The critic George Bernard Shaw told Ethel Smyth that her ‘magnificent’ Mass would ‘stand up in the biggest company!’ and we wholeheartedly agree.
For this Festival Chorus concert in collaboration with Sydney Philharmonic Choirs, we’ve paired Smyth’s fiercely passionate creation for choir and orchestra with Beethoven’s mighty ‘Ode to Joy’ finale from his Ninth Symphony. It’s a chance to experience two impressively defiant personalities who, each in their own way, pursued grand visions and broke new ground with music that speaks powerfully of struggle and triumph.
With the ‘Ode to Joy’ Beethoven gave the world an anthem to ‘universal brotherhood’, an expression of freedom as well as joy. At the other end of the 19th century, Dame Ethel (the first female composer to be so honoured) was also a vocal champion of women’s rights and the suffrage movement – the universal sisterhood, in other words. Who better to compose the suffragette anthem, The March of the Women, with its bold words of hope? ‘Nought can ye win but by faith and daring’ – we think Beethoven would have agreed.