The Hildegard Project will commission new works from Australian women composers.

Taking to the stage of the Sydney Conservatorium’s Verbrugghen Hall ahead of the final concert of the 2015 Musica Viva Festival yesterday afternoon, Artistic Director Carl Vine AO announced the launch of a new initiative to champion the work of female composers in Australia.

Musica Viva’s Hildegard Project, named after Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th Century nun considered by many scholars to be one of the earliest women composers whose work has survived to present day, will address the apparent inequity in the current musical landscape in Australia, where only a quarter of living composers represented by the Australian Music Centre are female.

“There is never a simple panacea for gender imbalance, but my hope is that the Hildegard Project, by shining a spotlight on women composers, will bring to the fore talented women, who may have previously been overlooked,” says Vine, who is also one of Australia’s most celebrated living composers.

Musica Viva is one of the most active commissioners of new music in Australia, with on average six new pieces commissioned each year, however this is the first commissioning drive by the organisation that has been created to specifically support female composers. “Ultimately we hope that this will encourage more young women to consider a career in composition and to amend the current imbalance in Australia that sees female composer outnumbered three to one,” Vine shares.

The first beneficiary of the project, Australian-American composer Natalie Williams, presented the world premiere of her Hildegard commission, Saudade for double string quartet, at the closing performance of the Musica Viva Festival, shortly after Vine’s announcement. 50% of 2015’s Musica Viva commissions will be by women, supported by the new initiative. In additionto  Williams’ octet, new pieces by Anne Boyd and emerging talent Alice Chance will be presented later this year.  

Full details of Music Viva’s 2015 programme can be found on their website.