I can certainly see why people become addicted to Brighton. Walking eastwards past charming little streets, lanes, laines and the occasional magnificent square I eventually reached Kemp Town’s welcoming St George’s Church. Inside, where we would be celebrating one hundred years of the vote for (some) UK women, a Brighton-ish party atmosphere reigned. A group of ladies dressed in full suffragette costume of long white dresses and purple sashes marched towards the platform singing Dame Ethel’s March of the Women with great vigour. Out of this group emerged a familiar figure – none other than the local MP, Caroline Lucas, who proceeded to give an inspiring address about the story of women’s suffrage from then to now. How fortunate are the residents of Brighton Pavilion (the constituency, not the Chinese Palace, pictured) to be represented by this exemplary parliamentarian; who stayed for the whole evening and played the piano in a concluding reprise of the March.
Also, to my excitement, sitting close by was another charming woman who turned out to be Peggy Seeger, no less (still touring as we speak, at an impressive age). Peggy was here to represent her mother Ruth Crawford Seeger, one of 18 women composers on the programme. To me, RCS is a composer of such proven historical significance, that it almost irritates me to hear people still having to explain who she was. But this concert by Music of our Time was doing, splendidly, that educational and necessary job, with excellent historical notes in the programme book. Great credit should go to Norman Jacobs of MOOT, who had commissioned several new works (one by Lucy of the Pankhurst dynasty) as well as performing editions of historically mislaid music.
As very often, the neglected composer from the past that most beguiled me was Rebecca Clarke, (in a passionate setting of Tyger Tyger) who left behind over 70 unpublished works. She died in 1979, aged 93, having presumably spent many of those years reflecting that her music was not getting the recognition it deserved. But my favourite thing from the evening was by Heard Collective, who performed Talkin ‘bout a Revolution in a lovely pure vocal duet, accompanying themselves on celtic harp and banjo. As if Hildegard of Bingen had listened to Tracy Chapman and thought ‘Right on Sister!'