Department of Music and Media

Ethel Smyth research

This webpage is written and maintained by Dr Christopher Wiley

Dame Ethel Smyth (1858–1944) was a groundbreaking composer (of six operas as well as orchestral, chamber, and vocal works), author (of ten volumes of auto/biographical and polemical writings), and for two years a leading suffragette. She was also resident in Surrey for the majority of her life, first in Surrey Heath (Frimley Green followed by Frimley) and then in Hook Heath, nr. Woking.

I have been researching the literature and music of Ethel Smyth for over 15 years. My publications include full-length journal articles in The Musical Quarterly and Music and Letters, liner notes, score prefaces, and shorter articles in society newsletters and the Oxford University Press Blog.

In addition, I have featured as speaker or performer in many public events related to Ethel Smyth, collaborating with colleagues including Maureen Bonello, Margaret Roberts, and Diane Watt. Highlights of this activity include:

Since she lived within 10 miles of the University of Surrey, I am in high demand as a speaker on Ethel Smyth for local history societies and other organisations, including The Guildford Institute and (forthcoming) Woking History Society.

I am also Publicity Officer for Retrospect Opera, who recently released the first complete modern recording of Smyth’s opera The Boatswain’s Mate, and whose current plans include a recording of another of her operas, Fête Galante.

 

To contact me about Ethel Smyth: c.wiley@surrey.ac.uk

If discussing Smyth on Twitter, please tag @DameEthelSmyth and use the hashtag #EthelSmyth.

A full list of my publications and other public activity, together with links to full texts, follows below.

 

Journal Articles

Liner Notes

  • Foreword for Ethel Smyth, The Wreckers (re-release of 1994 Conifer Classics recording), Anne-Marie Owens, Justin Lavender, Peter Sidhom, David Wilson-Johnson, Judith Howarth, Anthony Roden, Brian Bannatyne-Scott, Annemarie Sand, Huddersfield Choral Society, BBC Philharmonic, cond. Odaline de la Martinez. Retrospect Opera RO004, 2017. Available online at Surrey Research Insight.
  • The Boatswain’s Mate in the context of Smyth’s life and works’. Liner notes for Ethel Smyth, The Boatswain’s Mate (first modern recording), Nadine Benjamin, Edward Lee, Jeremy Huw Williams, Lontano Ensemble, cond. Odaline de la Martinez. Retrospect Opera RO001, 2016.

Score Prefaces

Scholarship in the Media

  • ‘Retrospect Opera’, The Federation of Recorded Music Societies (FRMS) Bulletin, No. 166 (Spring 2017), 9–10.
  • ‘Five Facts about Dame Ethel Smyth’, Oxford University Press Blog (OUPblog), 8 May 2014. <http://blog.oup.com/2014/05/facts-dame-ethel-smyth/>.

Conference Papers (Selected)

  • ‘Reconsidering Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate as Feminist Opera’, accepted at the combined Tenth Biennial International Conference on Music Since 1900 and Surrey Music Analysis Conference (ICMSN/SurreyMAC 2017), University of Surrey, 11–14 September 2017.
  • ‘Dame Ethel Smyth (1858–1944): In Search of a Lesbian Identity in Music and Literature’, delivered at the Ethel Smyth Symposium, LGBT History Month 2014, University of Surrey, 19 February 2014 (plus concert).
  • ‘Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf, and “The First Woman to Write an Opera”’, delivered at the University of Surrey, 20 November 2013 (research seminar).
  • ‘Music and Literature: Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf, and “The First Woman to Write an Opera”’, delivered at the 14th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, ‘Back to Bloomsbury’, Institute of English Studies, London, 23–26 June 2004.
  • ‘“When a Woman Speaks the Truth About Her Body”: Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf, and the Challenges of Lesbian Auto/biography’, delivered at Graduate Students’ Colloquia, University of Oxford, 22 January 2002 (Invited Public Lecture).
  • ‘“When a Woman Speaks the Truth About Her Body”: Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf, and the Challenges of Lesbian Auto/biography’, delivered at the 37th Annual Conference of the Royal Musical Association, ‘The Theory and Practice of Musical Biography’, King’s College London, 19–21 October 2001.

Public Talks

  • Talk on Ethel Smyth for Woking History Society, forthcoming, 3 September 2018.
  • Talk on Ethel Smyth for Surrey Archaeological Society/Surrey History Centre, forthcoming, 21 April 2018. 
  • ‘Dame Ethel Smyth: Composer, Writer, Suffragette, and Woking Resident’, The Lightbox, Woking, forthcoming, 8 March 2018 (International Women’s Day).
  • Talk on Ethel Smyth as part of a post-show discussion following a performance of Sylvia (Lynx Theatre production), Cranleigh Arts Centre, 26 May 2017.
  • ‘Ethel Smyth’s (feminist?) opera, The Boatswain’s Mate’, Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group, 27 February 2017.
  • ‘Dame Ethel Smyth, Groundbreaking Composer, Writer, and Suffragette’, The Guildford Institute, Guildford, 18 January 2017.
  • ‘Ethel Smyth: Composer, Author, Suffragette, and Surrey Resident’, Frimhurst Family House, Frimley Green (Ethel Smyth’s childhood home), 11 September 2016.
  • ‘The Composer Dame Ethel Smyth and her Deafness’, Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group, 26 January 2015.
  • ‘Shout! Shout! Up With Your Song!’, public lecture delivered at The Women’s Library, London, 27 September 2011 (with SANDI TOKSVIG).

Public Concerts

  • Ethel Smyth Concert, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the composer’s death, Christ Church Woking, 8 May 2014 (oboe, organ, and host).
  • Concert at the Ethel Smyth Symposium, LGBT History Month 2014, University of Surrey, 19 February 2014 (oboe).