Brewery concert highlights music of suffragette era

The women in this country got the right to vote through the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 19
The Musicians of Ma'alwyck, above, rehearse for a concert at Druthers Brewery in Albany.
The Musicians of Ma'alwyck, above, rehearse for a concert at Druthers Brewery in Albany.

The women in this country got the right to vote through the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. For violinist Ann-Marie Barker Schwartz, the artistic director of the Musicians of Ma’alwyck, this was a cause to celebrate with a concert on Sunday titled “A Declaration of Sentiments.”

“It’s very eye-opening as to what we take for granted. Most women today don’t have a clue,” Barker Schwartz said. “It would be shocking to me not to have the vote.”

Musicians of Ma’alwyck

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Druthers Brewery, 1053 Broadway, Albany

HOW MUCH: $15, $5 (concert only); $50 includes Anti-Suffragette beer tasting

MORE INFO: 377-3623,

But researching the history of women’s suffrage was not at the top of her list until about a year ago when she and Tim Reno, the conductor of the Siena College Chorus and Chamber Singers, talked about doing a concert of all women composers together at the Ten Broeck Mansion.

Further discussions with staff at the mansion revealed that the mansion was celebrating the 200th birthday of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was related by marriage to Abraham Ten Broeck. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony became the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement after they met in 1850.

Discovering composers

“I began researching women composers who were working then,” Barker Schwartz said.

She discovered Amy Beach (1867-1944), a well-trained former piano prodigy, who, after marrying a surgeon, at his request, performed publicly only twice a year and stuck to composing.

Beach is credited with being the first woman to write and publish a symphony and whose choral works put her in the first ranks of American composers ( MOM will perform her “incredible” “Theme and Variations for Flute and String Quartet.”

Marion Bauer (1882-1955) was a fabulous pianist who became a composition teacher at New York University and whose students included Milton Babbitt. At the suggestion of Aaron Copland, she became the first woman member of ASCAP, Barker Schwartz said. Most of her music is out of print.

“The Library of Congress found three or four of her songs, which had been donated to them by pianist Harrison Porter, but they’re only in manuscript. So we’re not sure if we’re doing the premiere,” Barker Schwartz said.

Jean Leonard will sing Bauer’s “Songs for Soprano and String Quartet” and Norman Thibodeau will play her set of five solo flute pieces.

Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) was from Britain and had been involved with the suffrage movement there, but she was also a violist who became one of Britain’s first women orchestral players.

Famous for her viola concerto, she also wrote several songs that are set in a different style from Bauer’s, Barker Schwartz said. MOM will perform her “Daybreak” with texts by John Donne.

Reno also commissioned Kathleen Ballantyne, an instructor at Ithaca College, to write a piece. Ballantyne based her four-movement work for chorus and strings on Alice Duer Miller’s (1874-1942) book of poems “Are Women People” (1915).

“Women’s rights didn’t hit me until I’d had a daughter,” Ballantyne said. “It stoked the fires of my own feminism. I want the world to be better for her.”

Reading the biographies of Anthony and Stanton, and the numerous pamphlets and fliers of the movement, captured her imagination, she said. Her piece is very melodic and, because she knew the skills of the 45 voices who will sing, she wrote to their strengths with a bit of a challenge, she said.

The venue is the Druthers Brewery, which is not far from where many of the early 20th century suffrage events happened. Elaine Houston of WNYT Channel 13 will read Stanton’s “Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances, and Resolutions” (1848) and at 2 p.m. there will be a pre-concert talk.

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