of Nottingham and Middlesex University, working with students in performance workshops and music history classes. She has been teaching Music History courses at City Lit since 2015. She is also Public Events Programmer at the Foundling Museum in central London.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.