Talented, creative and commercially successful, their beautiful melodies were nevertheless thought to have been lost to the ages.

But thanks to a group of aspiring modern musicians in Leeds, pieces of work by forgotten women composers have been rediscovered and recorded for the first time ever as part of a partnership project during Women’s History Month.

Students from Leeds Conservatoire and pianist Ruth Nicholson have been working with Leeds Museums and Galleries to bring pieces first created by seven female musicians centuries ago back to life in modern day Leeds.

Using historic sheet music taken from the museum’s collection and once owned by people in Leeds, compositions first imagined almost 200 years ago and never heard by a contemporary audience can now be experienced online.

Composers whose music has been reimagined include Virginia Gabriel, who wrote popular ballads in the 19th Century as well as a number of serious compositions. Although she had many of her more popular songs published, she had to pay for self-publication of much of her more serious work.

Charlotte Allington Barnard, a popular composer of more than 100 songs, ballads and hymns has also had her work recorded. In the 1860s, she became the most commercially successful ballad composer managed by publishers Boosey’s and established one of the first ever royalty arrangements.

Also featured is In the Moonlight by Annie Jessie Fortescue Harrison also known as Lady Hill, who composed a number of piano pieces in the mid 19th Century along with American pianist and composer Clara Gottschalk Peterson’s work Joyous Spring from 1875.

The project also coincides with Abbey House Museum’s current online exhibition Sound of Our City, which explores the history of music in Leeds and the stories behind the city’s iconic live music venues and some of the memorable performances they have hosted.

To listen to  more the recorded work by the seven composers, visit:

Abbey House Museum is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Sounds of Our City can be viewed online at:


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