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Music of women composers recognized at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

February 03, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Performing on stage Sunday, from left, at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown are David Styer, Naomi Styer, Kathy Barr and Russell Johnson during Salute to the Ladies, a tribute to music about women or composed by women.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

In the beginning of the 1800s and earlier, women were not allowed to perform music and female composers were a rarity.

If female composers got any recognition, their works were attributed to men or published under male pseudonyms.

Those composers got their due Sunday at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts as the museum’s consort offered an afternoon of music in tribute to the women of music.

While women at one time were largely overlooked in music, some were so talented that their skills broke through the barriers that held others back.

One of those women was German composer Hildegard von Bingen, who was born in 1098. Her parents recognized her skill and sent her to a monastery at a young age, said Naomi Styer, a member of the museum’s consort.

Von Bingen was taught to read and write, which was a huge accomplishment for a woman in that era, Styer said.

“She was a Renaissance woman before the Renaissance,” Styer said.

The consort began its 2:30 p.m. performance by playing von Bingen’s “O Ignee Spiritus.”

For its tribute to women, the consort performed pieces that were composed by women or ones that had a woman’s name in the title.

Among the pieces performed was “The Richmond Rag,” which was written and published by May Aufderheide. Despite women at one time getting little recognition for their music, Aufderheide was one of about 80 women who were getting ragtime compositions published in the 1890s to the early 1920s, according to a program for Sunday’s performance.

After marrying Thomas M. Kauffman in 1908 and moving to Richmond, Ind., Aufderheide wrote “The Richmond Rag” in honor of the town, according to the program.

The other three musicians in the consort were Russell Johnson, Kathy Barr and David Styer. The musicians largely used recorders for their music, which was performed to a crowd of about 30 people.

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