Marian Wilson Kimber’s book The Elocutionists reclaimed a forgotten performance genre. From the mid-1800s to the 1940s, elocutionists recited poetry or drama with music to entertain audiences, in particular women’s groups. Women, in fact, dominated the art, and their purveyance of wholesome entertainment allowed them to cross boundaries while quietly commenting on—and even satirizing—the gender norms of their day.
Wilson Kimber continues to bring the elocutionists to new audiences. The Society for American Music has awarded her a Sight and Sound subvention for creating “In a Woman’s Voice: Musical Readings by American Women Composers,” a video of performances with Wilson Kimber as reciter and longtime collaborator Natalie Landowski on piano. The video captures elocution works the pair perform in academic settings and for contemporary women’s groups as the duo Red Vespa.
In addition, Wilson Kimber is one of several Press authors to make a recent impact in our scholarly journals. The spring 2020 issue of American Music features her article “Reciting Parsifal: Opera as Spoken-Word Performance in America.” It can be read free of charge as part of JSTOR’s effort to provide open access to essential scholarship during the Covid-19 pandemic. The same issue offers a book review by Thomas L. Riis, coeditor of the UIP book Rethinking American Music.
For more information about elocutionary arts and Wilson Kimber, visit her Tumblr here: https://elocutionaryarts.tumblr.com/
Congratulations, Marian Wilson Kimber!