By: Ethan Burge
In the world of classical music, there are hidden treasures and unsung tales waiting to be shared. Dr. Sarah Masterson stumbled upon one such story, that of Philippa Schuyler. Now, she invites music lovers on a remarkable musical voyage to celebrate Schuyler at Newberry Opera House.
Dr. Masterson's journey began when she stumbled upon Philippa Schuyler's biography, expressing, "Several years ago, I stumbled across a short, two or three-paragraph bio and couldn't believe I hadn't heard of her before." That moment ignited her mission to bring Philippa's music back to life.
Philippa Schuyler's music, largely hidden from the world, is now reborn through Dr. Masterson's dedication. Philippa's untimely passing left much of her work unpublished, preserved only in handwritten manuscripts. Dr. Masterson's recording of "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" stands as the sole commercially available representation of Philippa's musical genius.
Philippa's compositions are a tapestry of stories with African and Arabic influences that might initially sound unfamiliar but eventually captivate the heart. Dr. Masterson notes, "Audiences seem to have been especially interested in her African-inspired compositions. Most of her music is programmatic—so it tells a story—and I think that tends to be appealing. That said, she drew a lot of inspiration from African and Arabic music, which means that her compositions sound very different from more familiar composers like Beethoven or Chopin. She’s using different scales, rhythms, and patterns, and it can sound a bit jarring at first."
One of the most remarkable aspects of Philippa's music is its ability to convey deep emotions. Dr. Masterson explains, "I think it's especially interesting the way she both depicts such detailed stories in her music, and also conveys her own emotions, particularly anger, loss, and also excitement."
Recently, Dr. Masterson had the privilege of being featured on SC Public Radio's "Sonatas and Soundscapes" for the anniversary of Philippa Schuyler's passing. She says, "It provided a great opportunity to bring Schuyler's music and life story to a much wider audience."
Her work also found a home in the Women Composers Festival of Hartford's video series, where she was honored to participate. "These platforms are about introducing people to composers that have historically been overlooked and helping them to discover music they might not otherwise have encountered," she emphasizes.
Philippa Schuyler's music is an exquisite blend of history, culture, and melody, taking audiences on a journey across continents and through historical narratives. Dr. Masterson adds, "She takes the audience along with her on her concert tours to destinations as varied as Haiti, China, Korea, Chile, France, and all across Africa."
Through her tireless efforts and performances, Dr. Masterson aims to introduce Philippa Schuyler to the world. "I hope to give recognition and a voice to a remarkable woman who is surprisingly unknown today," she says. “She was passionate not just about her music, but about fighting injustices in the world. She not only brought light to them through her journalism but was brave enough to try to do something about it, risking her own life in Vietnam to help evacuate children from the more dangerous areas.”
Join us on the evening of September 17 at the Newberry Opera House, where Dr. Sarah Masterson will take us on a musical odyssey, celebrating the legacy of Philippa Schuyler. It's an invitation to rediscover an extraordinary composer and a story that resonates across time, brought to life by the passionate melodies of Dr. Masterson.