Public History Talk by Inge van Rij (Wellington, 1 May)

The hidden women of the public stage: women in New Zealand orchestras at the turn of the twentieth century

In attempting to bar women from the orchestra of the 1906 New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch, one exhibition official stated:

‘the services of ladies are not as satisfactory in this capacity as those of men. The Committee state that they are less amenable to discipline and less reliable in their attention to work.’

In fact, while some European orchestras continued to openly discriminate against women as late as the 1990s, women had participated in and even led orchestras in New Zealand well before 1906. By treating the orchestra as a social and cultural phenomenon rather than simply a compositional abstraction, this talk will explore the paradoxical position of women in New Zealand’s early orchestral history.

Focusing on two New Zealand exhibition orchestras (from 1889 and 1906), and contextualising them in relation to the women’s suffrage movement and representations of Māori culture, this talk aims to render visible the experiences of women whose presence on the public stage has long been overlooked.

About the speaker

Inge van Rij is an Associate Professor of Musicology at Victoria University of Wellington, specialising in nineteenth-century European art music.

Her publications include books for Cambridge University Press on the songs of Brahms and the orchestral music of Berlioz, and she is currently commencing work on a third book project on women in orchestras in the nineteenth century, funded by a Marsden Grant from the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Date: Wednesday 1 May 2019

Time: 12:10 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Location: Te Ahumairangi (ground floor), National Library, corner Molesworth and Aitken Streets, Thorndon