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the learned ladies

rediscovering forgotten women authors and composers

We remember Amy Beach, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, Ethel Smyth, Harriet Ware, Mildred Hill, Amelia B. Welty, Virginia French, Mary E. Bryan, Mary Stanly Bunce Palmer, and others.

a musical webseries

“The Learned Ladies” is a new musical internet series featuring stories, songs, poems and essays from obscure women composers and forgotten women authors of the past. 

Ann Reeves Jarvis

Award-winning actress Elise Dewsberry plays southern belle Ann Reeves Jarvis as she welcomes us into her pre-Civil-War music room, introducing us to women authors and composers, like an antebellum “Masterpiece Theatre.” Mrs. Jarvis first tells us a little about the featured woman author’s background and literary bent, and then regales us with a reading, followed by a song.

Ann Reeves Jarvis

Award-winning actress Elise Dewsberry plays southern belle Ann Reeves Jarvis as she welcomes us into her pre-Civil-War music room, introducing us to women authors and composers, like an antebellum “Masterpiece Theatre.” Mrs. Jarvis first tells us a little about the featured woman author’s background and literary bent, and then regales us with a reading, followed by a song.

Amy Beach

The first season of “The Learned Ladies” features the songs of beloved American composer, Amy Beach, including “Empress of the Night,” “Le Secret,” and the haunted story of poor jilted “Anita.”

Amy Beach

The first season of “The Learned Ladies” features the songs of beloved American composer, Amy Beach, including “Empress of the Night,” “Le Secret,” and the haunted story of poor jilted “Anita.”

“It’s wonderful being able to bring these stories and songs to life. The writing is amazing!  Literate, funny, touching…sometimes spooky.  We’re discovering many beautiful lost gems.”

Elise Dewsberry

The Western Wind

Antebellum author Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie lost a brother in a shipwreck, and expresses her grief through her writings for the stage. We excerpt one of her monologues in tonight’s episode, and couple it with Amy Beach’s passionate song, “The Western Wind,” a plea for the Sea to deliver a beloved who is far off on a distant sea. This is an episode from our musical webseries, “The Learned Ladies,” Season One of which features forgotten antebellum authoresses.

Eleanor Percy Lee

This episode features a dramatic, spooky poem by Eleanor Percy Lee about a haunted house, followed by the passionate song “Forget Me Not” about a woman trying to reach the spirits of the dead.

produced by New Musicals Inc.

The series is produced by New Musicals Inc., as part of their ongoing exploration of short musical theatre content for the internet.  NMI offers workshops, classes, and production opportunities for writers of new musicals.

Virginia French and others

The authors include Amelia B. Welty, Virginia French, Mary E. Bryan, Mary Stanly Bunce Palmer, and others.  Their stories and poems traverse a wild range variety of topics, from shipwrecks, haunted houses, deaths of loved ones, to chilling vampire stories.

Subsequent seasons will continue to feature women writers and composers, such as the Women of New England, or the astounding cotton-mill women who founded their own literary magazine in the late 1800’s, and beloved-but-forgotten composers such as Carrie Jacobs-Bond, Ethyl Smith, Harriet Ware, and Mildred Hill (who wrote the tune for “Happy Birthday”, and left behind dozens of songs in manuscript).

Virginia French and others

The authors include Amelia B. Welty, Virginia French, Mary E. Bryan, Mary Stanly Bunce Palmer, and others.  Their stories and poems traverse a wild range variety of topics, from shipwrecks, haunted houses, deaths of loved ones, to chilling vampire stories.

Subsequent seasons will continue to feature women writers and composers, such as the Women of New England, or the astounding cotton-mill women who founded their own literary magazine in the late 1800’s, and beloved-but-forgotten composers such as Carrie Jacobs-Bond, Ethyl Smith, Harriet Ware, and Mildred Hill (who wrote the tune for “Happy Birthday”, and left behind dozens of songs in manuscript).

Episode One - Mary Virginia Terhune

In the first episode, we meet Mary Virginia Terhune, who shocked her friends and family by publishing secretly under a pseudonym.  Then we hear Amy Beach’s moving song which tells the story of Anita, jilted by the man she trusted with her life and heart.

Elise Dewsberry as Ann Reeves Jarvis in the musical webseries “The Learned Ladies.”

Jane Tandy Hardin Cross

Excerpts from the intimate diary of Jane Tandy Hardin Cross, who writes about a friend’s heartbreaking loss of a child, and how the women of the time dealt with grief.  The episode concludes with Amy Beach’s powerful song, “Ecstasy,” which examines the balance between storm and sunshine.

Catherine Anne Warfield

This episode’s story is one of our favorites of the season.  It’s an excerpt from a wonderful vampire novel written by Catherine Anne Warfield, who was the daughter of the Mississippi Territory’s Secretary of State, Major Nathaniel Ware.  In the excerpt, a young woman is asked by her grandfather to give up some of her blood.  That’s followed by Amy Beach’s song, “Haste O Beloved,” which contemplates whether love can cross over the threshold of death (and back again).

Anna Peyre Dinnies

“THE THRUSH”. This episode explores an antebellum processing her feelings of deep loneliness, in one of Anna Peyre Dinnies’ most passionate poems, “I Could Have Stemmed Misfortune’s Tide,” followed by an alternative view in the life-affirming song, “The Thrush” composed by Amy Beach. 

Mary Schindler - Empress of the Night

This episode explores, first in poem, then in song, the image of a frightening, dark night sky being penetrated with a pinprick of light from a morning star. It’s an unmistakable analogy of hope against despair, of light against darkness…and by subtle symbolism shared by 19th-century women through literature, the endurability of a woman’s spirit fighting to be illuminated in a society determined to silence it. The poem is by Mary S.B. Schindler; the glorious music is by Amy Beach

Lucy Virginia French - Miserere of the Pines

Join us in a revisitation of Lucy Virginia French’s famous poem, “Miserere of the Pines.” Mrs. French finds echoes of both songs of jubilation and funereal anthems in the “stately, solemn, swelling miserere of the Pines.” In the words of one of Mrs. French’s critics of the time: “[You will] find [y]ourself floating away on a tide of rippling rhyme— forgetful of all but the delicious motion, and the silvery ‘tintinnabulation.'” The companion piece is a multi-layered song by Amy Beach, called “Le Secret,” with French and English lyrics, which also finds deeply hidden meaning in what appears to be a simple love song.

Amelia B. Welty / Ye Banks and Braes

In an excerpt from “Musings” by Amelia B. Welty, we visit the inspirational but haunted sound of birds singing at twilight, which, of course, serves as a metaphor for our own fleeting time on earth. The song in this episode is the decidedly melancholic “Ye Banks and Braes O’ Bonnie Doon,” in which a jilted lover is tormented by the merry sounds of birds who haven’t a care in the world.