Minerva Festival is organised annually by Cambridge students, and ‘celebrates the music of women and non-binary people’. It’s therefore a different enterprise (but with many similar aims) from Frances Lynch’s Minerva Scientifica, about which I’ve often posted in this blog. I guess, if you are the Roman Goddess of Wisdom, people are often going to borrow your name.
I visited Cambridge to be a panel member for this year’s composition workshop, alongside two dynamic colleagues; composer Deborah Pritchard from Oxford University, and conductor Sarah MacDonald, who has already played a vital part in history as Oxbridge’s first woman college choral director (at Selwyn College). Sarah also directs the girls’ choir at Ely Cathedral.
Composition postgrad and singer Emily Hazrati had assembled a student vocal ensemble from several college choirs to sing the three shortlisted entries. The sightreading and intonation of these young people was – I’ll use that word for once – “awesome”. Amongst the compositions, I admired two interesting choices of text, by Edna St Vincent Millay and George Eliot, both very good ideas. Congratulations to the winner (prize – another performance) Mary Offer, whose confident and fluent setting of a strange religious anecdote intrigued us.