• 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

    “Inter-National Treasure”

    Amice Calverley was a passionate woman of many talents who was greatly admired during her brief life. Born into a musical and artistic family in London, England, her family lived in South Africa for a brief time, before eventually settling in Oakville, Canada in 1912. Her ancestors include the English naturalist Osbert Salvin, who was one of two editors of the Biologia Centrali-Americana, a 52-volume encyclopedia on the flora and fauna of Mexico and Central America. Calverley’s mother taught her art, and her talents in drawing would later prove pivotal in her career choice.

    While in Oakville, Calverley studied composition with celebrated Canadian composer Healey Willan at the Toronto Conservatory of Music; all of her work from this time has been entrusted to the Canadian Music Centre (Toronto) by her niece, Sybil Rampen. Calverley worked for a time as a seamstress in New York, and her skill in that field can be seen in this beautiful golden coat, which she designed and created. She returned to England in 1922, when she won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music. While there, Calverley studied with Ralph Vaughan Williams and composed an opera (which is still awaiting a premiere).

    Not long after, Calverley met the archaeologist Leonard Woolley, who suggested that she pursue a career in archaeology rather than music. Calverley began working at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, ultimately leading to her assignment to record the decorations in King Sethos I’s tomb in Abydos Egypt. Her work attracted the attention of American philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who helped to fund further undertakings at the tomb, which Calverley was in charge of. The resultant work, which is perhaps Calverley’s greatest opus, was published in four volumes (she was working on the fifth and sixth books at the time of her death).

    But Calverley’s work in Egypt was not limited to just the scientific aspect of documenting the tomb’s frescoes or even in running the camp there. She took a profound interest in all those around her, befriending her neighbors and local villagers. She offered a clinic a few times a week (after long hours working in the tomb) where locals could come for simple medical treatments – by this time, Calverley already had experience as a nurse from working in a hospital during the First World War. Calverley’s knowledge of Egypt and the area also aided her in the Second World War, when she worked for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force; according to Rampen, Calverley’s knowledge was key in the Allied forces’ victory in the Battle of El Alamein. After the war, she returned to work at Abydos (again, funded by J.D. Rockefeller, Jr.), where she remained until 1948. Calverley then found herself in Greece, where she became involved in the Greek civil war, serving as a nurse on the frontlines and filming a documentary of the war efforts, which was apparently shown to Prince Phillip aboard the Britannia.

    Calverley eventually returned to Canada and purchased a home in Oakville in 1940, but that did not stop her adventurous travels. She once took her niece Sybil Rampen and nephew John Calverley to film the Passiontide at the monastery on the Greek island of Patmos (sadly, those tapes have been lost). Calverley also hosted music salons at her home up until her sudden death in 1962 – she suffered an aneurysm while preparing her house for a concert by the famous British cellist May Mukle. Calverley was famously generous with her time, energy, and self; on one occasion, she secured cholera vaccines and distributed them among some 750 British, Americans, and Egyptians living in Abydos. She donated her own bone marrow while in Greece, and worked to secure funding (which she unfortunately did not receive) to help disabled Greek veterans after the war.

    A striking woman, Calverley reportedly received 19 marriage proposals by the time she was 31; she only accepted 3, but none of those came to fruition. Calverley seemed destined instead to create her legacy not through descendants, but through her music, her archaeological and cultural pursuits, and her profound interest in humanity and the lives of all whom she touched.

    (Much of the information in this article is thanks to our interview with Amice Calverley’s niece, Sybil Rampen. Be sure to check that out here.)

    -Daniella Theresia
    23 October 2020

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  • Eternal Feminine Podcast Series

    Augusta Holmès

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    In this episode of The Eternal Feminine Podcast Series, we discuss French composer Augusta Holmès (1847-1903). Holmès was a prolific creator and resolutely independent woman whose impressive list of friends and admirers included Saint-Saëns, Liszt, Franck, Renoir, Rodin, and Wagner. A fiercely determined composer, her many creations ranged from operas and cantatas to symphonic and instrumental works. Sadly, much of her music remains unpublished to this day and despite her widespread popularity during her lifetime, her life and works have only recently begun to be rediscovered.

    Listen to the full podcast to hear our discussion of this remarkable woman and our recording of Holmès’ delightful pastiche Le ruban rose.

    Read more about Holmès in “More Than a Muse.”

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  • Eternal Feminine Series - Featured Work

    Holmès – Featured Work

    Le ruban rose

    text: Augusta Holmès (1847–1903)
    translation: Suzanne Yeo

    Celui que j’aime est si mignon
    Que les femmes en sont marries;
    Il n’a ni chasses et prairies;
    Pas même le moindre pignon!
    He whom I love is so pretty
    That he blends in with the ladies;
    He has neither hunting grounds nor meadows;
    Not even the simplest roof!
    Il est de très bonne noblesse,
    Et plus brave que ses aieux!
    Il est jaloux, un rien le blesse!
    Ses étoiles, ce sont mes yeux.
    He comes from a very noble family,
    And is braver than his ancestors!
    He is jealous, the slightest thing wounds him!
    His stars are my eyes.
    Et puis, c’est un charmant visage
    Fier et tendre, bien à mon gré.
    Il ressemble à l’Amour poudré!
    C’est pourquoi j’en ai fait mon page!
    And what’s more, he has a charming face,
    Proud and tender, just to my taste.
    He looks like a powdered Cupid!
    That’s why I made him my page!
    J’étais en grand habit de Cour,
    Fard et mouches, satins, dentelle;
    Celui pour qui je me fais belle,
    A mes genoux parlait d’amour.
    I was in a grand court dress,
    All made up, with my moles and rouge, satins and lace;
    He for whom I dolled myself up
    Was speaking of love at my knees.
    Et mon collier de ruban rose,
    Je ne sais comment, s’envola!
    Il faut cueilli, comme une Rose
    Par le Prince qui passait là!
    And my choker of pink ribbon,
    I don’t know how, but it flew away!
    It was plucked, like a rose,
    By the Prince who was passing by!
    “Voici votre ruban, Madame;
    Reprenez-le contre un baiser!
    Gardez-vous bien de refuser:
    En ce cas votre amant rend l’âme.”
    “Here is your ribbon, My Lady;
    Take it back for a kiss!
    Be careful not to refuse,
    If you do, your lover may give up his soul.”
    Mon jeune ami, plein de fureur,
    Dit: “Madame n’est point en cause!
    Il m’appartient, ce ruban rose,
    Et je vous tuerai, Monseigneur!”
    My young friend, full of rage,
    Said: “Madame is not in question!
    It belongs to me, this pink ribbon,
    And I will kill you, My Lord!”
    Et je le vis, au clair de Lune,
    Si joli pendant le combat,
    Qu’il fut choisi par la Fortune
    Pour que le Prince succombat!
    And I saw him, in the moonlight,
    So handsome during the fight,
    That he was chosen by Fate,
    So that the Prince succumbed!
    “Il faut me consoler, Marquise,”
    Dit mon page, triste à demi;
    “J’ai tué mon meilleur ami!”
    C’est pourquoi je lui fus exquise!
    “You have to console me, Marquise,”
    My page said, half-sadly;
    “I have killed my best friend!”
    And that’s why I was so delightful to him!

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  • Eternal Feminine Podcast Series

    “More than a Muse”

    After Augusta Holmès (1847-1903) composed her Ode triomphale, a massive composition commissioned by the committee for the Exposition universelle for 1889, the centenary of the French revolution, Saint-Saëns said of her that the French Republic had found a muse. More conventionally in the muse department, Holmès also inspired both a hopeless passion in her teacher César Franck – and his indecorously passionate Piano Quintet.

    And yet it would be reductive to speak of her simply as a muse. Unlike Clara Schumann and Alma Mahler, who both inspired their famous husbands and put their men’s careers ahead of their own compositional endeavours, she declined to do any such thing. She was ambitious, determined to make something of herself as a composer, and – at least partly thanks to an inheritance that left her independently well-off – was able to eschew the typical trajectory of a woman of her time. She never got married, despite all the men of the Paris Conservatoire reportedly being in love with her at one point (per Saint-Saëns); instead she chose to have a long relationship with the writer Catulle Mendès, and though she had five children* with him, did not show much interest in the business of motherhood (she never acknowledged them officially, and Mendès, for his part, had his father acknowledge them as his own, making them his legal half-siblings, thus creating, as a friend of his observed, a fine legal imbroglio).

    *three of whom famously appear in Renoir’s painting Les trois filles de Catulle Mendès.

    In her oeuvre, too, we see the same lack of interest in subscribing to stereotypes of femininity. She did not restrict herself to smaller-scale forms and salon music, which was more typical of the work of female composers – not only did she write songs (often to her own texts), she also worked on a large scale: operas, symphonic cantatas, symphonic poems, often with an epic, nationalistic patriotic aspect (the aforementioned Ode triomphale, which was a huge success at the time, would require 1,200 musicians). Male critics and composers – perhaps a bit bewildered by the combination of her physical beauty and her unconventionality – would comment on the “virility” of her work, sometimes in a complimentary way, sometimes in a less complimentary way; less friendly critics would imply that she was not very successfully trying to be a man.

    Be that as it may, she went her way, and does not seem to have bothered too much with the naysayers. She managed to get her opera La montagne noire staged at the Paris Opéra – a coup in itself as she thus became the first woman to have an opera premièred there – and even though its indifferent reception was to prove a considerable blow to her, she continued to compose and had sketched out a second libretto before her death in 1903 – indomitable to the last.

    -Suzanne Yeo
    October 2020

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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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