Historic scores revived by AHRC and brought to life by BBC

Cello music instruments on a stage.

Rarely performed works by pioneering composers to be showcased on BBC Radio 3 as part of the Diverse Composers scheme.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and BBC Radio 3 Diverse Composers scheme supports researchers to give recognition to classical composers from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

The 2-year investment has shed new light on 7 composers who have been historically marginalised. The works of these composers will be celebrated for all to enjoy in the second of 2 special concerts held on BBC Radio 3 as part of the scheme.

Recognising exceptional talent

The Diverse Composers scheme forms part of BBC and AHRC’s shared ambition to honour the contribution of classical artists who have not always received the public recognition they deserve. This partnership began back in 2018 with the hugely successful forgotten female composers and a concert at London Symphony Orchestra St Luke’s on International Women’s Day.

Many of the works studied as part of the scheme are rarely performed and have not been commercially recorded.

By providing a new platform for these works, Diverse Composers aims to create a more diverse classical canon that better represents our rich cultural history and all those who have contributed to it.

UK and BBC premieres

One of the works to be performed at the concert is Robert Nathaniel Dett’s Magnolia Suite Part 2: No. 4 ‘Mammy’ in its orchestral arrangement, a first for BBC Radio 3.

Dett’s orchestral score, handwritten by the composer, was unearthed in the archives at Eastman School of Music, in Rochester, New York, by AHRC-funded researcher Dwight Pile-Gray. He transcribed and edited the piece as part of his research.

The concert will also feature several UK premieres of works studied as part of the scheme such as Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges’s Sinfonia concertante in B flat Opus 6 number 2.

Supporting a shared ambition

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair, says:

Music belongs to us all, and it is composed, played and enjoyed across the world. It is easy though to think that some genres belong to particular people, classes, or times.

This research has shown that this is not the reality and that we mustn’t forget the diversity and differences in the development of a canon of works and composers.

AHRC is proud to partner with the BBC to bring forward composers who have been overlooked, and return their works to the repertoire, so that we can celebrate and enjoy them long into the future.

A more inclusive repertoire

Alan Davey, BBC Radio 3 Controller, says:

At Radio 3 we strive to make classical music as inspiring for listeners of as many backgrounds as possible, whether they are lovers of the art form or experiencing it in concert or broadcast for the first time.

We are therefore immensely grateful for our partnership with colleagues at AHRC.

Thanks to this collaboration and the research of the seven brilliant academics we jointly support, we can broadcast works by figures who have been unfairly neglected for too long, and take the first steps towards a more inclusive repertoire by rediscovering, performing and showcasing their important and vital works.

The second Diverse Composers concert will be performed by the BBC Philharmonic and broadcast live from MediaCity Salford on BBC Radio 3 at 7:30pm on 4 November and will be available on BBC Sounds afterwards.

Further information

The full list of researchers involved in the Diverse Composers scheme is as follows:

  • musicologist and pianist Dr Samantha Ege, Lord Crewe Junior Research Fellow in Music at Lincoln College, University of Oxford, on American composer and pianist Margaret Bonds (1913 to 1972)
  • Professor of Music at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Christopher Dingle on French composer, violin virtuoso and conductor Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745 to 1799)
  • musicologist and violinist Dr Maiko Kawabata, Lecturer in Music at the Royal College of Music, on Japanese composer Kikuko Kanai (1906 to 1986)
  • conductor and PhD candidate Dwight Pile-Gray, London College of Music at the University of West London, on Canadian-American composer, organist, pianist, choir director and music professor Robert Nathaniel Dett (1882 to 1943)
  • PhD student at Bath Spa University and multi-instrumentalist and ethnomusicologist Ahmed Abdul Rahman on Sudanese composer Ali Osman (1958 to 2017)
  • Royal Northern College of Music Principal Study Vocal Tutor Michael Harper on American composer Julia Perry (1924 to 1979)
  • pianist, musicologist, and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Edinburgh Dr Phil Alexander on Scottish Jewish composer Isaac Hirshow (1883 to 1956)

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