SWAP’ra, the British artistic collaborative that seeks to “build a supportive community and to effect positive change for women and parents in opera,” with the ultimate goal of fostering “an environment in which a female CEO, Music Director, Artistic Director, Conductor, Composer or Librettist is no longer noteworthy,” has put on a mind-blowing 17-episode online festival featuring songs by a stunning array of female composers, performed by students at virtually every major music conservatory in the UK, comprising the Royal Welsh College of Music and Art, the National Opera Studio, the Guildhall School, the Trinity Laban Conservatoire, the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music, and the Royal College of Music.

For Clarke aficionados, the big news is Episode 17, from Clarke’s old stomping grounds at the Royal College, featuring four of her earliest compositions as an independent adult composer: her first setting of a Yeats poem, and three songs to old Chinese texts, all dating from around 1910, and all performed from manuscript. Tears, one of the Chinese lyrics, has been recorded before (Guild GMCD 7208), but the other songs are making their first appearances before the general public.

The festival’s overall title is Forgotten Voices, and while we gently demur on Clarke’s behalf—caught up as we are in a massive trawl through her 113 years (and counting) of press-coverage, and having her fan-mail in hand—there’s bound to be a lot here that you will find delightfully new. We’ve got our eye on the Welsh program in Episode 1, and we hear great things about the Hedwige Chrétien cycle in Episode 16, but the whole shebang is available—gloriously free!—through April 5, so we’re determined to enjoy every moment of it, at least twice. Go ye and do likewise.

The most efficient overview of the repertoire is here, complete with composer bios and selected lyrics. The programs themselves are here.

Texts for the Clarke songs, in the sources she almost certainly consulted, are available online: in order of performance, One That Is Ever Kind (“The Folly of Being Comforted”), Return of Spring, Tears, and The Color [Clarke’s spelling] of Life.

If you hear “Foxy Lady” chords in any of this, you are not wrong: Clarke was using jazz inflections before the term itself was documented.

A cascade of news about upcoming concerts and recordings brings this late-breaking bulletin about a fascinating online event put together by the Royal College of Music, Rebecca Clarke’s alma mater, featuring songs by three of the College’s greatest composition-teachers—Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Herbert Howells, and Mark-Anthony Turnage—paired with works by three of their most interesting students: Clarke, Madeleine Dring, and Charlotte Bray, respectively.

The concert airs on October 5, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. British Summer Time (check here for your local equivalent), on the College’s YouTube and Facebook pages, where it will remain available for replay on an open-ended basis.

The RCM’s entire autumn season is free to watch online, but the College “welcomes gifts of every size to its Scholarships Fund, through which talented young musicians can access world-class education, regardless of their financial means”—just as Clarke did, after her capricious father yanked her tuition, back in 1909. What with COVID-19, any amount helps. Go here to contribute, and tell them Rebecca Clarke sent you.