Clarissa Cashmore and David Day, HBLL Music Special Collections
My ORCA project was a study of the French virtuoso harpist, composer, and pedagogue Henriette Renié. Renié’s archive collection is housed at BYU. There are over 9,000 items in her collection, including but not limited to spiritual diaries, letters from family and colleagues, concert programs, and newspaper clippings. My project was reading through and transcribing portions of hundreds of original letters and spiritual diary entries, translating what I chose to include in my finished product, and writing a roughly 10,000-word article to be submitted for publication.
As part of my project, I read every available book and thesis written about Renié and her works. As I searched through boxes of Renié’s archival collections I found new perspectives and insights that were not found in any published work about her life. I went in with an open mind and found that what I wanted to write about was shaped by the themes I found through her writings and the letters from other musicians. I transcribed and translated documents ranging from the 1890s to the 1950s. I searched French archival material online and looked at every single newspaper article that mentioned Renié. To understand the discrimination Renié faced as a devout Catholic woman during Third Republic France, I researched music and gender, the Paris Conservatoire, and the anti-clerical political climate of Third Republic France. I also obtained Renié’s Legion of Honor file from the Legion of Honor Museum in France, and contacted the French Ministry of Interior for Renié’s file. I worked with both my mentor and Dr. Cynthia Hallen, a linguistics professor, to write a high-quality article that is both substantive and interesting to a broad audience.
The final result of my product is an article to be published. This article speaks of Renié’s legacy as a musician, her charity work, and her faith. It brings to light her personal reflections during difficult times and uses primary sources to highlight her relationships with mentors and other composers. The article puts her in the context of her time to understand the role that discrimination and injustice played in her life, as well as how she overcame such barriers.
While I believe this has been a successful and enlightening process, there is still much work to be done. There are still thousands of documents in the Renié archives whose contents could be made available to a wider audience through transcription and translation. Henriette Renié is well
known to harpists, but largely unknown outside of that sphere. For this reason, I am submitting my publication to musicology journals to reach a new audience.
This experience has taught me that there is a wealth of information available in BYU Special Collections. There are so many options for ORCA projects on campus, but not everyone is aware of what is available to them. There is a need for musicians everywhere to research what resources are available to them and find a project that uses their unique set of abilities. My bilingualism and knowledge as a harpist were essential for this project. Many at BYU have a working knowledge of a second language and could bring to light material from the archives for others to enjoy.