16 Nov 2018

Female musicians celebrated by the APO

From Upbeat, 1:00 pm on 16 November 2018
New Zealand conductor Tianyi Lu

New Zealand conductor Tianyi Lu Photo: ©Adrian Malloch

Here're two surprising statistics as we acknowledge 125 years of Suffrage in New Zealand. Only 5% of classical concerts worldwide have a single note composed by women, and 93% of conductors are male.

Statistics such as these have affected musicians such as New Zealand conductor Tianyi Lu, who admits becoming a conductor had not occurred to her because she had seen so few women go before her. 

"I was not even considering it as a possibility because I’d not seen a professional woman on the podium until I went to Europe." she says. "The fact there weren't any role models meant I'd crossed that option out." 

"There is also a lot of resistance in the conducting world. The whole thing started when one (prominent) conductor said a pretty girl on the podium is distracting. That really concerns me because it’s still happening from these really well-known figures in the music world."

"I’m at the beginning of my career and I try not to let that concern me too much; you try and focus on the music and the work that you do, but it is in your face and you’re dealing with it every day."

Tianyi Lu will conduct the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra concert A Woman's Place on Thursday 29 November at the Auckland Town Hall - (the day after the 125th anniversary of when New Zealand women voted for the first time). And in contrast to the statistics, A Woman's Place has a 100% female-composed programme.

Works by Ethyl Smyth, sit alongside New Zealanders Gillian Whitehead, Claire Cowan and Salina Fisher and there'll be a performance of Clara Schumann's Piano Concerto with New Zealand pianist Modi Deng as soloist. 

APO Artistic Administrator Frances Moore describes Schumann's Concerto as "Fantastically expressive. It certainly deserves more outings in the concert hall. (Clara) started writing it at 14. You wonder, if she'd pursued this (composing) where would it have gone?" 

Clara Schumann

Clara Schumann Photo: Public Domain

For Frances Moore, one of the most exciting things about A Woman's Place is the opportunity to bring together a lot of New Zealand talent. The concert will feature New Zealand musician Tiny Ruins with guest soloists Amalia Hall (violin) and Modi Deng (piano) and contributions from prominent New Zealand women, including Selina Tusitala Marsh, Georgina Beyer and Dr Siouxsie Wiles.

Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh

Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh Photo: Emma Hughes

"It's a night of celebrating these wonderful wahine toa," says Moore. "There's so much to be proud of. I think it will be an extraordinary evening." 

APO Artistic Administrator Frances Moore

APO Artistic Administrator Frances Moore Photo: Supplied

RNZ Concert's Clarissa Dunn will present the concert and Moore says there will be something for everyone.

For Tianyi Lu, it's an event that could become the norm. "I hope the next generation would not even think twice about coming to a concert and seeing a woman on the podium," she says.

Tianyi Lu conducting the APO

Tianyi Lu conducting the APO Photo: ©Adrian Malloch