Ensemble Molière are an early music chamber group specialising in the music of the French Baroque, and have been selected as the first ever BBC New Generation Baroque Ensemble. The five ensemble members all identify as female and have worked in the music profession as performers, teachers and animateurs for over 15 years.


Here, the group's five members (Flavia Hirte, flute; Alice Earll, violin; Catriona McDermid, bassoon; Kate Conway, viola da gamba; Satoko Doi-Luck - harpsichord) give us their thoughts on life as a female musician today, how to challenge the gender gap, and more.

On the whole, the ensemble members’ experience of being female in the classical music world has been positive, and even more so within the sphere of early music performance. As a freelance violinist, Alice Earll has found female-led organisations such as the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), Irish Baroque Orchestra and Dunedin Consort to be the most rewarding to work with:

'These organisations have provided a framework for honest and transparent communication, with a holistic and inspirational vision,' says Alice. 'The relationship the ensemble has built with the NCEM as part of the BBC scheme has been a wonderful source of support.'

However, some ensemble members have also come up against an underlying gendered attitude that women are better suited to educational roles, assuming that working with children or in music tuition is perhaps more practical that a full-time career as a freelance performer.

Catriona McDermid, the ensemble bassoonist, also notes that, as a young woman in prominent roles within the industry, there can sometimes be a lack of respect if you choose a more holistic, non-authoritarian or less stereotypically masculine approach to leadership.

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'It should be noted that although our experiences are mostly positive, being a woman in this industry is not entirely without its difficulties. Unfortunately, we all have anecdotes about sexist behaviour and assumptions of our position or worth based on appearance, as well as experiences of tyrannical male directors.

'As an ensemble, we hope to see more women in positions of power. We have all been lucky to work with inspirational female leaders, musicians and coaches, but it would be a joy to see more female CEOs, directors, conductors and women at the highest level of decision making.

Ensemble Molière: 'It would be a joy to see more female CEOs, directors, conductors and women at the highest level of decision making.' Pics: Tricia Yourkevich / BBC

'There is a common misconception that we have reached equality within the profession, but it often feels like we are striving for equality in a system that is inherently designed by men. As with many professions, the industry would also benefit from a more forward-thinking approach to child care and family support. To see this as a positive contribution instead of an obstacle to a successful career.

'Our hope for the future is that gender can be celebrated without having to be a point of difference or an exception, and for an industry where younger generations don’t have any stories of misogynist behaviour or feel a pressure to conform to traditional gender roles in order to succeed.

'We will continue to enjoy looking at the world of the 18th century with a female perspective, celebrating women lost to history and bringing them to life in our concert programmes.'

Ensemble Molière appear on a special International Women's Day edition of Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert on 8 March at 1pm.

The programme, Femmes d’excellence, includes an Ouverture by Mademoiselle Laurant, Instrumental suites from an opera Les Génies by Mademoiselle Duval, trio sonata by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, as well as her cantata with soprano Ruby Hughes and Radio 3 commission Rossignolet by Sarah Cattley.

For more info, visit www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001jlp3


Ensemble Molière pic: Tricia Yourkevich/BBC