What were the first musical instruments to be regularly played in public concerts by entire orchestras of British women? The answer may surprise you. From the mid-1880s until the First World War, hundreds of “Ladies’ Guitar and Mandolin Bands” flourished throughout Britain, including several consisting entirely of female members of the aristocracy. Their performances (often in the country’s most prestigious concert halls) were enthusiastically reviewed in the press, their repertoire included symphonies, orchestral overtures, and operatic excerpts, and the largest bands often had more than fifty members, sometimes more than a hundred. Yet the very existence of these female bands has been entirely ignored by most music historians.

These orchestras mostly played music by male composers, and usually had male conductors, but there was one notable exception: “Miss Clara Ross’ Ladies’ Mandolin and Guitar Band”, which performed music composed by its leader, and appeared at many of London’s most fashionable music venues during the 1890s. Clara’s formidable body of original and melodious compositions (which also includes dozens of songs for women's voice/s and piano, composed between the mid-1880s and the 1920s) has, until now, been entirely overlooked by musicologists. So this web site is devoted to the life and work of this successful and versatile composer, to help to put her back on the musical map. On the various pages you can find
scores (free to download and perform) for Clara Ross’ music as well as videos and audio recordings. We will expand the site and add more material when it becomes available.

Here is a more extensive article on Clara Ross and women's mandolin bands in Victorian England.

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