Dame Ethel Smyth (1858–1944) was a British composer, writer, and social activist. Although well-known during her lifetime, Smyth has, like many women, suffered from a lack of recognition in historical accounts of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Smyth made significant contributions to many musical genres, from vocal, chamber, and piano works, through to operas and larger choral compositions. Vocal works — ranging from solo songs, choral works, and operas — account for the majority of her output. Of these, Smyth’s six operas have received the most scholarly attention, followed by the Songs of Sunrise, which date from Smyth’s involvement with the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
Smyth was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union between 1910 and 1913. Despite the brevity of her service, the image of Smyth as a militant Suffragette has prevailed and is a facet of her life that has provoked interest. My thesis takes Smyth’s suffrage involvement as a starting point and moves beyond the protest songs, bringing some of her lesser-known works to the fore.
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I was awarded a first class honours from Keele University in 2016 for my BA in Music and completed my MA in Music at Oxford Brookes University in 2019. My dissertation, Ewige Freude: Seeking Solace in Johannes Brahms’s Opp. 13, 17 and 45/II, explored the themes of death and comfort in a number of Johannes Brahms’s choral works. It was awarded the Postgraduate Music Dissertation Prize from Oxford Brookes University in December 2019.