· St Catharine’s Girls’ Choir, Cambridge launches STEM in SONG – a new project to encourage girls to engage with STEM subjects through music
· A new music video has been created presenting a new composition by Gwyneth Herbert setting the winning text in a science-song competition, by 14-year old Isabella Bridge, inspiring girls to pursue studies and careers in the STEM subjects
· March 2019 will see two interactive performances of Mendeleev’s Dream – a newly commissioned musical work based on the Periodic Table by composer Christopher Fox – that children called from all over the UK can join in with and at the same time learn about the science
· As part of STEM in SONG, St Catharine’s Girls’ Choir will perform at the Science Museum, London as part of ChemFest 2019
· The Choir will be performing in Cambridge as part of the Cambridge Science Festival in March 2019
· Over the last two years, St Catharine’s Girls’ Choir has commissioned a number of new songs about science from composers including Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Nigel Hess, culminating in a collection of works on the subjects for the choir to perform alongside live science experiments
Today, Monday 11 February 2019, to mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the Girls’ Choir of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge launches STEM in SONG – a new outreach project to encourage girls to engage with STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) through music.
Supported by the Royal Society of Chemistry, London’s Science Museum and St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, STEM in SONG will include several events throughout 2019 including performances of science-inspired songs at the Science Museum, London, and St Catharine’s College, Cambridge.
The project will also see the release of a new music video featuring the Girls’ Choir performing a specially-commissioned composition promoting the pursuit of careers in STEM subjects to young girls.
The music video boasts a new composition entitled There in Front of Me by Gwyneth Herbert setting words by 14-year old Isabella Bridge – the winner from the Choir’s UK-wide competition in 2017 for a new science song text to inspire girls to pursue studies and careers in the STEM subjects. The video will be screened at the Girls’ Choir’s live events and promoted online.
2019 also celebrates the International Year of the Periodic Table and to celebrate, the Girls’ Choir will give several performances of a new work by composer Christopher Fox entitled Mendeleev’s Dream: The Periodic Table in Music (after Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, who published the first recognizable periodic table in 1869). Conceived by Christopher Fox, Edward Wickham (director of music at St Catharine’s College) and Peter Wothers (director of studies for Chemistry at St Catharine’s College), this participatory work for children called from all over the UK will introduce the elements through simple musical phrases, building up into groups in the same way as do elements within the Periodic Table. The piece is devised so that children can join in whatever their musical expertise, and learn more about the elements in the process.
These interactive performances of Mendeleev’s Dream will take place on 21 March at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge as part of the Cambridge Science Festival and on 23 March at the Science Museum, London as part of a chemistry-themed family day for ChemFest 2019.
Composer Christopher Fox said of the work: ‘Mendeleev’s Dream is intended to work both as music in its own right and also as a way of enabling young people to learn about the Periodic Table. There’s all the fun of putting together a piece of music that can expand from just a few voices to a huge gathering of musicians but at the same time it’s a way of discovering of the interconnectedness of the elements. Each session will start with an explanation of the Periodic Table – on the 21 March we will also have the help of a giant reconstruction of the Periodic Table laid out in the Main Court of the College – and each session will end with a public performance of the piece. I hope that my music expresses something of the beautiful architecture of the Periodic Table and gives the participants a tangible sense and understanding of this most valuable framework for scientific analysis.’
The performance at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge on 21 March is part of the Cambridge Science Festival, which this year celebrates the Periodic Table. St Catharine’s College is proud to have recently purchased a first edition of the Periodic Table and has commissioned a striking new sculpture inspired by the Periodic Table by Kentish silversmiths Carl Padgham and Andrew Putland.
Edward Wickham, Director of Music at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and conductor of the Girls’ Choir said: ‘At St Catharine’s we are constantly striving to inspire young girls and give them every possible opportunity to reach their full potential. Ten years ago, St Catharine’s Girls’ Choir was the first Oxbridge children’s choir to be set-up in centuries and it’s wonderful to see the girls give the choristers from the likes of Kings College some healthy competition! But as part of our work on this front, we are also looking to push the girls in other areas and the STEM in SONG project is a wonderful project to do just that. Through songs, performances and a great new video, STEM in SONG is intended to open-up Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths in an entertainingly different way to young girls. We are lucky to have a wealth of leading female scientists to have come through St Catharine’s College and are delighted to have backing from chemist Dame Mary Archer and our very own Fellow in Engineering Jenni Sidey, who is now working at NASA. It is through role-models like these and by engaging the girls in the STEM subjects that we can inspire the next generation of astronauts, chemists and engineers, who might otherwise have never considered taking these STEM subjects further.’
Over the last two years, St Catharine's Girls' Choir has been commissioning songs about science; settings of limericks, poems and even theoretical writings, in a variety of musical styles. To date, their Science repertoire includes: Cavendish's Atomes by Elspeth Brooke with text by Margaret Cavendish, the 17th century poet and science writer; A Great Tree by Christopher Fox with text from Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species; A World of worlds by Cheryl Frances-Hoad in another setting of Margaret Cavendish’s writings; The Microbe by Nigel Hess in a setting of Hilaire Belloc; and Science Song by Ben Parry setting Limericks by the distinguished chemist Sir John Cornforth.
About The St Catharine’s Girls’ Choir, Cambridge Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, St Catharine’s was the first Oxbridge children’s choir to be set-up in centuries, giving the long-established choirs from the likes of neighbouring King’s College, Cambridge (est. 1441) and New College, Oxford (est. late 14th century) some healthy competition. St Catharine’s is proud to boast Agatha Pethers – winner of the BBC Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year – as a former head chorister.
- St Catharine’s College was founded in 1473 and is named after the scholar-saint; thus an appropriate home for the Girls’ choir.
- The Girls’ choir was formed in 2008, and was the first and, until recently, the only college-based Girls’ choir in the UK
- The choir is currently made up of 30 girls, aged between eight and fifteen (years four to ten), drawn from a variety of local schools, rather than from a single choir school.
- The Girls’ choir patrons are all distinguished women with an interest in music: Dame Mary Archer, Dame Sarah Connolly, Baronnes Fairhead (former chair of the BBC Trust), Sophie Kinsella (novelist), Prof. Dame Jean Thomas (former Master of St Catharine’s)