Lucy Stevens (Contralto) and Elizabeth Marcus (Pianist) recorded the songs and music written by Ethel Smyth that feature in the stage performance of ‘Ethel Smyth: Grasp the Nettle’.
“The music was a revelation, large enough for a vast space then suddenly intimate and unexpectedly lyrical, all rendered so beautifully.” Rosemary Pavey
“This CD selection of Smyth’s songs released in association with the theatre evening ‘Grasp the Nettle’ is a delight. The CD has something for the listening public at large for it reveals the less familiar youthful and intimate sides of Ethel Smyth; she was not all ‘let their be banners and music’.
Quite rightly, however, in this centenary year of women winning the first measure of female suffrage, Smyth’s most famous composition ‘The March of the Women’ is the final track in a particularly charming solo voice interpretation. The richness of Smyth’s creative life and her seriousness as a composer come across in this recording, beautifully sung and played by Lucy Stevens and Elizabeth Marcus.
In the middle of the recording and acting as an interlude between parts 1 and 2 of the song programme is the piano solo ‘Aus der Jugenzeit!!’, that Smyth wrote in her Leipzig student days and dedicated to Lisl von Herzogenberg, wife of her teacher. It’s a little jewel of a piece, albeit some have found the ending unconvincing but not here.
I was sorry there was not space enough to include all three of the Arthur Symons songs ‘Moods of the Sea’ but, understandably, not every Smyth song can be included on one disc; we can only enjoy and express our appreciation at such an imaginative recording project.
Whether bought as a souvenir of the ‘Grasp the Nettle’ production or not, it is a delightful conspectus of Smyth song ranging from her German student days to the songs of her maturity, settings of English texts, some with suffragette connections.”
Radley College, Oxfordshire.
“Can’t recommend Lucy Stevens play with music about Ethel Smyth highly enough. Superb acting and vocal performances and some exceptional navigation of fiendish piano reductions by Elisabeth Marcus. Funny, touching and uplifting- A must see!” Light Music Society
Extract ‘What if I were young again’ Ethel Smyth
‘The March of the Women’ Ethel Smyth The official anthem of the Women’s Social and Political Union.
Weaves the life of Virginia Woolf, as expressed in her own words, with music and songs by female composers who were her contemporaries – much of which is out of print and rarely performed. Through Woolf’s writing, it reveals her troubled childhood and her views on literature, Bloomsbury and the challenges women face as artists.
“Lucy is a remarkable performer the way she can go into and out of song and dramatic monologue is just amazing.” Dr Debbie Challis LSE Library
Kathleen Ferrier Whattalife! Tells the story of the great English contralto from her debut as a singer in 1940, through her meteoric rise, to her tragic death in 1953. The text is taken from her letters and diaries interwoven with music from her repertoire. Just like Kathleen during her short but full life, the show has a great sense of fun and talks straight from the heart.
★ ★ ★ ★ “Lucy Stevens as Ferrier, capturing the singer’s radiant personality most winningly…always at home in the Ferrier songbook, the warmth in her own voice, matching to a large degree Ferrier’s own contralto, causes a frisson in the audience.” – Adrian Edwards Musical Theatre Review
Shakespeare in Song
A song recital that dovetails Shakespeare’s songs with poetry from his plays and sonnets. Exploring love, lust, power and decay. Fourteen composers set, over four centuries, songs from Shakespeare’s plays, interwoven with spoken poetry.
“A remarkable performance, with magical, deeply touching moments – the audience spellbound, the recitations beautifully delivered and subtly interwoven with the songs – some well known, others less familiar and fresh. Lauderdale House 2017
“Another triumphant performance!! Brilliant singing and accompaniment.” Nick Barnes, Chairman Cambridge The Arts Society, South Cambs.
Ethel Smyth: Grasp the Nettle This is the story of Ethel Smyth, composer, writer and activist, and her personal conflicts, triumphs and relationships – told in her own words and compositions, in a flowing fusion of drama and music. She was the first woman composer to be performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and is now acclaimed as “the missing link” between Purcell and Britten.
“An amazing and important story presented up close and personal by the immensely talented dramatist and contralto Lucy Stevens. This will make your soul sing.” – Rob Webb, founder Quietrevolution