Five Pieces for Horn by Five Living Women Composers that I performed this week – Bailey Myers


Hornist Bailey Myers is a Washington DC-based artist and activist, performing all types of music as often as possible and working to empower women in the music industry. Since moving to the Baltimore/Washington area in 2016, Bailey has performed with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, the National Orchestral Institute Festival Orchestra, the Washington Chamber Orchestra, and the Baltimore-based Occasional Symphony. As a soloist and chamber musician, Bailey is passionate about featuring works by women composers and has performed at many events and churches in the area. Bailey has recently been named the new music director of Ascension Episcopal Church in Silver Spring, MD where she will be expanding a public concert series as one of her duties, and she is excited to use this platform to give more exposure to women composers and musicians (especially brass musicians!).

Bailey Myers currently studies with Denise Tryon at Peabody Conservatory and anticipates graduating with her Master’s Degree in Horn Performance in May 2018. She received her Bachelor of Music in Horn Performance from Oberlin Conservatory in 2016 under the instruction of Roland Pandolfi. In addition to her musical studies, Bailey also received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies from Oberlin College with a Chinese Studies concentration and a Politics minor.


This past Tuesday I had my Master’s Recital, which featured all works by living women composers. It was the second recital of all women composers that I had programmed (the first featured Jane Vignery, Thea Musgrave, Clara Schumann, and Beyoncé), so it was an exciting challenge to find another hour of music. I owe so much to Lin Foulk and her awesome database, which I highly recommend as the first place to start for any horn players looking for music written by women – solo or chamber music. The following five pieces were what I ultimately chose to program, and I am very happy with the results.


1. Imaginings by Dorothy Gates:

 This piece is perfect for opening a recital; it has a dramatic opening and a flashy ending, while not being terribly difficult to put together with piano. Composed for Michelle Baker, recently retired 2nd horn of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, it features the low register in particular. Baker premiered Imaginings just this past summer at the 25th International Women’s Brass Conference, and you can hear her SoundCloud recording on Dorothy Gates’ website here. Dorothy Gates is definitely a composer to check out if you’re a brass player – she is a prolific composer of brass music, especially brass band music, and she is a trombonist herself. Born in Northern Ireland, she now resides in the United States where she is Senior Music Producer for The Salvation Army’s Eastern Territory in New York and the Composer-in-Residence for the New York Staff Band – a position she has held since 2002. She is the first woman to be employed by The Salvation Army in this role. You can learn more about her here.


2. Sonata for Horn and Piano by Edith Borroff:

This sonata is a fun piece that doesn’t seem to get played as much as it deserves! There is only one recording of it (on Cynthia Carr’s CD “Images”), and it took me several interlibrary loan requests to track it down. Borroff wrote this piece in 1954 and it was premiered by Nancy Becknell at Northwestern University in 1955, with Borroff herself playing the piano accompaniment. The four contrasting movements – Rhapsody, Scherzo, Sarabande, and Estampie – go backwards in time through different musical periods. The Rhapsody is Romantic and full of expression, the Scherzo is energetic and Baroque/Classical, the Sarabande is a beautiful Renaissance melody, and the Estampie is a joyous Medieval romp. Born in 1925, Edith Borroff is retired now, but she had a long and notable career as a composer, musicologist, professor, and organist. You can check out a 2011 interview with her here.


3. Soliloque No. 1 from Deux Soliloques by Édith Lejet:

This piece is the most “contemporary-sounding” on the program. It is unaccompanied and the score is written in proportional notation, meaning that instead of traditional measures, barlines, and time signatures, the timing/rhythm is determined by the visual horizontal spacing of the notes on the page. Lejet also includes a key and extensive written instructions (all in French) to help the performer understand her musical language. I couldn’t find any recordings of this piece, so I relied entirely on the composer’s notes and Google Translate to inform my performance (which was an experience I recommend to all musicians – it’s great to learn from your favorite performers’ recordings, but sometimes you should challenge yourself to interpret a piece entirely on your own!). Édith Lejet is a cutting-edge French composer and music educator. This piece was commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture and was the exam piece for the Paris Conservatory class of 1993. You can learn more about Édith Lejet here.


4. River Melos by Andrea Clearfield:

River Melos was commissioned by Denise Tryon (my teacher!) in 2014 as part of her ongoing project to create more repertoire featuring the low horn. This was my favorite piece on the recital, mostly because I have been working very hard on my low horn playing for the past year and a half and I was so excited to finally be able to perform something like this. It also just sounds really cool! Andrea Clearfield took inspiration for this piece from the Roaring Fork River in Aspen, Colorado, where she spent many summers as a music festival student. The melody of this piece winds its way through smooth and rocky places, changing in energy as the water rushes over rapids and ripples through deep pools. This is a true duo for horn and piano, and while the writing is incredibly complex and challenging, it is so worth the effort. River Melos has also has been arranged for trombone by Clearfield for trombonist Ava Ordman! Check out the piece and Tryon’s/Ordman’s recordings on Clearfield’s page here.


5. Frost Cycle by Lydia Lowery Busler:

This final piece on the program is a collection of four Robert Frost poems set to music as a duet for horn and mezzo-soprano with piano accompaniment. The four movements/poems – Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, My November Guest, October, and To the Thawing Wind – are a nice set, full of beautiful melodies and bright, energetic sections for contrast. This was such an enjoyable piece to perform and a nice addition to the repertoire for horn and voice. Lydia Lowery Busler is a horn player, composer, and improvisationalist, and Frost Cycle was one of her earlier works, written in 1997. You can hear a recording of Busler performing this piece on her webpage here.


One thought on “Five Pieces for Horn by Five Living Women Composers that I performed this week – Bailey Myers

  1. Kirsten Lies-Warfield March 17, 2018 / 5:28 pm

    Bailey, I’d love to be in touch with you about your music series. I am a pro trombonist and composer who has lived in the DC area for 19 years. Thanks for this post!

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