Association of British Orchestras


"Frequently ignorance is the main issue around music by women. The essential thing is for people to hear their works. When these lovely pieces are heard, there is no more reason for omitting them. Roll on inclusion"

Diana Ambache

Grants have been awarded to the following in 2019

Chineke! Orchestra

Chineke! Orchestra for Avril Coleriedge-Taylor ‘Sussex Landscape Op 27’, 22 April 2019
Avril Coleridge-Taylor (1903-1998) wrote several short orchestral works including Sussex Landscape Op 27 which is an expansive reflection of the countryside of the work's title. With a duration of 12 minutes and scored for large orchestra, Sussex Landscape is prefaced by a poem by John Drinkwater, "Into your Sussex quietness I came...".

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for Dorothy Howell ‘Lamia’, 21 August 2019
‘Birmingham-born Dorothy Howell’s ‘Lamia’ was premiered at the 1919 Proms, conducted by Sir Henry Wood. 2019 also marks the 150th anniversary of Wood’s birth, and the start of the CBSO’s centenary period. In celebration of these anniversaries, in August 2019, the CBSO performs ‘Lamia’ at the Proms and in Birmingham.’

English Symphony Orchestra

English Symphony Orchestra for Vítězslava Kaprálová ‘Partita for Piano and Strings’, 28 April 2019
Vítězslava Kaprálová’s (1915-1940) ‘Partita for Piano and Strings’ was written during her wartime exile in France and was shaped, in part, by her work with Bohuslav Martinů who had been her teacher and would become the great love of her life. Virtuosic and highly contrapuntal outer movements driven by march and dance rhythms frame a slow movement of great lyricism.

Philharmonia Orchestra

Philharmonia Orchestra for Lili Boulanger ‘D’un soir triste’, November 2019 and March/April 2020
The Philharmonia Orchestra will perform Lili Boulanger’s arrestingly mature, powerful work ‘D’un soir triste’in its main concert seasons in London, Bedford, Basingstoke and Leicester in 2019/20. The Philharmonia will produce an editorial feature on the work in each concert programme, and stage a pre-concert talk in London to provide an insight into the piece.

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for Grace Williams ‘Penillion’, Thursday 10 June 2021
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has programmed Grace Williams’s Penillion in its 2020/21 Season at Cadogan Hall. Penillion is a highly original four movement composition for full symphony orchestra, which adapts the metrical and melodic characteristics of traditional Welsh penillion singing - a vocal improvisation by a singer or small choir over a melody played by the harp.

What is the Sirens fund?

Annual grants will be allocated according to the range and value of each project. Each year over 10 years up to £19,000 will be shared between 4 to 5 projects for concerts, tours, recordings and education work deemed to be doing most to advance and promote the understanding of music by women. These will be selected by a panel agreed between the ABO and Diana Ambache. Orchestras are encouraged to use The Women of Note website as a resource, which lists orchestral music by historical women composers. The downloadable document can be accessed here. Diana Ambache is also available for advice about the composers and their music, in advance of making your application, please contact the ABO for further information.

To date the scheme has supported performances of works by Germain Tailleferre, Cécile Chaminade, Dorothy Howell, Maria Antonia Walpurgis, Grace Williams, Lili Boulanger, Maria Grimani, Marianna Martinez and Louise Farrenc. See below for performance dates.


  • The scheme is open to full and associate members of the ABO
  • Pieces should be for orchestra including opera and choral works that require an orchestra. We are defining an orchestra as an ensemble of 12 or more including a minimum of one orchestral instrument.
  • Priority consideration will be given to projects showing substantial profile raising of female works, work that addresses a significant gap in provision, challenges contemporary attitudes, and takes an enterprising approach to influencing people
  • Please note that if the composer is still alive the piece will be ineligible. Pieces by living women composers may be included in the programme, as long as the historical piece is the main work for which you are seeking funding.


When assessing applications to this fund, we will be considering the potential short and long term impact of the applicant’s approach to programming the piece. This will include demonstrating:

  • The potential for the piece and the way it is programmed for the audience to appreciate – exploring new horizons, expanding the available repertoire and offering associated learning and participation work
  • The approach to the programming and promoting of the work within the orchestra’s planned artistic season and also beyond the main publicity, recordings, broadcasts and other avenues
  • What is the significance of the music?
  • A strong PR/marketing plan and if applicable, associated learning and participation work
  • The application deadline is 5pm, 28 February each year, and the works should be programmed within two years from the deadline year.
  • This fund will be reviewed annually to ensure it is fit for purpose. If you are successfully funded two years in a row, you need to leave a year’s gap before applying again.
  • Applications must be made by the orchestra and all grants awarded via this fund will be paid direct to the orchestral organisation.

We reserve the right not to award all the available funds (£19,000) each year.

What can be funded?

We will consider every application on a case-by-case basis. We are inviting orchestras to propose why they have selected the piece; what makes it a distinctive work and how they will programme it in their tour or season, ensuring engagement with a large audience. Orchestras can apply for funding to help cover the following:

  • Orchestral rehearsal time
  • Music hire
  • Performer fees
  • Instrument Hire
  • Promotion/performance of work
  • Touring costs in the UK
  • A combination of some of the above

What can’t be funded?

  • New commissions
  • Recording only
  • International tours with no UK involvement

Funding application deadline

  • The deadline for receipt of applications is 5pm, 28 February. All submissions must be completed using the grant application form. This is a downloadable document on the ABO website.
  • The grant application should be emailed to Fiona Harvey:
  • You will receive an acknowledgement email within two working days following your submission. If information is missing from your application form, the email will provide a report of outstanding information. You will be asked to resubmit the grant application if necessary.

Notice of Award

  • If you are awarded a grant, you will receive notice of acceptance by email.
  • You will be emailed an offer letter and asked for your bank details.
  • Once you have returned your signed offer letter, payment of 80% of the grant will be made via BACS to your orchestra’s bank account. The remaining 20% will be paid on receipt and approval of your evaluation report.
  • If you are not awarded a grant, you will receive an email informing you of this news.

Performance dates 2019

Philharmonia Orchestra: Maria Antonia Walurgis’ ‘Sinfonia to Talestri, Queen of the Amazon’ as part of their flagship Key Stage 2 concert and engagement project, ‘Orchestra Unwrapped’. Spring 2019 – Basingstoke, Canterbury and Leicester

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic: Germaine Tailleferre and Cecile Chaminade, Liverpool and Preston, 28 February, 1 March and 3 March 2019

Academy of Ancient Music: Marianna Martinez and Maria Grimaldi, Cambridge, London and Eindhoven, March/April 2019

Southbank Sinfonia: Dorothy Howell, London, 19 September 2019

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance: Grace Williams’ Symphony no. 2 as part of the ‘Venus Blazing’ series - 12 December 2019

Aurora Orchestra: Louise Farrenc’s Symphony no. 3 in G minor, as part of ‘Venus Unrwapped’ series 14 December 2019

Performance dates 2020

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: Lili Boulanger ‘D’un matin de printemps’, London, 27 February 2020

Previous year performance dates 2018

Philharmonia Orchestra: Maria Antonia Walurgis’ ‘Sinfonia to Talestri, Queen of the Amazon’ as part of their flagship Key Stage 2 concert and engagement project, ‘Orchestra Unwrapped’. November 2018 – Leicester and Bedford.

Dates are subject to change, please check the organisations’ websites for up to date information

Please contact Fiona Harvey, Education and Youth Ensembles Consultant, ABO for further information:

Related information

Catalogue Orchestral Music By Historical Women Composers

Sirens ABO Application Form 2018 19

Annual Conference

The next conference will be held in Manchester from 29-31 January 2020,

hosted by The Hallé and BBC Philharmonic