A lifelong self-supporting freelancer who survived the Great Depression and two bouts of wartime scarcity, Rebecca Clarke was a great saver of useful things, including the blank backsides of solicitations from the many social- and political-action groups she supported. Much of her memoir is typed on several years’ worth of such paper, creating juxtapositions that sometimes verge on poetry. Here, for example, three magnificent women—Clarke, her mother Agnes Helferich Clarke, and the great civil-rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer—come together on the same sheet, with a cameo-appearance by Henry James. The Clarkes probably didn’t know much from butter beans and kale, but, like Hamer, they got results, especially in adversity. Be of good heart. Eyes on the prize.

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Clarke spent a good deal of the year 1925 planning, promoting, and executing a concert of her own works at London’s Wigmore Hall—a bold undertaking for any composer at any age, but especially for a thirty-nine-year-old whose big breakout had taken place only six years earlier. The concert was a triumph, cementing Clarke’s position as “one of the élite of musicians” (Morning Post). She repeated most of the program the following week on the then-three-year-old BBC, where she was already a star performer. Three years later, provincial newspapers were looking forward, with keen interest, to concert appearances by “Miss Rebecca Clarke (of wireless fame).”

Click on any image for a captioned slideshow.


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Christopher Johnson, Clarke’s great-nephew-by-marriage, talks about his nine years working with Clarke, and his fifty years working with her music, in an interview with Robert Cruz, for the Carrefour Chamber Music Project. (Please note that there are a few unavoidable streaming herky-jerks in the discussion of Stanford. It is not your computer.)

See a related performance of the Sonata, by Cruz and Michele Gunn, at, under “The Spiritually Sensual Viola.”