President’s Message December 2020

Dear Ladies,

As we approach one of the highlights of the year, Christmas, we are all transcribing the new instructions on how we will be allowed to get together and celebrate with close family and friends. My family, scattered across the world, have become familiar with Zoom lunches, usually on a Sunday but not always at lunchtime due to time differences. We share the menu and recipes in advance and therefore we have, more or less, the same meal. Keeping in touch in this way has allowed a certain relaxation over planning our Christmas celebrations.  We are used to meeting online and in no other way.  And we have all agreed that the main issue this year, i.e. the most serious consideration, is to stay safe so as to protect each other.  

One of the highlights of our November events was MOZART 250 – “The journey of a lifetime”, a talk, with musical illustration, by Ian Page, renowned conductor and artistic director of The Mozartists. In 2015 The Mozartists launched MOZART 250, a ground-breaking 27-year project exploring the chronological trajectory of Mozart’s life, works and influences. Described by The Observer as “among the most audacious classical music scheduling ever”, this flagship project presents 250th anniversary performances of most of Mozart’s important works, placing them in context alongside other significant works by Mozart’s contemporaries”. 

In his talk Ian Page described the concept, inception, philosophies and discoveries inherent in this ambitious 27-year exploration of the life, music and influences of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Ian is a fund of information on the life and the music of Mozart. He is joy to listen to with his relaxed style and entertaining anecdotes. We learnt that Mozart was the 7th child born to his family, and only one other child survived, his beloved sister called ‘Nanneril’ 5yrs his senior. She was a gifted harpsichord player and had a beautiful voice. Mozart was 8yrs old when he and his sister were accompanied by their father.  They lived in Chelsea at 180 Ebury Street, then considered to be part of a village, which was countryside at that time. In an amusing anecdote Ian described how 8yr old would have music lessons from his father and as soon as done would run off to play on the rocking horse. Enjoy watching this illustrated talk with music:

Each month due to the absence of live events I have written about interesting people who have had an important impact on our lives. Lockdown has allowed me the luxury of researching for the ‘intrepid’ among them and on this occasion I have kept the full name a secret until the end. In celebration of Thanksgiving I have chosen an American lady and I start with her grandparents.

Kit, as her grandmother was called by family members was born in New York 1878. Kit had a grim start. Her father, a businessman, committed suicide in 1892 and within two years her mother died of cancer. She was sent to live with relatives. She attended university and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and history in 1899 and a master’s degree in chemistry and physics in 1900. She attended many lectures on women’s rights and was especially interested in the woman suffrage movement where she held a prominent position. She became a teacher in Baltimore where she met Dr. TNH. They married in 1904. They had six children. The second of whom, was to become famous. Lets call her Katey.

Katey was born in 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut to this suffragist and a doctor who both always encouraged her to speak her mind.  She was largely schooled at home but did attend Bryn Mawr College Pennsylvania, where she decided to study drama, appearing in many of their productions.

After graduating, she began getting small roles in plays on Broadway and elsewhere. She always attracted attention. She made five films between 1932 and 1934 and won her first Academy Award. Her fourth, Little Women (1933) was the most successful picture of its day. However she had a rocky time for being ‘haughty’ for wearing trousers and no make up and received bad press leading to her low audiences and many box office failures. Then she made “The Philadelphia Story” (1938), and was rewarded with a smash hit. She quickly bought the film rights, and negotiated her way back to Hollywood on her own terms, including her choice of director and co-stars where she excelled with twelve Oscar nominations. If you haven’t already guessed her name, the big give away is her longstanding love affair with Spencer Tracy. She was Katharine Hepburn, the greatest female star of Classic Hollywood Cinema. She became known throughout the world as a formidable onscreen presence with a fierce intelligence unique among actresses of her stature. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked her the top American screen legend of all time. She died age 96.

It is my great pleasure to pass on the news that Welcome to London International Women’s Club (WCI)  has been recognised as NGO of the United Nations. This is a huge honour and in keeping with the wonderful work they do world wide. WCI is committed to share friendship, understanding, and education and to promote international humanitarian causes. Congratulations to President Kim Riedel and Ambassador at Large Dee Phillips Medawar and all of you at WCI working so hard to make the world a better place for women. FIWAL is proud to have WCI as a member and salute them for their great achievement.

Congratulations also goes to The American Women’s Club London whose President, Whitney Edwards  was interviewed on BBC World News on how they had celebrated Thanksgiving this year and how Lockdown has impacted their activities. Whitney gave a ‘spirited’  reply on how their social gathering at events have taken place on Zoom with Happy Hour, a Cocktail Competition, and a Pub Quiz coming soon. I soon realised that there’s an awful lot of drinking going on here and I’m thinking of applying for American Citizenship asap to secure membership! Their flagship fundraising event 2020 was held online and with typical American generosity they managed to raise £7,000 for their soup kitchen which is organised through the American International Church (AIC). Apart from offering a resource for the homeless, the elderly, the lonely and the poor, I was touched to hear from our Hon. Treasurer Sylvia Wallach, who hails from the USA, that AIC also provide further support, including daily hot meals for vulnerable children whose mother is in hospital. A poignant message at this time of year. Brilliant work and well done Whitney. Watch: 

A Christmas treat is on the way from The Ukrainian Cultural Association (UCA-UK)  our newest member of FIWAL. President Alla Sirenko will present A Charity Gala Christmas Concert. The choice of Christmas music is exciting with a mix of popular carols and classical music, a violinist and a vocal Ukrainian quartet. Please see our Events page and make your booking as soon as possible as this event will be very popular.  

I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the events on offer this month on the lead up to Christmas. 

It has been a very tough year for many and I do hope that by spring 2021 we will have a successful vaccine and more freedom to meet again to share ‘real’ time with our friends, and family. 

I thank all my colleagues for their intrepid work and commitment and support over the last year. 

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas.

Warm regards,

Siobhan Hamilton-Phillips

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