Audiences at the coming season’s free concerts at the King’s Hall, Newcastle University, will get a rare opportunity to enjoy that equally rare phenomenon – work by a woman composer of the 18th century.
Elizabeth Turner was born in London in 1700 and died in the capital 56 years later. She was a popular soprano and according to the website Expanding the Music Theory Canon, seems to have been more well-known during her career as a performer than as a composer.
In addition to collaborating frequently with William Boyce she was also known for her performances of arias from oratorios by Handel and Thomas Arne.
Charles Burney reported that she was a favourite performer at the Swan, and also performed at the Castle Tavern, Hickford’s Room, and the Great Room in Dean Street.
But at the same time she was composing her own works. The website reports that she was one of the first known Englishwomen to publish a substantial collection.
More than 400 names appear on the subscription list for her 1750 volume of Songs with Symphonies and a Thorough Bass for the Harpsichord, and 350 for her 1756 collection, with subscribers including Handel, Boyce, and John Stanley as well as numerous elite patrons.
It is 30 years since Marcia J. Citron brought gender into discussion of the western classical music canon with her book Gender and the Musical Canon, yet according to the website:
“Despite the significant gains women and people of colour have made in academia in recent decades, music theory as a discipline remains predominantly male and almost exclusively white.”
Concerts in the King’s Hall
Keyboard work by Turner will feature in the King’s Hall concert by Edinburgh organist John Kitchen on 9 March along with works by William Byrd, to mark the 400 anniversary of his death, Thomas Tomkins, Purcell and Handel.
The King’s Hall season opens this Thursday with The Canny Band and ends on 27 April with pianist Martin Roscoe playing works by Schubert, Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, Brahms and Beethoven.
Concerts begin at 1.15pm, last about 45 minutes and are followed by student concerts at 4.00pm.
Other events in the King’s Hall this season see the return of the Newcastle University Symphony Orchestra following the pandemic with two concerts on 25 February and 5 May, and one by Newcastle Baroque and the Newcastle Bach Choir on 18 March, all at 7.30pm. Tickets can be purchased here.