Water Culture: Women's Work(s)

Water-culture: women's work(s) is an international project aimed at raising awareness around issues of water scarcity by connecting women artists and researchers to global audiences through artistic collaborations.

Upcoming Events

Orchestra of St John's

Cayenna Ponchione, guest conductor

Tuesday, 16 May 2017, 7:30pm
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Charlotte Tetley, mezzo-soprano

At the invitation of music director John Lubbock, Alaskan conductor, Cayenna Ponchione, will conduct the Orchestra of St John's in the world premier of Nicola LeFanu's newest work for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra, May Rain, on 16th May as part of the orchestra's Ashmolean Museum Proms series. Mezzo-soprano, Charlotte Tetley, will perform LeFanu's composition alongside previous Water-Culture: Women's Work(s) commissions by Kate Whitley, Rachel Lockwood and Solfa Carlile. May Rain is a setting of Kerry Hardie's poem of the same name and will be performed in the presence of the composer, honouring LeFanu's 70th birthday year. The concert will also feature works by Ibert, Milhaud and Ravel conducted by John Lubbock. Please visit https://www.osj.org.uk for more information and tickets.

Recent Events

Climate Change and our Disappearing Landscapes

Sinfonia Gaia
Cayenna Ponchione,

Saturday, 20 June 2015, 2pm
Hill End, Oxford
Featuring soloists
Madeleine Easton, violin
Charlotte Tetley, mezzo-soprano

Sinfonia Gaia is a newly founded orchestra by Cayenna which is dedicated to raising awareness of environmental and humanitarian issues through innovative programming, commissioning, and collaborations with artists and organizations.

This concert at the Tandem Festival featured by composers who were significantly inspired by their natural surroundings, highlighting the impact of climate change on these now disappearing landscapes. Australian violinist, Madeleline Easton, performed Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending and mezzo-soprano Charlotte Tetley performed three of the Water-Culture: Women's Work(s) songs Cayenna has been commissioning since 2012. Sinfonia Gaia gave the UK premiere of Transeki by South African composer, Antoni Schonken. The concert concluded with a breathtaking performance of the last three movements of Beethoven's "Pastorale" Symphony (the storm scene) in which it actually began to drizzle, then pour and then clear just as we were entering into the final movement...If only it would do that every time... Problem solved!

Music for a Thirsty World

Oxford Sinfonia
Cayenna Ponchione,

Charlotte Tetley, mezzo-soprano
Solfa Carlile's Little River, the most recent commission from Water-Culture: Women's work(s)

Building on the Art, Science, & Thirsty World conferences (University of Oxford, June 2014 and Cornell University, November 2014), and her continuing work on Water-Culture: Women's work(s) Cayenna has curated a concert which explores musical waterscapes through the lenses of imaginative composers and poets over the past two centuries.

Sunday, 24 January 2015, 8pm
St Mary's Church, High Street, Oxford

Butterworth: On the Banks of Green Willow
Water-Culture: Women's Work(s) Song Set
Lockwood: At the Falls
Carlile: Little River WORLD PREMIERE
Whitley: Flood Days
Smetana: Vltava from Ma Vlast
Mendelssohn: Die Hebriden Concert Overture
Elgar: Sea Pictures

Saturday, 24 January 2015, 8pm
St Mary's Church, High Street, Oxford

WCWW Songs Performed at Art, Science, & the Thirsty World conference at Cornell University

Dawn Pierce, mezzo-soprano and Graeme Bailey, pianist, perform Lockwood's At the Falls, Whitley's Flood Days and the premiere performance of Carlile's newest work, Little River

7 November 2014
Barnes Hall, Cornell University

This innovative two-day interdisciplinary conference brought together graduate students from across continents and disciplines. It proposed a critical exploration of interdisciplinary practice through collaborative presentations and performances, while facilitating dialogue between researchers and practitioners in the arts and environmental sciences in order to foster creative, innovative and trans-disciplinary discussions about water scarcity solutions.

Composer Solfa Carlile Commissioned

July 2014

"One of Ireland's most exciting young composers" Solfa Carlile is the most recent up-and-coming woman composer to have been commissioned as part of this multi-year project.

Carlile will write a piece for solo mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra using the text of a traditional Greek children's song, 'Where are you from Little River?'. Popular Greek folk singer, Mariza Koch, used this song to teach children about the value of their threatened natural resource on a tour through rural Greece with a an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Cornell University.

The premiere for piano and voice will take place in Barnes Hall, Cornell University on 7 November at 8pm as part of the 2nd Art, Science, & the Thirsty World conference.

The orchestral premiere will be performed by Oxford Sinfonia in St Mary the Virgin, University of Oxford on 24th January, 8pm, with Cayenna Ponchione conducting.

WCWW wins top prize from TORCH for Interdisciplinary Symposium

The Oxford Research Center in the Humanities awarded three prizes for work in visual, literary and musical arts as part of their 'Mind the Environmental Conference' in October.

Water-culture: women's work(s) won the top prize in the music category

November 2013, TORCH

Cayenna writes...
My artistic work lies in engineering collaborations which fuse artistic expression with environmental and humanitarian concerns; it manifests in live performances where communication and transformation occur in face-to-face interactions. Art is fundamentally a collaborative and distributed process where meaning arises as individuals engage with each other and their physical environments through symbolic exchange. Water-culture: women's work(s) [symposium] was a performance of the human experience of water-scarcity through researcher narratives and collaborative musical compositions.

WCWW Interdisciplinary Symposium

Bringing together musicians, composers and academics, this symposium presents a fusion of art, activism and research on global water scarcity issues, highlighting women's contributions.

Saturday 25 May 2013, 4pm
TS Eliot Lecture Theatre
Merton College, University of Oxford

Professor Gail Holst-Warhaft visits Oxford to talk about her recent work addressing water scarcity issues in the Mediterranean. Chamber arrangements of her poems as set by Kate Whitley, William Marshal and Rachel Lockwood will be performed by soprano, Susanna Fairbairn, Croation marimbist Ivana Bilic and marimbist Cayenna Ponchione, and pianist Graeme Bailey.

Jessica Thorn, a doctoral student in zoology at the University of Oxford will present on her recent work in Ghana which seeks to find ecological solutions to water scarcity issues. Composer John Duggan has been commissioned to write a new piece for voice and electronics utilizing field recordings collected by Jessica.

Alexandra Girard will present on her research 'women, water and work in rural India'

Ivana Bilic performs Jacob Druckman's Reflections on the Nature of Water and Igor Lesnik's new composition Water Sculpture

Two Electroacoustic 'Waterscapes' will bookend the event - one of a water scarce environment (Ghana), created by electroacoustic studio artist, Daniel Hulme and one of a water rich environment (Oxford) by composer Isabel Stoppani de Berrie.

Past Events


Oxford University String Ensemble Performance
Queen's College Chapel
Oxford, England
Monday, 26 November 2012
8:00 p.m.
Tickets available at the door £8 Adults, £4 Students/concessions

This concert featured the premiere performance of composer William Marshall's setting of Lovers' Confessions by Gail Holst-Warhaft, completing the WCWW suite. The three pieces were performed for the first time together by soprano, Susanna Fairbairn.


GrassRoots Festival Chamber Orchestra Performance
GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance
Trumansburg, New York
Sunday, July 22nd, 2012
9:00 a.m.
Grandstand Stage
For tickets, visit: http://www.grassrootsfest.org/festival/

On July 22nd, mezzo-soprano Ivy Walz and the GrassRoots Festival Chamber Orchestra gave the premieres of compositions by U.K. based composers Kate Whitley (BBC Young Composer of the Year 2007) and Rachel Lockwood written for string orchestra and voice, and setting the poetry of Tompkins County Poet Laureate, Cornell professor, and water awareness activist, Gail Holst-Warhaft. Judy Hyman, film composer and performer, has arranged Jeb Puryear's Mystic Water for full orchestra. Composer Rachel Lockwood was awarded A British Council Sound and Music travel grant to be present at the premiere in Trumansburg, New York.

Composer Solfa Carlile

Find out more about the artists and speakers!

GrassRoots Festival Chamber Orchestra

Oxford University String Ensemble

Gail Holst-Warhaft
Watch Gail's presentation about her new book:
Losing Paradise: The Water Crisis in the Mediterranean

Alexandra Girard

Jessica Thorn

Isabel Stoppani de Berrie

Daniel Hulme

Ivana Bilic

Graeme Bailey

John Duggan

Rachel Lockwood

Kate Whitely

Judy Hyman