“Visionary Women”

A Review by Kara Wilson

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Master Singers of Worcester and Worcester Women’s History Project collaborated on a unique event entitled “Visionary Women: A Musical Celebration of Historic Women.” This event honored several New England women by setting their own words to music by contemporary composers. “Visionary Women” was performed on March 27, 2011, at Tuckerman Hall in Worcester to an audience of over 400.

Prior to the “Visionary Women” program, the Worcester County Poetry Association presented a free 30-minute lecture by Amy Belding Brown entitled “Emerson’s Oracles.” This lecture focused on ten women who had a profound influence on Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1840s Concord through being “visionary women” in their own right. According to Amy Belding Brown, these women “taught Emerson self-reliance and challenged his views on abolition and women’s rights,” but despite their influence, most have faded from public knowledge. The ten women highlighted in the lecture were: Mary Moody Emerson, Sarah Bradford Ripley, Lidian Emerson, Elizabeth Hoar, Abba Alcott, Lydia Maria Child, Cynthia Dunbar Thoreau, Mary Merritt Brooks, Elizabeth Potter Peabody, and Margaret Fuller.

Following the lecture, the audience adjourned upstairs to attend the “Visionary Women” performance and were greeted at the door by members of WWHP wearing 1850s era costumes. The audience received a concert program filled with information about the music, musicians, composers and sponsors. The program also included biographies of the poets whose works were set to music and full texts of the poems.

The concert opened with an introduction by Moira Rouse, President of Master Singers of Worcester. She
mentioned how honored we were to have five of the composers in attendance at the performance. She also noted that the concert would feature mezzo-soprano soloist, D’Anna Fortunato. After the introduction, MSW began the first half of the concert, which included a tribute to the Worcester area’s own Lucy Stone and Abby Kelley Foster in the two-part piece entitled, “Two Portraits of Nineteenth Century New England Women.” The words of Lucy Stone were set to music by William Cutter and the words of Abby Kelley Foster were used in “The Call” by Martha Sullivan.

After intermission, WWHP President Fran Langille spoke to the audience, dressed in an 1850s costume. “This really is a singing day,” she exclaimed, before thanking MSW director Malcolm Halliday; the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Greater Worcester Community Foundation, whose generous grants helped to fund the program; and Penta Marketing, who sponsored the advertising banner for the concert. Ms. Langille also invited people to visit the WWHP table and announced Abby Kelley Foster’s upcoming induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Seneca Falls, NY, on October 1 and into the National Abolition Hall of Fame, Peterboro, New York, on October 22.

Published Date: 
October 6, 2011