Head of Music to give keynote at London’s newest classical festival

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Dr Berta Joncus, Head of the Department of Music at Goldsmiths, University of London is set to give the keynote speech at the first annual London Festival of Baroque Music, which this year celebrates the contribution of female composers.

The Baroque period lasted from 1600-1750, with Monteverdi composing at the beginning of the period and Bach and Handel working toward the end.

Building on the enduring popularity of the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, which was founded in 1984, this year’s London event takes place at St John’s Smith Square (SW1P) and Westminster Abbey from 15-19 May.

Dr Joncus delivers her talk, From Salon to Stage, the Genius of Female Baroque Musicians, at a free event on Friday 15 May, 6pm, St John's Smith Square.

"Europe's earliest girl band"

She will explain how Early Modern female musicians pioneered new ways of music-making, because they were either a novelty cultivated in court circles, or were able to pursue music independently at rich convents.

“Most famous among these brilliant artists was Francesca Caccini, based for most her career at the court of the Medici in Florence, and esteemed equally as virtuoso, composer and teacher,” says Dr Joncus.

“Vocal music was the primary means for female musical expression, and Caccini wrote and performed captivating arias, drawing on her experience in writing large, as well as small-scale, works. Her music is visceral, using raw vocality to express intense passion and female suffering in love.”

Dr Joncus will argue that the female musicians of Ospedale della Pieta were arguably Europe's earliest 'girl band'.

“They came from, and lived at, an orphanage, where from about ten years of age were, as part of their convent education, they were rigorously trained by some of Europe's greatest masters, including Vivaldi. Separated from boys, the girls and women formed an all-girl chorus and Baroque band that was one of Venice's chief tourist attractions, and a 'must see' for gliteratti on the Grand Tour.”

For more information and tickets visit www.lfbm.org.uk

Visit the BBC Radio 4 website to download a podcast of Berta Joncus discussing women composers of the Baroque era on Woman’s Hour, Tuesday 5 May.