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

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: Please note that this is not an exclusive list and please let us know if you have works which you have discovered which you suggest should be added. Diana Ambache is also available to talk about the works, please contact the ABO for further information.

The BIG LIST of Women Composers is an ever-expanding list featuring more than 5,000 women composers from pre-medieval composers to 21 century-singer-songwriters. The list is searchable for orchestral music but does not provide orchestrations.


  • 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. The panel is unlikely to award a project where the work is less than 10% the length of the concert. The more reach, including broadcasting, the more likely the panel will award a grant. 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 each year. 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.


The Hallé – ‘Ethiopia’s Shadow in America’ by Florence Price

Tantalising mystery surrounds the Hallé and Florence Price, the first African-American woman to gain recognition as a symphonic composer. In 1951, Sir John Barbirolli commissioned her to write for the Orchestra, but no evidence of any finished piece survives. 70 years later, The Hallé will perform Ethiopia’s Shadow in America, which combines melodies of pure beauty with an evocative musical language drawn from the spirituals of African-American slaves. The third movement of this work will be featured in Hallé for Youth in March 2022 and will also form part of the schools’ project that accompanies each concert, in which children will create their own musical responses to the piece, and choreograph in dance workshops led by Northern Ballet.

Performances: Performed as part of three ‘Opus One’ concerts on 13, 14 and 17 October 2021 at the Bridgewater Hall as well on tour to Sheffield City Hall on the evening of 15 October.

Nevis Ensemble – ‘Sea Sketches’ by Grace Williams

Sea Sketches, by Grace Williams is a five-movement work for string orchestra depicting different moods of the sea, possibly reflecting on memories of Williams’ hometown of Barry in south Wales, where she returned to live soon after. As Williams herself said: ‘I don’t want to stay in London - I just long to get home and live in comfort by the sea.’ Nevis Ensemble’s performances of Sea Sketches will take this water-inspired music around the islands of the Inner Hebrides, to schools, community spaces, social care and health care settings as part of an extensive tour of free participatory performances.

Performances: Public and social venues around the islands of Iona, Mull, Rùm, Eigg and Skye 13 – 19 June 2022.

Royal College of Music – ‘Zodiac Suite’ by Mary Lou Williams arranged by Laura Jurd

Mary Lou Williams (1910–1981) is often described as the first female jazz composer. A musical prodigy, she played piano with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. Written in 1945, Zodiac Suite is a 12-piece work with each movement representing a zodiac sign and dedicated to musicians Williams performed with. In addition, the concerts for schools on 12 October 2021 will be based around a theme that stems from the Zodiac Suite.
Performances: Wednesday 13 October 2021, 19.30 Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music

RCM Jazz Orchestra directed by Mark Armstrong with guest soloist Zoe Rahman. This performance will also be streamed live and available online. The schools’ concerts are on Tuesday 12 October 11:30 and 13:15, also in the Britten Theatre.

Royal Scottish National Orchestra – ‘Divertimento for Strings’ by Grażyna Bacewicz

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s performances of Grażyna Bacewicz’s Divertimento for Strings on 4 March (Usher Hall, Edinburgh), and 5 March 2022 (Glasgow Royal Concert Hall) will mark the Scottish premieres of this piece. Conducted by Elim Chan and introduced by Lena Zeliszewska, RSNO Associate Leader, now available to watch online here. RSNO have also published a blog looking at the works of historical and contemporary women composers supported this season by the ABO Sirens Trust and the Ambache Trust.

National Orchestra for All (NOFA) – ‘Andromède’ by Augusta Holmès

The Augusta Holmès composition Andromède forms part of a series of pieces that National Orchestra for All will be rehearsing throughout its residential activity and online courses in 2022 and will be performed at the end of each course, including at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and University of Warwick.

Performances: Online sessions: 5-6 March 2022, online via Zoom; Spring course: 11-14 April 2022, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire; Summer course: 26-29 July 2022, University of Warwick.

Ulster Orchestra - La Nuit et L’amour (Night and Love) by Augusta Holmès

The Ulster Orchestra is delighted to be performing La Nuit et L’amour by the French-Irish composer Augusta Holmès. Holmès flouted the conventions of the late 19th century to not just write music, but write music that was intense, powerful and political – her boldness deserves this celebration of her work.

Performance: Tuesday 25 March 2022, live in Belfast. Separate digital recording (audio/visual) available as online resource after the live performance.

Performance dates


Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: Grace Williams ‘Penillion’, Cadogan Hall, London – 12 April 2022 (rescheduled from 10 June 2021)

Royal Northern Sinfonia: Bränningar (Op. 19) by Helen Munktell, Sage Gateshead – 11 June 2022.

Nevis Ensemble: ‘Sea Sketches’ by Grace Williams, public and social venues around the islands of Iona, Mull, Rùm, Eigg and Skye - 13 – 19 June 2022.

National Orchestra for All (NOFA): ‘Andromède’ by Augusta Holmès, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and University of Warwick Online sessions: 5-6 March 2022; Spring course: 11-14 April 2022, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire; Summer course: 26-29 July 2022, University of Warwick.


Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: ‘D’un soir triste’ and ‘D’un matin de printemps’ by Nadia Boulanger, Cadogan Hall, London – 5 April 2023

Previous year performance dates

Royal Scottish National Orchestra: ‘Divertimento for Strings’ by Grażyna Bacewicz, Caird Hall, Dundee, 4 March 2022; Usher Hall, Edinburgh; Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 5 March.

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra: Amy Beach Symphony No. 2 ‘Gaelic’, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall - 24 March 2022

Manchester Camerata: Overture to Erwin and Elmire by Anna Amalia von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach, The Stoller Hall, Manchester - 25 March 2022

Ulster Orchestra: ‘La Nuit et L’amour’ by Augusta Holmès, Belfast - Tuesday 25 March 2022.

Royal College of Music: ‘Zodiac Suite’ by Mary Lou Williams arranged by Laura Jurd, Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London, schools’ concerts Tuesday 12 October 11:30 and 13:15, and Wednesday 13 October 2021.

The Hallé: ‘Ethiopia’s Shadow in America’ by Florence Price - 13, 14 and 17 October 2021 at the Bridgewater Hall; 15 Oct at Sheffield City Hall.

Southbank Sinfonia: Grace Williams ‘Sea Sketches’, St John’s Smith Square – 29 September 2021

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

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

Philharmonia Orchestra: Lili Boulanger ‘D’un soir triste’, Bedford Corn Exchange – 12th November, Royal Festival Hall, London – 14 November 2019

Southbank Sinfonia: Dorothy Howell, ‘The Rock Overture’, ‘Divertissements’, ‘Humoresque’, ‘Koong Shee Ballet’, St. John’s Waterloo, London - 19 September 2019

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra: Dorothy Howell ‘Lamia’, Symphony Hall, Birmingham - 21 August 2019

Philharmonia Orchestra: Maria Antonia Walpurgis’ ‘Sinfonia to Talestri, Queen of the Amazon’ as part of ‘Orchestra Unwrapped’. November 2018 - Spring 2019 – Basingstoke, Canterbury, London, Leicester and Bedford

English Symphony Orchestra: Vítězslava Kaprálová ‘Partita for Piano and Strings’, Shirehall, Hereford – 3 March, and Kings Place, London - 28 April 2019

Chineke! Orchestra: Avril Coleridge-Taylor ‘Sussex Landscape Op 27’, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London - 22 April 2019

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

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

Southbank Sinfonia: Dorothy Howell workshop, St John’s Waterloo, London – 2 July 2018

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

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

Related information

Catalogue Orchestral Music By Historical Women Composers

Sirens ABO Application Form 2021-22

Annual Conference

The next ABO conference will take place in Leeds, hosted by Opera North, from 1-3 February 2023.