Mar 08 2022

Songs & Stories from “The Somerville Connexion”

7pm 8th March 2022


Mary Somerville. Lithograph after J. Phillips. Image Courtesy of Wellcome Library, London.

An online concert of vocal music
illuminating the hidden lives of exceptional women
whose worlds revolved around the Queen of the Sciences,
Astronomer & Mathematician
Mary Somerville (1780-1872)

In 1834 a book called “On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences” exploded onto the cultural stage of Western Europe.  For the first time, the author, Mary Somerville, described the interdependence of astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology and maths, and explained the latest scientific thinking of the day in language directed to her “country-women”.
Somerville’s curiosity and disciplined work reflect her childhood pursuits – looking into every nook and cranny of the landscape around her Fife home, collecting fossils & shells, learning Euclid by heart, painting and practising the piano for hours.
Kind, gentle and unassuming, Somerville was not a lone woman adrift in a sea of male expertise. Like ripples spreading out from the centre, she influenced ever-widening circles of talented yet unsung women including scientists, novelists, artists, philosophers and musicians.

Images Creative Commons except Clara Novello by Edward Petre Novello, oil on canvas 1833, NPG 5685, © National Portrait Gallery London

One of her mathematics students, Ada Lovelace, became a figurehead for generations of women developing computer technology up to the present day. Their algorithmic stories are explored in music and sound by singers from electric voice theatre, the Voices for the Future Virtual Choir and Young Singers Programme in Lynch’s “ADA BAB(BLE)

There are further settings of the words of several of the protagonists by composers Cheryl Frances-Hoad (Ada Lovelace), Lynne Plowman (Mary Somerville) and Frances M Lynch (astronomer, Caroline Herschel). Music by 19th century composers, who were close to Mary Somerville’s circle, reveals Italianate arias and Scottish Melodies by Isabella Scott Gibson, devotional verses by Eliza Flower and an astute parlour song, which appears to echo Somerville’s early life, by one of her dearest friends, Lady Dufferin. More contemporary offerings are provided by Nicola Lefanu and Marie Dare.


Music Programme:

  • Marie Dare (1902 – 1976) The Four Maries for 4 female voices; Words traditional
  • Isobel Dunlop (1901 – 1975) The Sea Shell for soprano & piano; Words by William Soutar (1898 – 1943)
  • Isabella Scott Gibson (1786–1838) Dark Lochnagar for solo voice; Words by Lord Byron (1788 – 1824)
  • Cheryl Frances-Hoad Something More Than Mortal for solo mezzo; Words by mathematician, Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852)
  • Frances M Lynch ADA BAB(BLE) for acapella choir and soloists; Words by Ada Lovelace; inventor, Charles Babbage (1791 – 1871); poet, Elizabeth Tollet (1694 – 1754); Lord Byron; Computers from Bletchley Park; computing entrepreneur, Dame Stephanie Shirley; and the composer
  • Nicola Lefanu I See The Moon & Wishing from Rory’s Rounds for acapella voices; Words traditional
  • Frances M Lynch fragments from Epitaph for a Comet Hunter for solo voice; Words by astronomer Caroline Herschel (1750 – 1848)
  • William Herschel (1738 – 1822)A Catch for acapella voices
  • Eliza Flower (1803 – 1846) Now Pray We for our Country for SATB acapella choir; Words by Sarah Flower Adams (1805 – 1848): and Rebecca’s Hymn from Musical Illustrations of the Waverly Novels for tenor & piano; Words by Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) from Ivanhoe 
  • Helen Blackwood, Lady Dufferin (1807 – 1867) The Charming Woman for mezzo, baritone & piano
  • Frances M Lynch Florence Nightingale Broadside Ballad for solo baritone; Words traditional
  • Lynne Plowman Seven Dark Lines for soprano & baritone; Words by Mary Somerville 
  • Traditional Irish Air arranged by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) Sweet Power of Song for tenor, baritone, piano, violin & cello; Words by Joanna Baillie (1762 – 1851)
  • Jane Bianchi (1776 – 1858) Winter’s Beautiful Rose for soprano & piano; Words by Amelia Opie (1769 – 1853)
  • Frances M Lynch Trowelblazers for solo & recorded voices; including Annie Laurie by Alicia Spottiswoode, Lady John Scott (1810 – 1900)


Performed by electric voice theatre:-

Frances M Lynch – Soprano, Artistic Director
Samantha Houston – Mezzo
Julian Stocker – Tenor
Gwion Thomas – Baritone
Lauren Lister – BSL interpreter
Herbie Clarke – Production Manager
Anna Thomas – Zoom Facilitator


Voices for the Future
and Young Singers Programme


“Voices for the Future”  seeks to discover, honour, and promote female voices past and present and to inspire, guide and build diverse VOICES FOR THE FUTURE.

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