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CALLED TO BE HAPPY is a cantata in honour of Mary Ward, a seventeenth century English woman and the foundress of the first non-enclosed religious order for women. 

The cantata draws parallels between the life experiences of Mary Ward and those of young women today. Drawing extensively on Mary’s own words, it uses her amazing example as a woman of courage, vision and steadfast determination, who retained her calm, unshakeable faith in God despite the dangers and problems of her world. 

As a woman in a man’s world, she encountered relentless opposition to her work but she remained convinced that there is no such difference between men and women that women may not do great things. The words she used four hundred years ago to encourage her young followers are used in a new light to offer encouragement and optimism to contemporary young women as, filled with expectation, they start on their life’s journey. 

Her words offer both inspiration and consolation. Despite the numerous problems of the modern world, her serene certainty serves as a beacon of hope, as she urges them to trust in God, use their talents for good in the world and always be happy.

Commissioned by the Maria Ward Schule, Mainz, Germany in celebration of its 300th Anniversary, the cantata is scored for SSA choir, narrator, soloists and orchestra. The voice of Mary Ward is heard both in spoken narrative links and in song. 


Mary Ward 1585 - 1645

Mary Ward needed the women of her congregation to be free from the restrictions of the cloistered life so they could go wherever the need was greatest. In her lifetime the greatest need she saw was the education of women, but she also had a much wider vision. Her hope was that those who came after her would be free to respond to the urgent needs of the world, wherever they may arise. 

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This is reflected in the continuing work of the order she founded. Although still involved in education, in response to to a rapidly changing world the focus is now much wider, including work with aids sufferers, victims of trafficking, asylum seekers, the elderly, the homeless and the dying. 

Today the order founded by Mary Ward has two branches, the Congregation of Jesus (CJ) and the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM), often referred to as the Loreto Sisters. Both branches are still a great force throughout the world with communities on every continent in countries as diverse as Australia, India, Ireland, Germany, Russia, Palestine, Zimbabwe, Peru, Albania and Nepal. Both continue to have a presence in England, where Mary was born and where she died. 

MARY WARD First Sister of Feminism by Sydney Thorne

Totally coincidentally, whilst we were busy writing Called To Be Happy, Sydney Thorne was busy writing his book Mary Ward - First Sister of Feminism. Only after the completion of our cantata did we become aware of the existence of this excellent new book which we have absolutely no hesitation in recommending. 

Synopsis of Sydney Thorne's book :

Almost exactly 400 years ago, an English woman completed an astonishing walk to Rome. An English Catholic, Mary Ward had already defied the authorities in England. In 1621 she walked across Europe to ask the Pope to allow her to set up schools for girls. 'There is no such difference between men and women that women may not do great things,' she said. But Mary's vision of equality between men and women angered the Catholic Church and the Pope threw her into prison.


This is a story just waiting to be told! The story shines a refreshingly new light on the popular Tudor/Stuart era. Mary's uncles are the Gunpowder Plotters. Her sponsors are Archdukes, Prince-Archbishops and the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. In Rome she spars with Pope Urban VIII and the Roman Inquisition, just as they are also dealing with Galileo. 

As the story sweeps from Yorkshire to Rome, from Vienna and Munich to Prague and back to England, we see Mary dodging pirates in the Channel, witch hunts in Germany and the plague in Italy. We see travellers crossing the Alps, and prisoners writing letters in invisible lemon juice to smuggle them past their gaolers. The settings range from the resplendent courts in Brussels and Munich to the siege of York in the English Civil War. The reader is immersed in seventeenth-century life.

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