• Eternal Feminine Podcast Series

    Amice Calverley

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    In this episode of The Eternal Feminine Podcast Series, we discuss Canadian composer Amice Calverley (1896-1959). Born in London (UK) to Edmund Leveson Calverley and Sybil (née Salvin) Calverley, Amice and her family ultimately settled in Oakville, Ontario (Canada) in 1912. Calverley studied composition under famed composers Healey Willan and Ralph Vaughan Williams before pursuing a career in archaeology. Her entire body of compositions (mostly from her studies with Willan) have been entrusted to the care of the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto by her niece, Sybil Rampen.

    We were very fortunate to interview Ms. Rampen, who offered a unique perspective on Calverley’s life and works.

    Listen to the full podcast to hear excerpts from our interview with Ms. Rampen, as well as our recording of Calverley’s delightful Cradle Song.

    Watch the full video interview with Ms. Rampen here.

    Read more about Calverley in “Inter-National Treasure.”

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  • Eternal Feminine Series - Featured Work,  The Eternal Feminine

    Calverley – Featured Work

    Cradle Song

    Text by Amice Calverley (1896-1959)
    (Some punctuation added by Daniella Theresia)

    The big, round sun has gone to bed
    with rosy pillows for his head.
    Sleep, my little son, too,
    In your cradle beribboned with blue.

    The silver stars are shining bright
    Watching in heaven all night they peep.
    Hush-a-bye, rock-a-bye, lull-a-bye, sleep
    While Mother watches you.

    The pale, tired moon must go to rest
    Where dawn glow climbs the earth’s dark crest.
    Wake! my little son, wake!
    Your eyes unlock, your dimpled fists shake.

    The nice, clean world is bathed in dew
    My baby shall his bath too, and play
    Pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo, fold his hand, pray
    Dear Lord, bless us this day.

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  • Eternal Feminine Podcast Series

    “Memories of Amice” – An interview with Sybil Rampen

    Please enjoy our interview with Sybil Rampen speaking about her aunt, Amice Calverley, recorded via Zoom on October 19, 2020.

    Ms. Rampen shared some fascinating and candid insights into Calverley’s life and works, which we are delighted to share with you here.

    Read more about Amice Calverley in “Inter-National Treasure.”

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  • Eternal Feminine Podcast Series,  Eternal Feminine Series - Featured Work

    Lehmann & Radclyffe Hall – Featured Work

    The Silver Rose

    text: Radclyffe Hall, 1910

    I’ll sing you a ditty of Nowhere Town.
    You climb the hill when the sun goes down,

    Step out on the roadway of golden light,
    And Nowhere Town lies along to your right.

    In Nowhere Town is a Silver Rose,
    A magic blossom that swings and grows

    So high, that never a man or maid
    Has plucked that flower from its fairy glade.

    The rose is watered by all the tears
    That lovers weep through the countless years,

    And warmed by the breath of ardent* sighs,
    And lit by the light in lovers’ eyes.

    And none may reach it to pluck, save he
    Whose love shall last through eternity.

    So some sweet evening we’ll go, we two,
    And I will gather the rose for you.

    *Lehmann omits this word.

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  • Eternal Feminine Podcast Series

    “Trial by Tabloid”

    When Radclyffe Hall decided to write her novel The Well of Loneliness, she knew its lesbian subject would be potentially controversial – not only did she first clear it with her partner, Una Troubridge, she also warned her publisher that the book she was planning would require him to have a lot of faith in her, and stated preemptively that she would not allow any modifications to her text.

    Hall herself was an out lesbian, having lived with Una Troubridge for years, and, before that, Mabel Batten. She was also a successful novelist and poet – her 1926 novel Adam’s Breed had won both the Prix Femina and the James Tait Black prize, a rare achievement. It was this success that made her think that her reputation might make it possible for a novel about “sexual inversion” (the term used by Hall, derived from the writings of Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis, the latter of whom wrote a foreword to The Well of Loneliness) to gain acceptance amongst the general public – and in so doing, to raise public LGBTQ awareness and advocate for understanding in society.

    As it turned out, that was an objective that she achieved, albeit at personal cost.

    She had already experienced the homophobic media circus of the tabloids in 1920, when she sued St George Lane Fox-Pitt for slandering her as “immoral”. She won her case, but the tabloids had a field day, and the general atmosphere of the times can be seen in its fallout: a Conservative MP proposed a law against “Acts of Gross Indecency by Females”, which cleared the House of Commons but not the House of Lords. (It should be said, though, that this was not because of any enlightened attitudes on the latter’s part – on the contrary, the objection to it, as stated by the then-Lord Chancellor, Lord Birkenhead, was that such a law would bring lesbianism to the attention of women who might otherwise never know of it.)

    That said, the initial reception of The Well of Loneliness was largely positive – even the critical reviews had to do with its style rather than its theme, and it was selling so well that the publisher was planning a third print run. Trouble only came when James Douglas, the editor of the Sunday Express, published his editorial – a virulently homophobic diatribe – demanding that the novel be suppressed for its lesbian content. The publisher panicked and sent a copy of The Well of Loneliness to the Home Secretary for review, but unfortunately the Home Secretary wrote back suggesting that the book be withdrawn from circulation. Before long, things escalated into a very public obscenity trial – headed, unfortunately, by a homophobic judge who declared the book obscene, not because of any acts described in the book (it was not explicit in the least), but because its lesbian characters were presented as attractive and admirable. For that reason, therefore, he ordered the destruction of the book, and it was not until 1949, after Hall’s death, that another edition was brought out in the UK.

    (In the US, the book met legal challenges as well, when the Society for the Suppression of Vice put in a complaint of obscenity. There, however, she and her publisher won their case – the court declared the novel to not be in contravention of obscenity laws.)

    In the long term, despite all these attempts at suppression, Hall did achieve her aims. Not only did the legal struggles of The Well of Loneliness draw attention to the book itself, they also (especially in the case of the UK trial) increased the general public’s awareness of institutionalized homophobia, even in Hall’s time. The thousands of letters of support she received after the trial attest to that – she heard both from gay people who drew comfort from the novel and the presence of a protagonist with whom they could identify, as well as straight people who wrote to express sympathy at the way the trial had treated her, or to speak of how the book had changed their attitudes, suggesting that she was indeed an agent of the change that she sought to effect with her brave stand for equality.

    -Suzanne Yeo
    September 2020

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  • Eternal Feminine Podcast Series

    “A Whole Lotta Lehmann”

    Growing up, Liza Lehmann was part of a well-connected family, due in large part to her father Rudolph’s fame as a celebrated artist. Rudolph (Rudolf) Lehmann was born in Germany but became a naturalized British citizen in 1866, shortly after Liza’s birth. Rudolph created a series of portraits that features autographs by each portrait’s subject, which is now in the collection of the British Museum (visit our Bibliography page to view those pieces!). These portraits featured notables such as Giacomo Meyerbeer (opera composer), Baron de Reuter (founder of the Reuter News Agency), Frédéric Chopin (composer), Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (playwright and poets), and Clara Schumann (composer and pianist).

    Liza’s mother Amelia Lehmann (née Chambers) was no stranger to fame either – her father was a Scottish author and naturalist whose work Vestiges of Creation preceded Charles Darwin’s work on the theory of evolution. (As it happened, Darwin was counted among one of the many famous friends of the Lehmann family). Amelia’s father apparently declared that she was so talented that she did not need any musical instruction; thus, Amelia did not have any formal training until after her marriage. According to Liza in her memoir, “[Amelia] had a wonderful ear, the gift known as ‘absolute pitch,’ and could transpose easily at sight. She wrote some beautiful music, notably an operatic setting of a Goethe libretto; but the same diffidence and exaggerated, almost morbid self-criticism, led her to destroy most of her compositions, including with them many of her best.”1 Lehmann also writes that her mother called herself the “Brutal Truth Department,” a reflection on her method of dispensing criticism to her students (and daughter).

    But however much Amelia disdained her own talents, she was determined that Liza would succeed as a performer and so the young Liza was frequently called upon to sing for friends and family that came to call on the house. Liza tells of one such occasion in her memoir when the pianist Rubinstein was entertaining at their house and charged Liza with singing for the guests. Liza had only just begun to study voice seriously and couldn’t face singing for the well-to-do of the London arts scene; she staunchly refused at her mother’s bidding. However, her father, fearing that she was going the same route of her mother (that is, pursuing music only in study, not practice) threatened to go to bed unless she sang! Suffice it to say, Rudolph had an early bedtime that evening.

    Lehmann’s marriage, followed by an unfortunate illness that damaged her voice, marked the end of her performing career and she turned to composition. Her husband, Herbert Bedford, was also a talented composer, author, artist and inventor. Together they had two sons: Rudolf and Leslie, both of whom showed promise in music and art. The family would often create and sing little rounds together during their leisure time and Lehmann’s memoir reproduces very fine portraits that each son did of the other. Unfortunately, Rudolf died at the early age of 18 while training for service in World War I, which had a profound effect on his mother. It might even be said that Liza never fully recovered from his death; she died just a few years later at the early age of 56.

    However, Liza and Herbert’s legacy persists even today. Their younger son Leslie Bedford, went on to make significant contributions in the field of engineering. Bedford’s developments in radar were crucial to the Royal Air Force during World War II and he was ultimately awarded an OBE and a CBE. Leslie married Lesley Duff, a soprano who was friends with composer Benjamin Britten and actually performed in several premieres of his operas while with the English Opera Group in the 1940s. Their three children, Peter, David, and Steuart were all musical. Peter Lehmann Bedford was a singer at Glyndebourne Opera, while David Vickerman Bedford was an influential musician, music educator, conductor, and composer whose work ranged from pieces for children’s choirs, orchestral works, pop music, and progressive rock. Steuart John Rudolf Bedford (OBE) is a conductor who is known for his work with Britten operas and has worked with such illustrious establishments as Glyndebourne, the Metropolitan Opera, The Welsh National Opera, and English Sinfonia.

    It’s somewhat bittersweet that Liza Lehmann did not live to see her family’s contributions to the world, but I think she would have been pleased to see that her legacy is very much alive today.

    -Daniella Theresia Teodoro-Dier
    September 2020

    1. Lehmann, L., 1919, See Bibliography for full citation.

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  • Eternal Feminine Podcast Series

    Liza Lehmann & Radclyffe Hall

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    In this episode of The Eternal Feminine Podcast Series, we discuss two women: English composer Liza Lehmann (1862-1918) and English poet Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943). Both women lived during the turn of the 19th century; Lehmann was the daughter of famed portrait painter Rudolph Lehmann and his wife Amelia, a singer, composer, and amateur artist. Liza Lehmann enjoyed a successful, if not short career as a concert singer, gaining the admiration of audiences at home and abroad. She began composing after her marriage to Herbert Bedford, an equally talented composer, writer, and inventor. Radclyffe Hall was a novelist and poet, best known for her novel The Well of Loneliness, which sought to raise awareness and understanding of lesbianism in society at large. Her first partner, Mabel Batten, was a well-known amateur singer and composer and it is likely due to this connection that Lehmann knew Radclyffe Hall and came to set her poetry.

    Listen to the full podcast to hear our discussion of these two remarkable women and our recording of the piece “The Silver Rose.”

    Read more about Liza Lehmann and Radclyffe Hall in “A Whole Lotta Lehmann” and “Trial by Tabloid”.

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