Lost score by suffrage composer to be performed for first time in nearly 100 years  

Thursday 25 October 2018

The missing score of a string quartet by the suffrage composer Dorothy Howell (1898–1982) dubbed ‘the English Strauss’ – last performed at the Wigmore Hall in 1920, and thought lost for nearly 100 years – has recently been discovered and will be played at a special concert on 1 November.

A manuscript version of the score was found this summer by Dr Kate Kennedy, an Oxford historian and broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 and BBC television, while going through Dorothy Howell’s archives with Dorothy’s niece and nephew, Merryn and Columb Howell, in their home. The manuscript score, which was found hidden away under the stairs in a crocodile-skin suitcase, was incomplete but to continue Dorothy’s legacy, Kate Kennedy and members of the Berkeley Ensemble have worked on the score to recreate the missing violin part so that it can be played for the first time in nearly 100 years.

It will be performed at a concert hosted by Senate House Library (SHL) and the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) on 1 November 2018, to honour three female composers active in the suffrage movement and mark the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which first gave women the right to vote.

The composers to be honoured at the concert are Ethel Smyth (1858–1944) and Rebecca Clarke (1886–1979), who were prominent suffragists and members of the Society of Women Musicians, as well as Dorothy Howell (1898–1982), whose work was regularly premièred at the Proms from 1919, but is now rarely heard.

The concert will include music from all three female composers, played by members of the Berkeley Ensemble along with readings from the composers’ and fellow suffrage campaigners’ diaries and letters, narrated by Kate Kennedy.

Merryn and Columb Howell, Dorothy Howell's niece and nephew, said: ‘We’re delighted that our talented aunt Dorothy is being honoured by Senate House Library and the Institute of Historical Research in this way. We’ve been to concerts where some of Dorothy’s work has been played before but this one is special. We’ve never heard Dorothy’s Quartet Movement and we’ll have the honour of hearing it for the first time on 1 November, alongside readings from her letters, giving her story and musical talent the credit it deserves.’

The concert will be accompanied by an exhibition of the diaries and letters written by these composers from the period, as well as scores and historic concert posters. It includes an original concert programme for the unveiling of the Emmeline Pankhurst statue in 1930 featuring Ethel Smyth and Dorothy Howell – drawn from the Senate House Library collection and Dorothy Howell's archive, with kind permission from Merryn and Columb Howell, who will be attending the concert.

The concert forms part of Senate House Library's Rights for Women: London Pioneers in their Own Words exhibition and events season and IHR’s Suffrage Season, 1918-2018.

For media enquiries please contact: Rebecca Simpson, Communications Manager, Senate House Library on 07950 915568 or rebecca.simpson@london.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

  1. Images for use in publication of articles: Link to download a selection of images to accompany this story: https://www.flickr.com/gp/senatehouselibrary/8T66J2
  2. The Berkeley Ensemble was formed in 2008 by members of Southbank Sinfonia, Britain’s young professional orchestra, with the aim of exploring the wealth of little-known twentieth and twenty-first century British chamber music alongside more established repertoire. It now enjoys a busy concert schedule performing throughout the UK and abroad, and is also much in demand for its inspiring work in education.
  3. Dr Kate Kennedy is a well-known author and broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 and BBC television. She is the consultant to Radio 3 for their First World War programming and a specialist in early to mid-twentieth-century British music. Kate is also Deputy Director of the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing at Wolfson College, and teaches in both the English and Music Faculties.
  4. Senate House Library (SHL) is one of the UK's largest academic libraries for arts, humanities & social sciences with over 2 million books, 50 special collections and1,800 archival collections. The Library and its collections have been continuously developed since the 1870s. The Library is open to the public as well as students and academics of the University of London – membership required. http://senatehouselibrary.ac.uk/ Twitter: @SenateHouseLib Facebook: @SenateHouseLibrary Instagram: @SenateHouseLib
  5. The Institute of Historical Research (IHR) is dedicated to training the next generation of historians, and to producing and facilitating ambitious, innovative historical research.  The IHR helps foster public understanding of history and its social, cultural, and economic importance, advocating for the long-term future of the discipline and supporting its growth and development.  It offers a wide range of services to promote excellence in historical research, teaching and scholarship. It is a leading centre for the creation of digital resources for historians, and promotes the study of the history of London through its Centre for Metropolitan History. http://www.history.ac.uk. Twitter: @IHR_History  Facebook: Institute of Historical Research Instagram: @instituteofhistoricalresearc
  6. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled resources, facilities and academic opportunities across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. Last year SAS welcomed 786 research fellows and associates, held 2,007 events highlighting the latest research in the humanities, received 24.4 million online visits to its research resources and platforms, and hosted 194,145 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads Being Human, the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities. Find out more at www.sas.ac.uk or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews
  7. The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in Higher Education. Its members are 18 self-governing institutions of outstanding reputation, together with a number of prestigious central academic bodies and activities. http://www.london.ac.uk