Her story is retold in music in a new work, Pearl of Freedom, by the important contemporary composer Joanna Marsh, with a libretto by opera elder statesman David Pountney. The first performance, at St John's Smith Square (31Jan), is given with two other works that celebrate freedom and expression: Beethoven's powerful Symphony No 5, and Vaughan Williams's lovely Serenade to Music.
The commission celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act which gave (some) women the vote. Marsh, who has been resident in Dubai for 10 years, is composer in residence at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Her 20-minute cantata will be performed by the Choir and Orchestra of Royal Holloway with the London Mozart Players.
From 1906. Emily Davison was often arrested for disturbing the peace, and in 1909 was sentenced to a month's hard labour. Her funeral drew 50,000 people. Debate over her intentions on Derby Day continues: her sacrificial death was not planned, say many, who observe that she carried a return rail ticket.
The cantata opens with words from Emily Davison's diary, explaining her passion for women's suffrage. Pountney recreates the drama of the race with the horses names, riders, numbers and colours juxtaposing these with Davison's state of mind. The race commentary devised by Pountney carries the music into the drama of the crash between Emily and the horse, where they both dramatically tumble and fall.
The musical tradition of Royal Holloway, University of London, also goes back more than 100 years. Founded as a 'ladies' college', at a time when few universities admitted women, it houses one of the world's top university music departments. The Royal Holloway Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Rebecca Miller, includes scholars from the orchestral scholarship programme, tomorrow's great orchestral players, who work alongside the UK's oldest chamber orchestra, The London Mozart Players.
Pearl of Freedom is one of many works and performances dedicated to the suffragettes and suffragists in this centenary year. Watch Culture Whisper for more.
|What||Pearl of Freedom, St John's Smith Square|
|Where||St John's Smith Square, 30 Smith Square, London , SW1P 3HF | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Westminster (underground)|
On 31 Jan 18, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£10 - £20|
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|