Dear Friends,
I’ve been thinking a lot about Sorel Organization founder Claudette Sorel: her life as a pianist, teacher, and philanthropist, deeply committed to helping women achieve opportunity and equity in their musical careers. She focused her philanthropy particularly on women composers and conductors, as measurable areas of change. If she were still alive, she would be encouraged by the galvanizing increases in representation in concert halls and performing arts venues across the country!
“Is the tide finally turning for women composers at the symphony?”
NPR Music’s Tom Huizenga recently noted in an All Things Considered feature that “the sound of symphony orchestras appears to be growing more diverse across the country — even at the top organizations who were programming entire seasons without women just a few years ago. The latest Orchestra Repertoire Report, a statistical overview published by advocacy group the Institute for Composer Diversity, shows a 638% increase in music by women at our symphony halls in the past six years.” Download the full report here. (By the way, the Institute for Composer Diversity is housed at SUNY Fredonia where Claudette Sorel taught for many years.) Listen to the NPR feature.
Programming is changing at radio stations across the country…
“If we don’t have it, we can’t play it,” says Suzanne Nance, CEO of All Classical Portland in Oregon. At the end of October the station and Navona Records released Amplify, the inaugural album in their pioneering Recording Inclusivity Initiative. “One of the women featured on the album is named Melanie Bonis,” Nance said during a recent Portland TV interview. “She was alive when Claude Debussy was writing. She wrote more than 500 works and we’ve never heard her pieces…until now.” The Sorel Organization is supporting the creation of the database for classical stations across the country to upload and share recordings they make as part of this initiative to expand America’s playlist. Watch the TV interview about the release of Amplify.
Celebrating The Town Hall’s Centennial…
A child prodigy, Claudette Sorel made her recital debut at the age of 11 at New York’s historic Town Hall in 1943. The New York Times reviewer remarked, “A child capable of so polished and eloquent an example of pianism has a future worth watching.” Originally built as a speaker’s hall in 1921 by suffragists as a home for adult civic education, The Town Hall over the past century has presented the debuts of such musical luminaries as Marian Anderson, Isaac Stern, Glenn Gould, Leontyne Price, and Philip Glass. On November 5th, in association with the Santa Fe Opera, The Town Hall is presenting the New York premiere of Laura Kaminsky’s chamber opera Hometown to the World, one of the first operas commissioned by Santa Fe Opera as part of its Opera for All Voices Initiative. The Sorel Organization is providing support for this performance of Hometown to the World, with its all-female creative team, as the centerpiece of The Town Hall's centenary celebrations. Tania León conducts. Learn more and tickets to the November 5th event.
News from SUNY Fredonia…
While chairing the piano department at Fredonia in the 1970s, Claudette Sorel became the first woman in the entire New York State University system of over 30,000 faculty to be named Distinguished University Professor. Her legacy lives on at the School of Music. Composer Chen Yi is the inaugural Claudette Sorel Visiting Artist for 2022-2023 academic year. Chen Yi’s residency, which includes a partnership with Chautauqua Institution, features performances of her music and explorations of its cross-cultural influences, composition classes, and multiple interactive events with faculty and students.
Also at Fredonia, fourteen talented 15-18-year-old pianists are competing on November 6th at noon in the finals of the Seventh Annual Claudette Sorel Piano Competition. Meet the finalists, who hail from across the U.S., Canada and China. “We have intentionally designed our competition to be a uniquely positive and welcoming experience, creating a space for participants to present their creative passion and vision in a nurturing environment,” says competition director and SUNY Fredonia School of Music Associate Professor of Piano Eliran Avni. Watch the November 6 live-streamed finals here.
Telling stories through song…
Sparks & Wiry Cries is an unusual name for an arts presenter, and it belongs to an unusually innovative force for art song creators and performers to tell stories of our diverse communities through music. Led by co-founders Martha Guth and Erika Switzer, Sparks produces annual songSLAMs fashioned after poetry slams and storytelling events. Teams of composers and performers premiere new art songs and compete for cash prizes. This isn’t your conventional art song recital! The 7th Annual NYC songSLAM will take place on January 13th, with online voting through January 22nd. The commission prize at last year’s NYC songSLAM was awarded to Shawn Chang, who will premiere the new Sorel-supported work at the 2023 festival.
Plus, Sparks is producing the world premiere on January 12th of “Songs in Flight” as part of the MetLiveArts series at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rhiannon Giddens is among the featured artists in the 55-minute cycle by Shawn Okpebholo, which received an NEA grant and is co-commissioned by Sparks and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. The work finds its source in "runaway ads" for fugitive slaves, placed in newspapers during the period of slavery, collected in Cornell University’s Freedom on the Move database. Learn more about sparksLIVE’s January events
SongFest 2022. Back row left to right: Jake Heggie, John Harbison, John Musto, David Conte and emerging composer B.E. Boykin. Front row left to right: emerging composers Miriam Sharrock, Rachel deVore Fogerty, Marie Herrington, Chelsea Loew and Jessica Mao; composers Sheila Silver and Libby Larsen, and soprano Lucy FitzGibbon
More from the world of song…
SongFest, an art song festival and training program now based at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, has been “breaking the song barrier” since 1996. This past June marked the launch of the SongFest-Sorel Composer Mentorship Program. Esteemed faculty composers and performers worked with select emerging composers on the art of writing art song, and explored the power of song in today’s world.

Another highlight of the 2022 festival was the world premiere of the Sorel-commissioned song cycle Love, Loss and Exile by Juhi Bansal. Based on women’s poetry from Afghanistan, it is a particularly moving work. In her accompanying notes, Bansal writes, “We don’t often think of poetry as rebellion, but the women of Afghanistan have built a tradition out of artistic defiance, of speaking in rhyme words they are forbidden in prose.” Listen here…
Expanding the choral repertoire…
For a number of years the Sorel Organization, under the leadership of our dear friend Judy Cope, collaborated with NYC’s Grammy-nominated professional chorus, Voices of Ascension, on a choral competition for women composers. Through these Sorel Medallion Concerts and now through its Voices of The New series, Voices of Ascension continues to expand choral music as a living art and provide visibility for women composers. This winter three innovative concerts at Brooklyn’s Roulette will center around newly-commissioned works by Hannah Selin, Max Vinetz, and Raquel Acevedo Klein. Learn more…
New York Phil podium debut…
Before she died in 1999, Claudette Sorel established an endowment at the New York Philharmonic for a woman conductor to make her debut each subscription season. The Claudette Sorel Fund for Performance has supported podium debuts by Jane Glover, Emmanuelle Haim, Susanna Maalkki, Jeannette Sorrell, Simone Young, and Xian Zhang, among others. In February, this season’s beneficiary will be the dynamic young conductor Ruth Reinhardt, who recently served as the Dallas Symphony’s assistant conductor under Jaap van Zweden. Learn more about Ruth Reinhardt
Claudette Sorel discovered...
I’ll end this Sorel Organization update with appreciation for Claudette Sorel, the pianist. UK reviewer Stephen Greenbank, in his Music Web International review, offers this “Recommended Recording” assessment of the 2CD commemorative set Claudette Sorel Rediscovered. “This release has been a terrific discovery for me. Sorel’s pianism combines supreme virtuosity, an extraordinary colour range, fertile and vivid imagination, personal magnetism and impeccable musicianship. It’s all there for the listener to savour. Sound quality is excellent throughout. David Dubal provides some highly illuminating recollections of the pianist in the accompanying booklet. If great pianism is your thing, then don’t hesitate.” Happy listening!
Scroll down for a recap of upcoming events... and stay tuned for more Sorel Organization news in the New Year!
Wende Persons
Managing Director, Board of Directors
The Sorel Organization
m: 917-691-1282
Expanding opportunities for women in music
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