Cathedral to Celebrate International Women's Day with Month of Music

Music composed by women will be played by our organists at every accompanied service sung by the Cathedral Choir and Frideswide Voices in the next month as part of our celebrations of International Women’s Day.

Accompanied services at the cathedral typically begin with a prelude and end with a voluntary or postlude, both played by our organists. From the 10th of February through to Mothers’ Day on the 10th March via International Women's Day on the 8th, they will be performing works exclusively by women composers. Those featured include Florence Price (1887-1953), the first African-American woman to have her work performed by a major professional orchestra; Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944), the first woman to be honoured with a DBE for their musical compositions, and also a passionate suffragette; and Elizabeth Turner (1700-56), the first known English woman to publish a substantial collection of music and whose works won fans among the elite musicians and patrons of her day, such as George Frederick Handel.

This year is a particularly momentous one in the history of music at the cathedral and its choirs: 2024 marks ten years since the foundation of Frideswide Voices allowed girls aged 7-14 to sing liturgical music in Oxford University’s chapels for the first time. This year also marks two other important milestones for us: it is both five years since the ensemble became part of our Choral Foundation in 2019, and five years since the appointment of Christ Church’s first female Lay Clerk, Elizabeth Nurse. This will also be the first International Women's Day celebrated by our Foundation since the Very Revd Professor Sarah Foot became the first female Dean of Christ Church in July 2023.

Libby Burgess, Christ Church's first female organ scholar, sits with a relaxed confidence at the Cathedral's organ bench looking at the camera. Her arm rests on the console, and on her knees is an open book of sheet music.

The contribution of women to music both secular and sacred will be fittingly celebrated by both choirs during our festival’s final weekend, beginning with an International Women’s Day Evensong by the Cathedral Choir on March 8th. The following day, future generations of musicians will be inspired and nurtured though a “chorister for a day” workshop with our Frideswide Voices choir, giving young girls from Oxford and its surrounding areas the chance to experience life as a chorister and take their first steps into the world of sacred music. 

Left: Our alumna Libby Burgess became the first woman to be elected as an Organ Scholar at Christ Church in 2002

In total, thirty-four composers from across the last three centuries will be featured in the next month’s services. Our celebrations conclude with the Eucharist and Evensong on Mothering Sunday on the 10th of March - but while the occasion itself may have passed until 2025, music composed by women and the work of our women musicians will continue to be fundamental to the life of Oxford’s cathedral every day of the year.

Girls of the Frideswide Voices choir singing in the Cathedral

Frideswide Voices have been part of our Choral Foundation since 2019

Programme for the Month of Women’s Music at Christ Church Cathedral

  • February

    Saturday 10
    At Sunset - Emma Louise Ashford (1850-1930)
    Toccato (Sonata) - Florence Price (1887-1953) 

    Sunday 11 
    Adoration - Florence Price (1887-1953)
    Introduction and Fugue - Adela Douglas-Pennant (1858-1955) 

    O Gott, du frommer Gott - Ethel Smyth (1858-1944)
    Prelude on an Old Folk Tune - Amy Beach (1867-1944) 

    *Tuesday 13th – Monday 19th: Cathedral Choir on their Half Term break, services sung by Christ Church Cathedral Singers*

    Tuesday 20
    Andante - Kate Loder (1825-1904)
    Moderato - Elizabeth Stirling (1819-1895)

    Wednesday 21 
    Trio Anna Amalia of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1739-1807)
    Duo schönes Weltgebäude Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) 

    Thursday 22
    Movement in Ab Elizabeth Stirling (1819-1895)
    Andante espressivo (Sonatine) Hedwige Chrétien (1859-1944) 

    Saturday 24 
    In a quiet mood - Florence Price (1887-1953)
    Prelude and Fugue in D minor - Clara Schumann (1819-1896) 

    Sunday 25 
    Schwing dich auf - Ethel Smyth (1858-1944)
    Prelude on Pange Linuga - Kerensa Briggs (b. 1990) 

    Chorale Prelude on Oriel - Katherine Dienes-Williams (b. 1970)
    Trio on Attende Domine - Sarah MacDonald (b. 1968) 

    Tuesday 27
    Ubi Caritas Julie Ainscough (b. 1957)
    Fugue in C Mathilde Kralik (1857-1944) 

    Wednesday 28
    Minuetto (Sonata in G) - Elizabeth Turner (c. 1720-1756)
    Allegro (Sonata in G) - Elizabeth Turner (c. 1720-1756) 

    Thursday 29
    Andante (Op. 3, No 5) - Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847)
    Chorale (Op. 3, No 1) - Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847)

  • March

    Saturday 2
    Petit Canon - Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)
    Prelude - Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)  

    Sunday 3 
    Aria in Bb - Elizabeth Turner (c. 1720-1756)
    Sanctus from Orbis factor - Dobrinka Tabakova (b. 1980) 

    Cradle Song - Chelsea Chen (b. 1983)
    Gloriana for Organ - Priaulx Rainier (1903-1986) 

    Tuesday 5
    Air (Sonata) - Florence Price (1887-1953)
    In manus tuas - Jeanne Demessieux (1921-1968) 

    Wednesday 6
    Reflections - Ruth Norman (b. 1927)
    Annunciation IV - Judith Bingham (b. 1952) 

    Thursday 7
    Rondeau - Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre (1665-1729)
    Were you there? - Evelyn Simpson-Curenton (b. 1953) 

    Friday 8: Evensong for International Women's Day

    The organ is not used in services on Fridays, but the choir will sing the following music: 

    Preces and Responses - Esther Bersweden (b. 1996)
    Psalms 42, 43 - Katherine Dienes-Williams (b. 1970) 
    Magnificat (Peterborough Service) - Cheryl Frances-Hoad (b. 1980)
    Nunc Dimittis - Amy Beach (1867-1944)
    A hymne to Christ - Imogen Holst (1907-1984) 

    Saturday 9: “Be a chorister for a day” with Frideswide Voices 

    Allegro (Sonata in D) - Elizabeth Turner (c. 1720-1756) 
    Fiesta - Emma Lou Diemer (b. 1927) 

    Sunday 10: Mothering Sunday 
    Improvisation - Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)
    Praeludium und Fugue über "O Traurigkeit, O Herzeleid" - Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) 

    Lied - Lucie Robert-Diessel (b. 1936) 
    Monument - Ivana Loudová (b. 1941)