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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Episcopal Life Online: Women's Sacred Music Project

Contest seeks choral anthems based on works by women
By Jerry Hames February 22, 2008

[Episcopal Life] An international competition for a choral anthem setting that uses the work of women from Voices Found: Women in the Church's Song, a supplement to the Hymnal 1982 of the Episcopal Church, has been launched by the Women's Sacred Music Project.

Inspired by the 12th-century abbess and composer Hildegard of Bingen, the project's mission is to support, develop and perform sacred music by, for and about women at the highest standard of excellence, said Lisa Neufeld Thomas of Philadelphia, president of the organization since its 1996 inception.

"Our vision includes education, performance, composition, promotion and spirituality, all focusing on women. What we are doing now is launching a competition that will promote use of Voices Found," she said. "We ask composers to submit scores for anthems that are based on material found in texts from Voices Found and do a musical setting, or take a hymn text and tune from the book and make an arrangement from it."

The text or tune from the hymnal must have been written by a woman, but the anthem competition is open to both men and women, Neufeld Thomas said. Scores must be choral works, ideally of three to five minutes, set for a cappella choir or with keyboard accompaniment and no more than two optional instruments. Applications must be received by May 1, and winners will be announced by October 1, 2008.

Three prizes totaling $6,000 will be awarded. Winning compositions will be performed at the Princeton University Chapel at a symposium sponsored by the Royal School of Church Music, Westminster Choir College, Princeton Theological Seminary and the chapel.

Voices Found was the major production of the Women's Sacred Music Project, which collected hymns and texts created and written by women from 1997 to 2003, with a leaders' guide produced the following year.

"As we carry this major project forward, we also continue our work of searching out other worship music by women, of conducting workshops giving voice to the needs and concerns of women and offering concerts," said Richard Conway Meyer, financial campaign chair.

Performing music by women, historical and contemporary, is an important part of the organization's work. The WSMP sponsors a small ensemble of singers, with occasional instrumentalists, called the Lady Chapel Singers because they first began to sing in the Lady Chapel of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. The group has recorded two CDs.

More about the work of the Women's Sacred Music Project, the competition rules and recordings by the Lady Chapel Singers is available here.

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