A classically inspired exploration into the inequities and brief moments of beauty for the female half of musical humanity throughout western history, with juxtaposed technology to imply the long journey taken and the road ahead.
Founded initially as a hostel for Crusaders, the Pio Ospedale della Pietà (Pious Orphanage of Piety) was an orphanage for abandoned girls amongst others in Venice, Italy, most notably during the Renaissance and Baroque Periods.
Victims of plague or other early European misfortune and children borne out of wedlock to mothers who were shamed into abandoning their babies, were left at the Ospedale.
A clever means to help fund the orphanage was devised: girls and women were typically forbidden to learn play and especially perform music, but the girls of the Ospedale were tested and some were selected for their musical gifts, trained and then allowed to perform publicly (behind iron bars to preserve their modesty) to promote patronage.
Audiences from all over Europe came to see these girls, who, with their exquisite talent, brought great fame and fortune to the Ospedale.
The most well known composer to lead the girls was Vivaldi, whose own fame and fortune grew from the renown that these performers provided as a laboratory for his prodigious compositions.
As they matured into womanhood the girls could either stay to teach, cloistered and virginal, become Nuns, or leave to marry which would promptly end their musical life.
The foundation of the original Ospedale site is now a hotel, filled with tourists who come to hear Vivaldi’s music at concerts in the church next door.
I recently had the honour to bring a neighbour’s vision to life, of which the lyrics and melody had resided solely in his mind and heart for decades. My arrangement attempts to do it justice with the use of some traditional Irish instrumentation.
A note from the author:
“This song is in memory of my wife, Blanche Shields, who died in a car crash at the age of 29. The year following the accident, I spent some time wandering the countryside of southwest Ireland, which provided the inspiration for the song.
For Blanche and all those loved ones whose lives have been cut short….”