The nominated charities for the Femmes Fortissimo 2020 Concert are:
Kyra Women's Project is a York based charity which helps local women make positive change in their lives.
NYMAZ - Make Music Happen is a youth music development charity which champions the transformative potential of music for children and young people.
We are delighted that Rebecca Lundberg has agreed to be the guest soloist at our 2020 concert.
Rebecca also composes and arranges music for brass and wind band, including commissions to compose music for the Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band and a range of educational projects across the country. Rebecca’s arrangements and compositions have also been performed on BBC radio and television and her compositions are currently published with Kirklees Music and the educational music specialists Spartan Press.
Since 2013, Rebecca has been the associate conductor for the Leyburn Band in North Yorkshire. In that time, there have been many highlights including the award-winning year of 2014, where the band received first place at both the ‘Brass at Ripon’ Entertainment Contest and the Hardraw Scar Contest, with Rebecca also receiving the best conductor award. The band repeated this feat in 2018, and this has seen the band enter the official Brass Band World Rankings for the first time in their history.
We are pleased to announce that composer, conductor and renowned trombonist Rebecca Lundberg will be the guest soloist at Femmes Fortissimo 2020 on 28th March.
Tickets available form Eventbrite.
Make sure you put the date in your diary, the Femmes Fortissimo 2020 concert is on Saturday 28th March, 7.30pm at the Church of the Holy Redeemer, Boroughbridge Road, York.
Tickets available from Eventbrite.
Our Conducting Workshop was a great success thanks to our fantastic lead conductors Katie Wannop & Clare Winter. Our prospective conductors were all great and the playing sounded pretty good too. There's a selection of photos in our gallery.
Our next adventure will be Christmas Carols at the York Christmas Market on Sat 30th November 2019.
The Femmes Fortissimo Conducting Workshop will take place in the afternoon on Sunday 6th October 2019, at the Church of the Holy Redeemeer, Boroughbridge Rd, York.
Whether or not you want to have a go at conducting we still need a band so come and play in a relaxed atmosphere and meet up with us. This will be a great opportunity to catch up. If you’ve never conducted before but would like to have a go in a supportive environment, now’s your chance! This is a fun workshop for all levels and you don’t need prior experience to take part.
If you want to play and/or would like to try some conducting then Get in Touch and submit your details.
Femmes Fortissimo, an all-women brass band, was formed in 2018 as part of the celebrations to mark the centenary since women were first allowed to vote. We were part of the York International Women’s Week programme and the concert was intended as a one-off. At the time I don’t think any of us anticipated the positive effects that playing in an all-female band would have, nor the enthusiasm from all involved to do it again.
For me, the concert was a way of paying tribute to the women’s suffrage movement by making women’s voices heard through a medium that I love: brass bands. It seemed fair enough to make it about women for once: after all, men have historically dominated banding. Things are better today but banding’s macho past isn’t so far behind us: two of England’s top bands (Grimethorpe Colliery Band and Brighouse & Rastrick Band) didn’t accept their first female player until 2010, and there’s still a dearth of women conductors, composers and adjudicators.
We had over 40 women players sign up from bands in York and further afield. The invitation was open to players with all levels of experience, from Championship bands to development bands, and included players who identify as women. It was important to me that we were led by a woman conductor and we were thrilled when Sue Sykes, MD of York Concert Band and a highly respected musician and teacher, agreed to conduct us.
Immediately after the concert we were urged by audience members to put on another in 2019. The organisers of York International Women’s Week were also keen for us to repeat the event. Players emailed me to ask if we could do it again and volunteered to build a website, set up social media, organise ticketing and a whole range of jobs that I’d been struggling to cope with on my own. Suddenly, we had a committee. Femmes Fortissimo wasn’t a one-off. It was a band.
We put on a second concert this year, on 13 April, and this time had 50 sign up. We also secured a guest soloist, cornetist Laura Hirst, assistant principal cornet with Brighouse & Rastrick. Laura was the women who broke B&R’s all-male mould (tellingly, back in 2010, she was accepted as “an honorary bloke”). Her participation in Femmes Fortissimo proved inspirational, not only because she is a phenomenal player but also because we were forced to up our own game. Laura chose to perform Tango (Por Una Cabeza) by Peter Graham and the band pulled off the tricky accompaniment after just one rehearsal, in style.
Some people are keen to do more with Femmes Fortissimo now, and we must decide whether to stick to once a year or branch out. There will be carolling at Christmas and plans for a conducting workshop are also being discussed. Making sure commitments don’t clash with the jobs and contests of our regular bands is important; we value our own bands and put them first, but Femmes Fortissimo does seem to offer something valuable and special, something additional that our players really appreciate. What exactly is that? I asked for feedback after the last concert, and these are some of the comments I received.
“I have loved being part of Femmes Fortissimo, both in the planning and performing stages. I am not naturally a very confident person but the supportive environment within the band has both actively encouraged, and given me the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone, especially with regards to standing in front of the band and playing a piece in which our fantastic horn section was featured! I have only positives to take away from the experience and intend to keep up the good work when rehearsing/performing with my ‘home’ band, Shepherd Group.” (Mandy)
"I love being part of the Femmes Fortissimo band. It gives me so much confidence to play, it's such a supportive environment, where I feel included and an important part of the band and that we are all equal. When I begin to play, I feel like I CAN do it. I like the way that everyone just gets on with it, talks to each other and shares their experiences and expertise." (Juliet)
“For someone who is fairly new to playing a brass instrument, it was both a privilege and a pleasure to play with such accomplished players. And yet there was a very supportive atmosphere where people encouraged rather than corrected each other and it felt very safe to play. It was also a hugely empowering and confidence-building experience. The sound we were able to make was amazing - something I would never be able to experience in my usual band. And playing challenging pieces with better players makes you give your best, rise to the occasion and grow as a player.” (Sabine)
“I’ve really enjoyed being part of Femmes Fortissimo. The rehearsals and concert had a lovely atmosphere and I think we should be proud of the standard of playing. It did feel quite sad at the end as people went home so I think it would be good to do some other jobs/events during the year. I wondered about a park job if we can find a weekend that suits everyone or playing in the centre of York like we did at Christmas. .. I think the band is a great idea and I would really like to be involved in the future and it is exciting to see what happens next.” (Jenny)
“It’s been a fantastic experience to be part of our wonderful band and it was amazing to have to opportunity to play with a soloist of Laura’s calibre.” (Steph)
It is interesting to me that none of these comments relate specifically to the issue of gender. What they do describe is a supportive, safe, encouraging environment that has empowered them and encouraged them to grow. An example of this was our 13-year-old rising star Lucy, a trombonist who we gave the only other solo spot to. She’s never soloed with a band before and she played Cry Me a River and brought the house down. A few weeks later, as a result of that performance, she was invited to take part in a masterclass with Ian Bousefield and acquitted herself very well in front of the principal trombone of some of the world’s top orchestras.
We work very hard in our rehearsals – you must, to nail 20 new pieces in such a short length of time – but we always stop for tea and biscuits halfway through. (The first time we did Femmes Fortissimo we baked too, and with the range of fantastic homemade cakes on offer it was like a brass band version of The Great British Bake Off.) As Sabine commented, “The rehearsals were fun too - almost like brass workshops - and so much more sociable than normal band practice. Women are more sociable anyway, I think, and simply talk more to each other! We should include a tea break at band rehearsals!”
Another thing that was appreciated was the chance to have input into the programme. We crowdsourced music ideas in our Facebook group and encouraged people to send us suggestions. We made a conscious effort to include pieces written or arranged by women, but we didn’t want that to be the sole criterion. The programming – upbeat and contemporary numbers but with enough classic pieces to satisfy traditionalists – was one of the big hits with audiences and, I think, demonstrates the value of involving players as fully as possible in decision making, as well as striving to create an entertaining thematic programme.
In a reference to our original purpose, we also included a suffragette piece, The March of the Women, composed by Ethyl Smyth. We played it last year too but this year our solo euphonium player Tracey McGuire arranged it to make the simple short version we’d previously performed into a fuller band piece. While the band played it members of Kyra Women’s Project marched in wearing purple and green and one of them read a poem about the suffragettes’ cause.
It was one of several moving moments in the concert where we connected with female pioneers and role models. From celebrating the achievements of feisty cornetist Daisy Squelch, who was out-playing the men back in 1905, to York’s first bandswoman, Grace Pratt, now in her 80s, for whom we played Amazing Grace, we made sure that women’s voices and achievements, past and present, were heard.
Empowering women is important to me, as is helping other musicians, and the Femmes Fortissimo concerts are fundraisers for charities which do that. Last year we gave to Malala Fund, which helps girls get an education, and to a charity that teaches brass music in Africa. This year, we split the £800 profit half and half with Kyra Women’s Project, a York based charity that supports women in a variety of ways, and the Lord Mayor of York’s charities (The Island, MySight York and York Music Hub).
Sociability. Support. Sharing. And, yes, sisterhood. It’s proving to be a good recipe. Kyra’s CEO Yvonne Copley, emailed me afterwards with these words: “The band was incredibly engaging, I love to hear the story behind a piece of music and how all the pieces related to women. A very polished performance. Congratulations and thank you.”
Final words go to Marilyn Crawshaw, one of the organisers of YIWW:
“It was a brilliant evening again; a really good-sized audience and a real treat. Someone said to me afterwards how great it was to see all women and girls in the band and the majority of the audience being men rather than the other way around. Here’s to 2020!”
Yes indeed. Put 28th March in your diary now. It’s going to be our biggest, loudest, most brilliant band yet.
We are delighted to announce that we have made donations of £400 each to our charities for 2019: Kyra Women's Project & Lord Mayor of York. (Lord Mayor of York Charities for 2019 were The Island Mentoring Scheme, MySight York & York Music Hub).
Many thanks to all those involved in our event and everyone who came along to listen!