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Sounding Out at Seanad Éireann – Celebration of 100 years of women’s suffrage

The National Museum of Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy of Music  are marking 100 years of women’s suffrage with a special music event.


The National Museum of Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy of Music in collaboration with the Houses of the Oireachtas are marking 100 years of women’s suffrage with a special music event in the Seanad Chamber, Leinster House at 7pm on the 23rd of November. Hosted and presented by Senator Ivana Bacik, Sounding Out at Seanad Éireann will celebrate the legacy of women composers from home and abroad, and salute the next generation of female composers from Ireland. 

The compositions of five Irish women composers Jane O’Leary (1946), Marian Ingoldsby (1965), Ailis Ní Ríain (1974), Amanda Feery (1984) and Solfa Carlile (1985), represent a range of generations and form part of this exciting programme. On the evening, soprano, Sylvia O’Brien, flautist, William Dowdall and clarinettist, Paul Roe, will perform in the Seanad Chamber. “Changing Light”, a work by one of the most important composers of our time, Finnish woman Kaija Saariaho, will also be performed on the night.

“The March of the Women”, the anthem of the women's suffrage movement will open and close the event. This work was composed by Dame Ethel Smyth Smyth in 1911 who was a member of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). In 1912, Smyth was one of the 109 members of the WSPU who responded to Emmeline Pankhurst’s call to break a window in the house of any politician who opposed votes for women. Along with Pankhurst and 100 other women, they were arrested and served two months in Holloway Prison. When Smyth’s friend, conductor Sir Thomas Beecham went to visit her there, he found suffragettes marching in the quadrangle and singing “The March of the Women” with Smyth leaning out a window conducting the song with a toothbrush. This anthem will be sung by the audience on 23rd November and conducted by Blanaid Murphy from the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

This event is the last of three events organised in 2018 in the Seanad Chamber to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage. Other events explored women’s suffrage through poetry while another debated the significance of what happened 100 years ago in the context of contemporary life for women.