’Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre is such an inspirational figure — shedding light on the motives, traumas, emotions, and dilemmas present in women’s lives through the centuries’

As we prepare for Out Of Her Mouth, which tours the UK this summer, harpsichordist Katarzyna Kowalik talks about how she became a harpsichord player, and the astonishing music of Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre.

What inspired you to become a musician, and what led you to play the harpsichord?

Music has been always important part of my life (my grandmother was a pianist and my first teacher). I have always loved learning new pieces and the self-development aspect of musical education. The harpsichord appeared in my life during my piano Masters in Warsaw, while I working on the Brahms’ monumental Variations, and Fugue on a Theme by Handel. I was curious about the original Handel piece the variations were based on, and then I wanted to try it on the harpsichord. So it’s curiosity which led me to studying the harpsichord and which opened the door to historical performance.

You responded to our Open Call for this production, what was it about Out Of Her Mouth that appealed to you?

The production sounded very appealing to me as I love the music of Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre! She was such an inspirational figure — a rare example of a female composer in the XVIIIth century. I find it very telling that she chose so many biblical stories of different women as a narrative for her cantatas — shedding light on the motives, traumas, emotions, and dilemmas present in women’s lives over and over again through the centuries.

What are you looking forward to with the upcoming tour?

I’m very excited about the staging aspect and interested to see how all three stories become intertwined on stage according to the artistic vision of our director, Mathilde Lopez.

Another exciting factor is that we are going to be performing those cantatas (originally written in French) in a new, bold English translation by Toria Banks, which will make them more accessible. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this impacts the audience’s reception, and how these stories resonate with contemporary women in particular.

How will this project help you in your professional development? 

It was such a privilege to have a mentoring session with John Butt, which gave me an opportunity to discuss some aspects of this project and brainstorm musical ideas. It was so special to learn from John about the intricacies of the French style, the role of the harpsichordist, nature of work with singers and many more, including Bach. It was such an inspiring and eye opening experience. 

Join Dunedin Consort for Out Of Her Mouth this June.

Universal Hall, Findhorn — Friday 23 June, 8pm
Platform, Midland Street, Glasgow — Saturday 24 June, 8pm
Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh — Sunday 25 June, 8pm
Village Underground, Spitalfields, London — Sunday 9 July, 6.30pm
National Centre for Early Music, York — Wednesday 12 July, 7pm