Kassia Women's Choir to sing at New York's prestigious Lincoln Centre
Local voices join global choir for Women's Day
International Women's Day, which was inaugurated in 1911, is observed each year on March 8. The day gives pause for thought about the progress of the feminist movement since that milestone moment in history.
In the field of classical music, for example, it took more than 100 years for a woman to be invited to conduct the BBC's
Last Night of the Proms concert. When Marin Alsop took to the podium in London's Royal Albert Hall in September last year, she was the first female to occupy the spot in the music festival's 118-year history.
All of which gives context to an upcoming event at another notable concert venue, Avery Fisher Hall in New York's Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts.
On March 10, 28 members of the Kassia Women's Choir from Hong Kong will step on stage as part of an international choir of 200 singers marking this year's International Women's Day. With La Femme Mystique as the programme title, they will perform items for female voices alongside eight other choirs drawn from the US, Canada, Brazil, Australia and Germany.
The Kassia Women's Choir is noted for its ebullient performance style, but the programme of contemporary choral music for their New York concert "is a step up in terms of difficulty", says music director Bethan Greaves, who herself is no stranger to moving between light entertainment and more serious works.
"I'm inspired by the aims of the feminist movement, in whatever form it takes," she says. In addition to preparing her singers for the New York concert, she'll be stepping onto another podium at the Grand Hyatt Hotel next Monday with a variation on the same theme.
"I'm speaking at the 2014 International Women's Day Charity Luncheon Event in aid of Key to Freedom, a charity that rehabilitates girls who have been victims of sex trafficking," the British musician explains.
The Lincoln Centre concert is organised by Distinguished Concerts International (DCI), an organisation based in New York, who spotted the choir on its YouTube channel.
They were impressed enough by highlights from their past shows to issue an invitation to join their plans for this year's International Women's Day.
"DCI's business model is brilliant," Greaves says. "They take the risk of booking large venues and then build concert programmes around local and international amateur groups, who would not otherwise have the opportunity to perform in such prestigious venues."
She adds that that each participant pays a fee to DCI, to cover the bulk of the production costs, leaving DCI the job of marketing their unique shows to New York residents.
The trip to the US marks a milestone in Greaves' ambitions for the choral group she founded 10 years ago. "I've wanted the choir to have an overseas tour for many years," she explains.
"Most of the invitations we've received have involved taking part in competitions, which is not what the Kassia Women's Choir is about," she says.
"The opportunity to represent Hong Kong as part of a meaningful, non-competitive concert in a world-renowned venue was too good to miss," Greaves says.