Music Notes 

March 23, 2021

During March, Women’s History Month, we are lifting up the music and stories of women composers.

Jeanne Demessieux (1921-1968) was a child prodigy whose parents recognized her gifts and moved to Paris to facilitate her musical education. She was admitted to the Paris Conservatory at eleven and was appointed organist at Saint-Esprit when she was twelve, a position she held for 29 years.. She was the first woman to play in both Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral. Her compositions include chamber music, piano music, organ compositions and symphonic music. She toured Europe extensively, and visited the United States three times during the 1950s, all to great acclaim and performing everything for memory. In preparation for these tours, Demessieux had memorized the entire organ literature of J.S. Bach, Franck, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Handel, and all but the last two compositions of her teacher Marcel Dupré – a body of between 1000 and 2000 works. Her confidence in her memory work was such that she left all of her scores back in France. For this week’s prelude we will hear one of her Twelve Choral Preludes based on Gregorian Themes: Hosanna Filo David (Hosanna to the Son of David).

Evelyn Simpson-Curenton (b. 1953) is an American composer, arranger, pianist, organist, vocalist, artistic director, lecturer, producer, and clinician. A child prodigy, she began playing piano at two and started lessons at five, and by the age of nine she was accompanying her family, the renowned Singing Simpsons of Philadelphia, in their concerts. She graduated from Temple University with a B.M. in Music Education and Voice. She has received commissions for many arrangements and compositions, and her works have been performed by numerous artists and groups, including Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The National Symphony, The Baltimore Symphony, and The U.S. Marine Band. She has given lectures and workshop on early 18th-century black religious music and the music of African-Americans during the Civil Rights era. At the close of our Palm/Passion Sunday worship, we will hear her haunting “Meditation on ‘Were You There’” as the postlude.

Topics: Church Life


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