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Friday December 3rd

Corsets Unlaced: Giving a musical voice to unheard female musicians

Violinist Jacqueline Saed Wolborsky and pianist Danielle DeSwert Hahn rehearsing for their performance Corsets unLACEd, on Oct. 27. Photo courtesy of Steve Hahn.
Buy Photos Violinist Jacqueline Saed Wolborsky and pianist Danielle DeSwert Hahn rehearsing for their performance Corsets unLACEd, on Oct. 27. Photo courtesy of Steve Hahn.

The co-founders of the Living Art Collective Ensemble, LACE, will give a voice to silenced female composers from throughout history at the LACE: Corsets unLACEd concert on Oct. 27 at 2 p.m. at Person Hall. 

LACE is a group of classical musicians founded by violinist Jacqueline Saed Wolborsky and pianist Danielle DeSwert Hahn. 

"Part of what we do in LACE is connecting things musically to the culture and political climate of the composers' times,” Hahn said.

At the Corsets unLACEd concert, Wolborsky and Hahn will perform an all-female program with pieces ranging from the 19th century to present day. Meg Orita, a Ph.D. candidate in the UNC music department, will speak about the political and philosophical relevance of the compositions and composers, Wolborsky said.

Many of the women that will be featured in the concert were not allowed to be composers because it was not culturally and socially acceptable at the time, Hahn said. 

"We want to demonstrate how over the past 200 years things that have changed in womens' lives — things that have been forced upon women by men — have become slightly more welcoming,” Hahn said. “Yet, at the same time, we still have a long way to go."

Wolborsky said she and Hahn want to illuminate female composers who have not gotten the recognition they deserve. She explained that one of the featured composers, Germaine Tailleferre, was the only woman in a group of male musicians called Les Six and did not receive as much credit as the men in the group. 

Hahn also described how one of the other featured composers, Clara Schumann, was overshadowed by her husband, Robert Schumann, a famous composer, and her life-long friend Johannes Brahms, another famous composer and musician. 

The name of the concert, Corsets unLACEd, comes from a desire to free these early female composers from the societal conventions that kept them from becoming household names, Wolborsky said.

"We feel like the corset is being unlaced throughout history,” Wolborsky said. "Now you can see that women are much more readily commissioned to write works and are really out there now compared with how it used to be."

The two living composers set to be featured at the concert: Anna Clyne and Sarah Kirkland Snider, are more sought after and heard of than their female counterparts were back in the day, Wolborsky said. 

Yet, it is still challenging to be a female composer today.

"People should come because this is continuing to happen,” Hahn said. ”Women are continuing to be overshadowed simply because they're women — not because their work in any way is inferior. We want these people's voices to be heard.”

Cat Zachary, the communications coordinator for the UNC Department of Music, said Corsets unLACEd is the second concert this year in the premier William S. Newman Artists Series that features faculty members and guest artists. Wolborsky is a violin lecturer at UNC and Hahn is the guest artist.

"It's exciting when we have faculty bringing in their colleagues who work outside of the department to present music to the students and our community,” Zachary said.

Zachary explained that one of the goals of the music department is to expose students to a variety of high-level music.

“I certainly think that they've got pieces on this concert that people won't have heard very often, and it's really exciting to have them presenting an all-female recital — all females performing and all-female composers,” Zachary said.

Hahn hopes the Corsets unLACEd concert will engage people’s curiosity, open up their minds to cultural differences and allow them to think more deeply about all that is happening today.


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