A Celebration of Women in History

A tribute to authors and social campaigners Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby

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This project is a tribute to authors and social campaigners Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby. It is a series of original works for cello, piano, and narrator written by Eric Starr. The first piece in this collection debuted at Carnegie Hall in 2018. Since then, the project’s scope has greatly expanded. As part of the presentation, a reading of select poems by these authors accompanies each of the seven movements of music.


The full project was premiered in the American Midwest in October 2021 and featured Michelle Alvarado (piano), Hannah Holman (cello), and Jennifer Larson (narrator). Running time on this concert presentation is 60-65 minutes.

I am currently working on a recording of this project featuring Hannah Holman (cello), Michelle Alvarado (piano), and Sonya Cassidy (narrator). 


Contemporary Classical

Chamber Music


Sandhills Productions

+1 917.861.6324


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"Perhaps"Vera Brittain
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"Perhaps" by Vera Brittain, read by Sonya Cassidy
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Who Were Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby?

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Vera Brittain (1893-1970) and Winifred Holtby (1898-1935) were groundbreaking British authors and social reformers. Brittain, a nurse during WWI, was the only woman to chronicle the Great War in depth. Together, Brittain and Holtby  campaigned for peace, women's rights, and more. Brittain summed up their work in three words: "peace, justice, compassion."

For most of the interwar era, they were strong believers in the internationalism promised by the League of Nations. Their collective message is a cautionary tale, informed by a keen understanding of the horrors of war, and an unwavering desire to promote gender and racial equality.

Working near the front lines, Brittain witnessed the devastation of war while caring for both British and German soldiers. Among others, she lost her only brother and a fiancé to the war. Later, her grief-stricken father committed suicide. Brittain wrote and lectured with searing passion about her powerful experiences, and is best known for her memoir Testament of Youth (1933).


In addition to her ambitions as a novelist, Holtby also focused directly on women's rights, as well as racial justice in South Africa. Among other achievements, she established the Society of Friends of Africa (1934), which promoted the unionization of Black workers. In 1940, the Winifred Holtby Memorial Library was built in Johannesburg in her honor. The first library of its kind in South Africa, it was ‘equipped solely for the use of non-Europeans...and intended to serve native women as well as men.’

Holtby died at age 37 from renal failure, but not before completing her landmark feminist novel, South Riding (1936).

Excerpts from Edward Brittain's "L'Envoi" are included by permission of Mark Bostridge and T.J. Brittain-Catlin, Literary Executors for the Estate of Vera Brittain 1970.