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Help EXO promote the work of Dame Ethel Smyth by creating the first commercial recording of her final musical masterpiece
147 backers pledged $25,235 to help bring this project to life.

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$25,235

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Dame Ethel Smyth is one of the most important composers in history, but her story is not well enough known today, and her music is not performed as often as it should be.

With this recording, we want to help change that. 

During her lifetime, her compositions were highly regarded by the most famous musicians of the day – Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Clara Schumann, Grieg, and more, and her music was championed by major conductors Hermann Levi (famous for premiering much of Wagner's music), Sir Thomas Beecham (the most famous British conductor at the time), Donald Tovey, and Bruno Walter (who conducted her opera The Wreckers at Covent Garden in 1910). 

In addition to her many other accomplishments, she was the first woman to have an opera performed at the Met, in 1903.

The second was in 2016. 

Even today, only 4% of the music performed by orchestras is by female composers, and of that small percentage, the majority is by contemporary female composers. With this recording, we hope to bring Smyth to wider prominence, showing young women (and men) someone who led the way in the long struggle for gender equality. 

In her memoirs, she relates the many challenges she faced in her career due to gender discrimination. Music critics routinely insulted her music because of her gender, saying "pretty good – for a woman," or insulting her music as "too masculine," or "too feminine" (the latter two criticisms both refer to the same piece of music).

She was also a famous suffragette, and once went to prison as a result of her political activity; she is best known for her "March of the Women," which became the anthem of the suffragette movement. 

Her final large-scale composition is written for soprano and baritone soloists, chorus, and full orchestra, and lasts over an hour. It is a reflection on life, love, and loss, and we believe it is a masterpiece. 

We believe that her music deserves to be recorded by an orchestra of world-class musicians, soloists, and choir, all produced by Grammy-winning producer Blanton Alspaugh and Soundmirror. We have the project specifically budgeted to be able to pay for these top artists, but we are keeping all the costs as low as possible. 

If we raise funds beyond the $25,000 in this Kickstarter, we will amplify the impact of the recording; the more money we raise, the more people will hear the recording. 

With this recording, we hope to share this masterpiece with the world, with the hopes that her music and her story become better known. While other works of hers have been recorded, we feel that this piece reflects a unique aspect of her music, and will answer some of her modern-day critics who continue to see her merely as a historic figure instead of recognizing her for her compositional mastery.

When students learn about music history, they should learn about Dame Ethel Smyth. And when orchestras consider music to perform each year, they should include this gorgeous piece. 

Thank you for helping us promote her work.

Herstory T Shirt, designed by The Outrage DC to support the Smyth Recording Project. All proceeds from sales of this shirt go to support the recording. Link: https://www.the-outrage.com/collections/herstory
Herstory T Shirt, designed by The Outrage DC to support the Smyth Recording Project. All proceeds from sales of this shirt go to support the recording. Link: https://www.the-outrage.com/collections/herstory

In Dame Ethel Smyth's own words:

Because I have conducted my own operas and love sheep-dogs; Because I generally dress in tweeds, and sometimes, at winter afternoon concerts, have even conducted in them; Because I was a militant suffragette and seized a chance of beating time to The March of the Women from the window of my cell in Holloway Prison with a tooth-brush; Because I have written books, spoken speeches, broadcast, and don’t always make sure that my hat is on straight; For these and other equally pertinent reasons, in a certain sense I am well known."

More about The Prison:

Composed in 1930, The Prison is Smyth’s last large-scale work, scored for two soloists (portraying The Prisoner and his Soul), chorus, and orchestra. At 75 minutes, it is similar in length to the vocal symphonies of Mahler, but her musical language is truly unique; this work represents the full maturity of her style after more than 40 years of composing.

Due to her advancing deafness, shortly after composing this piece, she ceased to compose, turning instead to writing memoirs. The Prison is thus her culminating work in several regards, both in content, textual significance, and musical language. The words are written by Henry Bennet Brewster, her creative and intellectual partner, with whom she exchanged more than 1,000 letters between 1884 and his tragic death in 1908. After he died, she wrote “I felt then like a rudderless ship aimlessly drifting hither and thither.” Shortly before the premiere of The Prison, she personally undertook to have the full text published as a book.

The depth of her intention may be understood from the quote she chose to place on the title page, said to be the last words of the philosopher Plotinus: “I am striving to release that which is divine within us, and to merge it in the universally divine.”

There are no records of any performances with orchestra in the U.S. prior to the U.S. Co-premiere Mr. Blachly conducted in 2018 and that of his colleague Mark Shapiro one month later in Carnegie Hall. With this recording of top-level musicians and with the best production team available, we aim to bring this extraordinary music to the attention of music lovers around the world, and, in time, to inspire other orchestras to perform this masterpiece. For that reason, we have prepared performance-ready computerized parts; this new performance edition is now published by Schirmer as the Blachly edition. 

Risks and challenges

We have the soloists booked, the hall reserved, and we have exclusive permission from the music publisher, Schirmer & Co., to be the first to create a commercial recording of the music.

We feel confident about the recording process, as we will be working with some of the most excellent professionals in the field, both our New York-based musicians and the entire recording team.

Our challenge is to raise all the funds needed. With your donation and your help in spreading the word, we are confident that we will find the support we need.

NOW IS HER TIME!

Thank you all for your support and encouragement!

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    Recognition

    We will list your support on our website, we will send you updates about the progress of the recording, and you can feel good knowing you've supported this important project.

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    Digital Download

    The minute the recording is released, you will be sent a link and be able to hear the complete masterpiece in a commercial recording for the first time in history.

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    Physical CD

    As soon as the recording is printed and ready for distribution, your special-edition copy will be mailed to you anywhere in the world. Note: will include program notes, recording photographs, and more.

    By purchasing the CD here in advance, you guarantee you will be the first to hear the piece, and will be supporting the project come to life in the process.

    $30 of this reward is tax-deductible; contributors will be mailed a tax letter to that effect.

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    "Herstory" T Shirt plus digital download

    Receive a special "Herstory" t-shirt made by The Outrage (creators of merchandise for the Women's March, et al) and designed specifically for Dame Ethel Smyth. T-Shirt deliverable by December 2018; Digital download deliverable by September 2019.

    $60 of this reward is tax-deductible; contributors will be mailed a tax letter to that effect.

    Includes:
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    CD plus page of handwritten manuscript

    Receive a special-edition physical CD and a facsimile of the score in Dame Ethel Smyth's own hand-an intimate window into her creative process, and a tactile experience of her work and how she spent her days. While composing, there were days she would "work instrumentation–10 hours; bruising hockey–2 hours."

    $75 of this reward is tax-deductible; contributors will be mailed a tax letter to that effect.

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    Signed limited-edition CD

    Donors at this level receive a signed limited-edition CD with additional notes and archival photographs. Perfect for those who want to have materials to describe the importance of this project with friends.

    $125 of this reward is tax-deductible; contributors will be mailed a tax letter to that effect.

    Includes:
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    Signed manuscript

    Receive a special edition CD, a Herstory t-shirt, and a copy of a page of Dame Ethel Smyth's manuscript signed by the soloists.

    $200 of this reward is tax-deductible; contributors will be mailed a tax letter to that effect.

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    Donation

    Donate $500 towards the recording costs: an option for those of you who are not interested in rewards, but still want to help this important project!

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    Photo journal of recording

    Donors at this level will receive a photo journal of the recording process, signed by the soloists and directors. It will almost feel like you were there for the recording sessions!

    $950 of this reward is tax-deductible; contributors will be mailed a tax letter to that effect.

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    Manuscript and Blachly Edition

    Get a copy of the CD, T shirt, and a copy of the original handwritten manuscript as well as the ®2017 Schirmer-Novello Blachly Edition of the score. Perfect for music aficionados and collectors.

    $1,400 of this reward is tax-deductible; contributors will be mailed a tax letter to that effect.

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    Exclusive Access to Recording

    In true EXO fashion, donors at this level are invited to participate in the recording process itself. Transportation to and from New York City not included. Note that donors at this level and above have choice of all other rewards, including up to 5 special edition CDs.

    $1,875 of this reward is tax-deductible; contributors will be mailed a tax letter to that effect.

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    All of the above, plus production credit

    Receive all of the above, and be recognized on the physical CD as a "producing partner."

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    Above, plus dinner with creative team

    Receive all of the above, and be listed on the physical CD as an "associate producer." Note that this level of donation will also include an exclusive dinner engagement with members of the creative team, either at a mutually-agreed-upon restaurant or apartment.

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Funding period

- (59 days)