Voices of Women Texts
Voices of Women Texts







Text: Luke 1: 46-55, Latin Vulgate version
Music: Janet Jennings

Jayne Tankersley – soprano 

Maia-Dean Martin – violin

Yoshiko Tsuruta – marimba

Magnificat anima mea Dominum;

My soul doth magnify the Lord;

Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo Salutari meo.

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae;

For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden;

Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.

For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus.

For he that is mighty hath magnified me, and holy is his name.

Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.

And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.

Fecit potentiam in bracchio suo;

He hath shewed strength with his arm;

Dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.

He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.

He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek.

Esurientes implevit bonis, et divites dimisit inanes.

He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away.

Suscepit Israel, puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae,

He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel,

Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semini ejus in saecula.

As he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto, 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,

Sicut erat in principio, 

As it was in the beginning,

Et nunc, et semper, et in Saecula saeculorum. 

is now, and ever shall be, world without end.


A Daughter of Eve

Text: Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
A song cycle of three songs Music: Janet Jennings

Stephanie Acraman – soprano 

Katherine Austin – piano

1. Crying, My Little One?

Crying, my little one, footsore and weary?

Fall asleep, pretty one, warm on my shoulder:

I must tramp on through the winter night dreary,

While the snow falls on me colder and colder.

You are my one, and I have not another;

Sleep soft, my darling, my trouble and treasure;

Sleep warm and soft in the arms of your mother,

Dreaming of pretty things, dreaming of pleasure.

2. Winter: My Secret

I tell my secret? No indeed, not I;

Perhaps some day, who knows?

But not today; it froze, and blows and snows,

And you’re too curious: fie!

You want to hear it? well:

Only, my secret’s mine, and I won’t tell.

Or, after all, perhaps there’s none:

Suppose there is no secret after all.

But only just my fun.

Today’s a nipping day, a biting day;

In which one wants a shawl,

A veil, a cloak,

And other wraps.

I cannot ope to everyone who taps,

And let the draughts come whistling thro’ my hall;

Come bounding and surrounding me,

Come buffeting, astounding me,

Nipping and clipping thro’ my wraps and all.

I wear my mask for warmth: who ever shows

His nose to Russian snows

To be pecked at by every wind that blows?

You would not peck? I thank you for good will,

Believe, but leave the truth untested still.

Spring’s an expansive time: yet I don’t trust

March with its peck of dust,

Nor April with its rainbow-crowned brief showers,

Nor even May, whose flowers

One frost may wither thro’ the sunless hours.

Perhaps some languid summer day,

When drowsy birds sing less and less,

And golden fruit is ripening to excess,

If there’s not too much sun nor too much cloud,

And the warm wind is neither still nor loud,

Perhaps my secret I may say,

Or you may guess.

3. A Daughter of Eve

A fool I was to sleep at noon, 

And wake when night is chilly 

Beneath the comfortless cold moon; 

A fool to pluck my rose too soon, 

A fool to snap my lily. 

My garden-plot I have not kept; 

Faded and all-forsaken, 

I weep as I have never wept: 

Oh, it was summer when I slept, 

It’s winter now I waken.

Talk what you please of future spring 

And sun-warm’d sweet to-morrow:— 

Stripp’d bare of hope and everything, 

No more to laugh, no more to sing, 

I sit alone with sorrow.

Sit Down With Me Awhile

Text: Ursula Bethell (1874-1945)
A song cycle of five songs Music: Janet Jennings

Catrin Johnsson – mezzo soprano 

Rachel Fuller – piano

1. Sit Down With Me Awhile

Sit down with me awhile beside the heath corner.

Here have I laboured hour on hour in winter

Digging thick clay, breaking up clods, and draining,

Carrying away cold mud, bringing up sandy loam,

Bringing these rocks and setting them all in their places,

To be shelter from winds, shade from too burning sun.

See now how sweetly all these plants are springing

Green, ever green, and flowering turn by turn.

Delicate heaths, and their fragrant Australian kinsmen

Shedding, as once unknown in New Holland, strange scents on the air

And purple and white daboecia – the Irish heather

Said in the nursery man’s list to be well suited

For small gardens, for rock gardens, and for graveyards.

2. Warfare

Night and day my garden now is menaced

By a host of abominable enemies.

Some visible, some invisible, some darkly lurking,

Some threatened by prophetic experts, and anticipated;

Mildew, rust, red mite, codlin moth,

Pullulating aphids, caterpillars, beetles,

All manner of devils, animal and vegetable.

I assault, I give battle relentlessly till my strength is exhausted.

But is it a forlorn hope? What are my sprays and a few chemicals?

A truce! Let me sit down upon this bench,

And lift my eyes beyond the confines of this strife!

How peaceful sleeps the great Pacific to the eastward;

Mile upon mile unbroken rests the open plain;

The purple mountains in mysterious repose;

The dim sky buttressed with a northern arch of cloud;

Faint, in the amethystine radiance of the west,

Eternal snows …

3. Ado

It grows too fast! I cannot keep pace with it;

While I mow the front lawns, the drying green becomes impossible 

While I weed the east path, from the west path spring dandelions,

What time I sort the borders, the orchard escapes me.

And then the interruptions! the interlopers!

While I clap my hands against the blackbird,

Michael, our cat, is rolling on a seedling;

While I chase Michael, a young rabbit is eyeing the lettuces.

And oh the orgies, to think of the orgies

When I am not present to preside over this microcosm! 

4. Homage

I have told you much of the flowers in my garden

And many yet remain of which I have not told

But when I would tell you of the roses, the roses –

When it comes to the roses, how should I find words?

Yet to them I would consecrate a few faltering sentences

As they grow in their companies by colour and by kind.

Their names may be recorded but what record might be given

Of their symmetry, spell-binding scents, the depth

And gradual brilliance of eye-reposing hue?

When it comes to the roses, how should I find words?

No need, no need, when one speaks the word roses, roses,

All their beauty and significance is spoken too.

Roses of Persia, Roses of Damascus;

Roses held up for sale in Piccadilly Circus;

Roses for queens’ bedchambers, and the costermongers’ holiday;

Roses for the tender babe’s first apprehensions

And for the sage’s mystic contemplations;

Roses for fame, pride, joy, romance,

Rapture, remembrance, solace in sore pain;

Symbols of secrecy, truth, love, holiness;

Roses on the green graves of our mortality,

Roses by the green walks of the New Jerusalem –

So to all you lovely roses, Hail.

5. Easter Bells

Easter. And morning bells

Chime in the late dark.

Soon those fluttering birds

Will seek a more genial clime.

Time has come to light fires

For lack of enlivening sun.

Summer’s arrow is spent,

Stored her last tribute.

So, now, we plant our bulbs

With assured vision,

And, now, we sow our seeds

Sagely for sure quickening.

So, purging our borders

We burn all rubbish up,

That all weak and waste growth,

That all unprofitable weeds,

All canker and corrosion,

May be consumed utterly.

These universal bonfires

Have a savour of sacrifice.

See how their clean smoke,

Ruddy and white whorls,

Rises to the still heavens

In plumy spirals.

You take me – yes, I know it –

Fresh from your vernal Lent.

These ashes I will now spread

For nutriment about the roses,

Dust unto fertile dust,

And say no word more.

Myself when Young

Text: Jean Alison Bartlett (1912-2006)
Song cycle of three songs Music: Janet Jennings

Felicity Tomkins – soprano 

Maria Mo – piano

1. My Poem Was Printed

See me swanking down Queen Street

Saying to everyone inaudibly,

Look at me, I’m a poet!

And I’m wearing a new hat!

Poet? they say, sniffing

And wrinkling their noses;

Another bad smell and what’s worse

One we don’t understand.

Now, if you were Lady Mayor —

Fluff off, I say rudely.

I’ve a feather in my hat

And to write a poem

Shows a loving disposition.

Exit blowing kisses.

2. Stop Look Listen

You’re reading a poem:

There it lies on the page

Sunning itself in your gaze

Shapely and sensuous.

Somewhere there’s music

Siren voices insinuating

Through strings of wind and water.

The poem moves to the music

And it’s wearing rainbows.

Ah then, if you’re lucky,

Like a window opening

Light flows in and you see

Deep into the poem

And you see 

Something you never saw before

Or in just that light.

3. The New People

Neither night nor day

nor wind has power to stop us

We are of the vital stream

seed of the first flame

absolute, integral

In our veins

runs the discontent 

of the ages

We are of the root

whence springs the grass

Voices of Women 

Texts: Kate Sheppard; Charlotte Perkins Gilman; 

Ākenehi Tōmoana; Jacinda Ardern.

Music: Janet Jennings

Conductor: Rachael Griffiths-Hughes

Voices: Jayne Tankersley

Catrin Johnsson, 

 Stephanie Acraman

Mere Boynton, 

Violin: Maia-Dean Martin

Marimba: Yoshiko Tsuruta

Piano: Noelle Dannenbring

Percussion: Rachel Thomas

The year is 1892 …

We hear the voice of Kate Sheppard:

“Is it right that while the gambler, the drunkard

and even the wife-beater has a vote,

earnest, educated and refined women are denied it?

Is it right that your mother, your sister,

should be thought unworthy of a vote

That is freely given to the liar, the seducer, the profligate?

The year is 1911 …

The women of America are still denied the vote.

We hear the voice of Charlotte Perkins Gilman:

“When the woman suffrage argument first stood upon it legs

They answered it with cabbages, they answered it with eggs,

They answered it with ridicule, they answered it with scorn,

They thought it a monstrosity that should not have been born.

When the woman suffrage argument grew vigorous and wise,

And was not to be answered by these opposite replies,

They turned their opposition into reasoning severe

Upon the limitations of our God appointed sphere.

We were told of disabilities – a long array of these,

Till one would think that womanhood was merely a disease;

The great “maternal sacrifice” was added to the plan

Of the various sacrifices we have always made – to man.

`Religionists and scientists in amity and bliss,

However else they disagreed, could all agree on this,

And the gist of all their discourse, when you got down to it,

Was – we could not have the ballot because we were not fit.

They would not hear the reason, they would not fairly yield,

They would not own their arguments were beaten in the field;

But time passed on, and some-way, we need not ask them how,

Whatever ails those arguments – we do not hear them now.

You may talk of suffrage now with an educated man,

And he agrees with all you say, as sweetly as he can,

‘T’would be better for us all, of course, if womanhood were free,

But, the women do not want it, and so it must not be!’

‘Tis such a tender thoughtfulness! So exquisite a care!

Not to pile on our frail shoulders what we do not wish to bear!

But, oh most generous brother! Let us look a little more …

Have we women always wanted what you gave to us before?

Did we ask for veils and harems in the Oriental races?

Did we beseech to be “unclean”, shut out of sacred places?

Did we beg for scolding bridles, and ducking stools to come?

And clamour for the beating stick, no thicker than your thumb?

Did we ask to be forbidden from all the trades that pay?

Did we claim the lower wages for a man’s full work today?

Have we petitioned for the laws wherein our shame is shown?

That not a woman’s child – nor her own body – is her own.

What women want has never been a strongly acting cause,

When woman has been wronged by man in churches, customs, laws;

Why should he find this preference so largely in his way,

When he himself admits the right of what we ask today?”

It is 1893.

We hear the voice of Ākenahi Tōmoana:

“For many years the Chiefs, the Members of Parliament,

the Kingitanga, have been searching for answers to issues regarding land

and the betterment of our people.

They even went to England!

All of this was done without us, without the women,

and no benefit has come back to our people.

We women have not yet tried!”

It is the nineteenth of September, 1893.

We hear the voice of Kate Sheppard from New Zealand,

speaking to the world:

“The news is being flashed far and wide, and before our earth has revolved on its axis 

every community within the reach of electric wires will have received the tidings 

that civic freedom has been granted to the women of New Zealand.

The principles of reason and justice have triumphed over prejudice,

triumphed over narrow mindedness, triumphed over selfishness.

The principles of reason and justice have triumphed.

It is the nineteenth of September, 2018.

We hear the voice of Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand,

speaking from parliament:

“It is a privilege and an honour, to be the first to speak 

in this special debate on this extraordinary day.

My words today are intended primarily as a tribute, to the women who led the change,

to Kate Sheppard, to Margaret Sievwright, to the 25,000 women.

who signed the petition in 1893.

I also acknowledge the mothers of these women,

because we stand on the shoulders of giants, and they stood on the shoulders of mothers.

Amongst this seemingly ordinary set of people, has risen the extraordinary. 

They were bookkeepers, they were dressmakers, they were grocers.

They were people who saw injustice and they rectified it.”

The principles of reason and justice, have triumphed over prejudice, 

triumphed over selfishness. 

The principles of reason and justice have triumphed.