Claire McCue – I Regret Your Sex

In 2018 we commissioned Claire McCue to write a new 10 to 15min piece for Juice Vocal Ensemble. She responded to the very open commission with I Regret Your Sex. This is Claire’s programme note:

Earlier this year, I heard an interview on the radio during which the memorable phrase “I Regret Your Sex” was revealed as having been in a letter to a, highly qualified, woman applying for a professional position with a company in Edinburgh, in 1949. Even for those days, I was quite shocked by the abruptness of this, especially when it transpired that this had in fact been the first sentence of the letter, and related to the employer in question discovering that in fact the applicant was a woman and not a male as had been previously thought.

Around the same time, I happened to see the news story revealing the worst explanations for not appointing women to FTSE executive boards. While most of these seem pretty archaic, shocking & insulting, it could perhaps be questioned whether there are also a few elements of truth in a couple of them, though these could easily be a personality rather than gender issue too.

When presented with a female vocal trio to compose for, the phrase “I regret your sex” popped into my head again and I was reminded of coming across these things,  which then made me contemplate combining them in some way. Looking into a few more reports etc brought out some interesting facts, such as that the number of female Chief Execs in the FTSE 100 are still outnumbered by those named David!

It is not a feminist piece, (whatever people make take that to be these days – perhaps some will still think it is… ) Of course it can relate to other fields, and my own questions/experiences at times which I doubt male counterparts would experience. However, for me it is more the playful telling of a story and current affairs, in a particular setting, which shows some of the issues for females are still very much in contention today, but also questions a few of the other issues arising around this for all genders, which I anticipate might make people think / generate some interesting discussion!

With grateful thanks to the family who kindly allowed me to see a copy of the original letter sent to their mother (they wished for her identity to remain anonymous).

The piece was commissioned by The Night With…, for Vocal trio Juice, and is dedicated to one of my best friends, Manila McLean – who has what it takes, even if it could be “extremely complex” for a woman!

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