Each week, the OUMS newsletter features an interview with someone who positively contributes to the Oxford music scene. This week, we were thrilled to catch up with Angie Wyatt, who has been the brains behind the upcoming world premiere of Ethel Smyth's The Song of Love, op.8.
Angie Wyatt (she/they)
Singer, flautist/saxophonist, composer, editor of The Song of Love
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Angie, and I’m a second year music student at Somerville. I came to Oxford mainly focusing on flute and sax, but now I do a lot more singing and composing. I’m a choral scholar in Somerville College Choir, where 17 year old me applied specifically because of the focus on performing works by composers from underrepresented backgrounds, and so far it has not disappointed! I do a bit of an eclectic range of things. At the moment, I’m really enjoying being President of my college music society, where the focus is very much on making sure we perform diverse and representative programmes that everyone can be involved in. Aside from college music, I really love composing, and last year composed some incidental music for Sunday Productions’ Twelfth Night. I’m currently working on some stuff exploring the themes of blurring cross-cultural boundaries, and have been learning the dizi (chinese flute). I also love the academic side of music, and if I were going to make a career in music I would probably go the academic route - but let’s pretend that’s a long way away… Outside of music I enjoy art and illustration, and sell my designs on Redbubble. I also dabble a bit in writing and poetry, and Port Meadow is just my favourite place in the world for creative inspiration.
What inspired you to edit The Song of Love?
It was in one of Leah’s lectures [read our interview with Dr Leah Broad here] as part of her ‘Music and Gender, 1830-1930’ course. One of the lectures was a case study of Ethel Smyth, and at one point Leah was going through her works and said "Song of Love, her cantata that was never published or performed". I just remember thinking, ‘a cantata - that seems quite a major thing to have never been performed!?’, so I went up to Leah at the end and asked if there was any reason why, to which she said ‘nope, it’s just a lot of work’. Apparently, that was all the inspiration I needed. That day, I took myself on a whim to the British Library and the rest is history! I’m naturally more of a behind the scenes kind of person, and am attracted to doing things a bit off the beaten track, so the prospect of editing which is quite interdisciplinary (design, analysis, research) seemed right up my street!
What was the editing process like?
Long, (and hard work) but very rewarding. Seeing the manuscript for the first time was quite an impactful moment for me - there was this entire 200+ page work for full orchestra and choir that someone had clearly spent a very long time on, and it’s just been sitting in a box? Why does nobody know about this? That feeling really carried me through when keying in notes into Sibelius was sometimes quite boring and repetitive. That said, there were a lot of decisions to make where certain markings weren’t clear, and that was definitely one of the more fun parts. I also really enjoyed the typesetting aspect of it really tried hard to create a final product that would look nice and be enjoyable for the performers to use. In many ways, the editing process is still going—its taken going to rehearsals with a red pen to really iron out some of the details. Workshopping a draft was and still is an important part of creating a first edition, but The Song of Love hasn’t had that opportunity until now. There’s a lot more to editing than I thought, and I found out very early that any unpublished work is in copyright in the UK until 2039, so even taking pictures of the manuscript required me to be able to show the (super helpful!) British Library staff written proof of permission from the copyright holders. Since it costs upwards of £1000 to create facsimiles, I edited the whole thing from photos that I took on my phone. I’m still kind of shocked at myself that my impulsive idea has actually turned into a real, tangible musical score! Most of all I can’t believe how much I’ve learned (particularly about Sibelius) throughout the whole process.
Without giving too much away — what is your favourite part of the cantata? What should an audience member listen out for?
I’m going to have to give a typical answer and say there’s so much to it, how can I decide? I absolutely love the melody at the beginning of movement VII - it’s definitely very earwormy, but I equally love how it all comes together in the final movment. At first, I found it quite difficult to understand musically, but I’ve really grown to enjoy the ambiguous harmonies, the contrast of darkness and light, of tonality and dissonance, and the lush orchestration! I also love the way so many of the movements flow seamlessly into each other, which really adds to the narrative arc of the whole piece.
Can you give us a music recommendation?
Anything ever by Caroline Shaw, but something a bit less well known that I love is Meara O’Reilly’s Hockets for Two Voices. Brain scratch 10/10.
To keep updated with the Alternative Canon Project, and Angie's brilliant work, visit the links below:
To find out more about the OUMS newsletter and our interviews, email Christopher at email@example.com.