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Ivor Gurney and Marion Scott

The dual biography of English composer-poet Ivor Gurney and musicologist-critic Marion Scott (Ivor Gurney and Marion Scott, Song of Pain and Beauty) by Pamela Blevins will be issued The Boydell Press on November 20th. AmazonUK AmazonUS This is the first biography of Gurney in 30 years and the only biography of Scott who was regarded as one of the great scholars of her generation. Her own significant contributions as a pioneering music critic, musicologist, advocate of contemporary music and women musicians have been obscured by Gurney’s long shadow so this new biography will bring her into her own light.

Marion Scott was a visionary woman and a pioneer in music criticism and musicology, fields she helped open to women. Like many gifted women she had many options open to her in career choices despite having been born in Victorian England. Scott was fortunate in her liberal parents, a father who was a solicitor, talented pianist and metaphysician, and a mother from an old Salem, Massachusetts family of seafaring adventurers and entrepreneurs. Like her ancestors Marion was a risk taker who never considered failure as an option. As a gifted young violinist she dazzled audiences. At 19 she entered the Royal College of Music where she studied violin with Arbos and composition with Walford Davies and later with Charles Villiers Stanford, becoming one of his first female pupils (not Rebecca Clarke as is often assumed – Scott preceded her by a decade).

Marion inherited a strong business sense from both parents and possessed natural leadership abilities. She made things happen. In 1906, she co-founded the Royal College of Music Student Union and served for many years as its secretary (a position not unlike today's executive directors). Two years later she formed the Marion Scott Quartet (two men, two women) as a vehicle to introduce contemporary music to London audiences. During this period she began to write for various publications. One of her earliest extant pieces from 1909 is a hard-hitting article that tackled the realities of music as a profession for women. Scott also worked as a free lance violinist often serving as concertmaster/leader with orchestras (any dream of a solo career was dashed when she was injured in a near fatal accident that compromised her health), free lance lecturer and teacher. She arranged concerts, published a volume of poetry and composed music.

Scott lived in the present but was always looking into the future and for ways of creating opportunities for both women and men. From an early age she worked with her activist parents in various social reform movements -- suffrage, temperance, rights for servants -- and saw men and women working cooperatively to achieve common goals. She applied these lessons in her own life. Scott understood the difficulties faced by women in music; the loneliness of the composer, the closed doors that stood as barriers to women seeking careers as instrumentalists, the lack of opportunities, the silent destiny that seemed to be a woman's fate. With the help of her friends Katharine Eggar and Gertrude Eaton she founded the Society of Women Musicians in 1911 to promote cooperation among women in different fields of music, provide performance opportunities and advice and to help women with the practical business aspects of their work. Marion insisted that the SWM have no political agenda and that it be open to men as associate members, a diplomatic move that served the SWM very well. The SWM became an influential voice in British music and inspired women in other countries to unite in their common goals.

After World War I, Scott began working as the London music critic for the Christian Science Monitor, a post she held for 14 years. During that period she wrote for newspapers in England as well as various journals, edited publications, lectured and helped many young musicians move forward with their careers. Her writings form an unparalleled history of music in Britain during the first half of the 20th century. Scott's work in musicology led her to become an internationally respected authority on Haydn and to write a classic metaphysical biography of Beethoven that went into many editions and is highly regarded today. Marion Scott was a guiding light in reshaping women’s roles in classical music and in promoting and championing women and contemporary music. Song of Pain and Beauty restores her legacy and introduces readers to a remarkable woman.

Pam Blevins




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