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  • Juliana Hall Song Cycle to be premiered by renowned mezzo Stephanie Blythe

    Post by David Sims

    Renowned mezzo soprano Stephanie Blythe will premiere a new song cycle by composer Juliana Hall on Saturday, January 19, 2019 at the Sparks & Wiry Cries' first songSLAM Festival at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York City.  Complete information about the songSLAM Festival - including links to purchase tickets - is available here.

    The songSLAM Festival is a four-day celebration of new art song, with a "slam" evening (similar to a poetry slam) in which a program of composer-performer teams present new songs, with a winning song declared by audience appreciation, on Thursday, January 17th.  Recitals of new and newly-commissioned works will be presented on Friday, January 18th (celebrating the creations of librettist Mark Campbell with various composers) and on Sunday, January 20th (new songs focusing on the topic #MeToo: Pathways to Healing).

    The Festival's Saturday, January 19th evening event will be a special recital called Expressions of Love: Stephanie Blythe and friends, and will include a new song cycle by composer Scott Gendel and a piece by composer-pianist Alan Louis Smith (performed by soprano Maggie Finnegan and pianist Daniel Overly), with parlour songs rounding out the recital (performed by Ms. Blythe and pianist Alan Louis Smith).

    The other work on the January 19th program is Juliana Hall's first contralto song cycle, Of That So Sweet Imprisonment, a work of seven songs on love poems by James Joyce. Composed by Hall for Ms. Blythe, this work is a celebration of love, about which Juliana Hall writes:

    When I first “met” Stephanie Blythe online a few years ago, I was not just thrilled to be “friends” with this beautiful singer for whom I have so much admiration, I was also surprised that she knew who I was, liked my songs, and wanted me to be a guest at her Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar... a dream that came true last May. So in 2017 I wrote to Stephanie, “I'm going to be sixty soon, and I'd really like a special present for this milestone. Could I write you a song cycle?” Well, again to my surprise, she answered within a split second with a definitive “yes,” adding, “All I ask is that you consider writing the piece for the contralto voice. It is where I live so happily now, and there is just not enough out there for this particular voice type.” In short order I settled on a set of seven poems by James Joyce, love poems that are subtle, rich, and deep. There is a gentle narrative from the first to the last poem, following love (Orpheus perhaps) to the speaker’s desire to find her love, a declaration of wanting to be “imprisoned” by this love, a longing to be in a special place of love, a movement away from being a girl towards becoming a woman, a scene of harp music celebrating love (heaven perhaps), and finally a simple scene of lovers being together forever in a place special to them - all of which promised to elucidate Joyce’s beautiful vision of human love through the exquisite prism of the textures and colors of the contralto voice. This new work, Of That So Sweet Imprisonment, does not excite as a huge orchestral work might, nor does it amuse as a comedic song would, or impress through drama as a romantic opera might. What I hope it succeeds in doing, though, is to allow the intimacy of art song to touch upon perhaps our most profound human experience - that of love - in a way that only art song can: to reach that small, quiet inner voice of truth we come to know when we feel unconditionally loved by another and when we find ourselves able to love another without limit. While Stephanie Blythe certainly has the most amazing ability to produce the excitement, comedy, or drama of other types of musical works, I have heard her sing the most penetrating and powerful pianissimo notes I've probably heard any singer ever produce, and it is that ability to share the intimate, the small, and the personal that makes Stephanie the perfect singer to bring these songs into the world with clarity, purity, and beauty. It is my wish that Of That So Sweet Imprisonment might bring a breath of peace and inner warmth into each listener’s life, and help them to once again feel the pulsating life that love makes possible for each of us.

    Juliana Hall recently appeared as the 2018 Guest Composer at Blythe's Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar. Blythe has complimented Hall's work generously, stating:

    “There is a beautiful alchemy that occurs when composer Juliana Hall meets a poem. Revealing each morsel of poetry through her brilliant tonal, textural, and rhythmic language, her work is immediately recognizable and wonderfully familiar. Singers and audiences alike take delight in her songs. Over the years, many of my young colleagues have brought her work for me to coach in my own song program, Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, but equally, I have heard her songs in virtually every university in which I have taught master classes over the last decade. Ms. Hall’s songs have a very important endorsement - singers want to sing them. Indeed, they love to sing them, and it is readily understood why. Her choice of text is varied, impressive and speaks to a wide cultural audience. The topics are relevant to today’s artists, and therefore, extraordinarily desirable. It is also incredibly evident that she understands the singing voice and the great art of collaboration with the pianist - there is a level of musical discourse here that demands expertise, and rewards the work with a generous and complete technical, interpretive and emotional experience. It is positively magical.”

  • Stephanie Blythe on Art Song

    Our friends at Sparks & Wiry Cries did this excellent interview with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe ahead of their songSLAM festival. The festival will feature world premieres by Juliana Hall and Scott Gendel. Watch to find out what this great artist has to say about connecting with an audience, the importance of modern composers, and being on the brink of an art song renaissance.

  • Juliana Hall's Art Songs March Across America for Women's Rights

    Guest post by David Sims

    Part I

    Every now and then a project comes along that is so unique and so meaningful that a composer cannot refuse the opportunity. So says composer Juliana Hall, whose new mezzo-soprano song cycle Through the Guarded Gate is the result of such a project. Through the Guarded Gate was commissioned by the Seattle Art Song Society (SASS) for performance on its 2018-2019 season, which is devoted to issues of social justice.

    SASS General and Artistic Director Brian C. Armbrust writes:

    Our 18-19 season is called "One Voice." This season means so much to so many of us. The idea started when I looked around at all my fellow artists and saw this heavy weight that we are carrying during a dark time. We have a unique and powerful method of delivery of a much needed message in a time when the world seems turned on its head. I'm inspired by my queer community to make our voices heard; I weep at death from wars and cries for peace in a time when we seem to constantly be fighting with one another, I pray for it all to end; I watch with disgust and great sorrow as racist voices are given time on the news, as our black brothers and sisters are threatened daily by injustice and loss; I glow with a pride as the womxn of this nation stand up and say "NO!" to inequality, and can say #MeToo and be heard; I get up every single day and walk into an office where we serve community members that are looked down upon for mental illness and help them fight to reach recovery despite what others say. To each of you, we dedicate this season. We will lift your voices and they will be heard in glorious song."

    Reflecting Armbrust's vision, the 18-19 SASS concerts include songs fitting the themes of "Queer Voices" in October, "Voices of War & Peace" in November, "Black Voices" in February, "Womxn's Voices" in March, and "Voices of Mental Health" in May. Hall's Through the Guarded Gate is being presented on Friday, March 8, 2019 as part of the "Womxn's Voices" concert. Mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski will sing the world premiere of the new cycle with Hall herself at the piano.

    One Voice: 18-19 season, Seattle Art Song Society One Voice: 18-19 season, Seattle Art Song Society

    When commissioning Hall, however, SASS's Armbrust wasn't content to just have the premiere in Seattle. It occurred to him that, in this time of #MeToo and women's rights being front and center in culture, Hall's song cycle--with its powerful settings of American poet Margaret Widdemer's social justice texts--had the possibility to bring an important message to people beyond Seattle. His idea developed into a "women's march" across the country...a project to have Hall's new songs performed in all 50 states after the premiere, bringing Hall's settings and Widdemer's poems to all of the US! To that end, Armbrust has enlisted more than 170 mezzo-sopranos from all 50 states (and many foreign countries as well), each of whom will get an early look at the score with the option to participate in the project. Singers will participate in "Beyond the Guarded Gate,"(the name selected by vote from participants after being suggested by mezzo GeDeane Graham), by agreeing to perform the song cycle on a recital between March 2019 and December 2019 following the official SASS world premiere. E. C. Schirmer is providing each singer and pianist taking part in "Beyond the Guarded Gate" with a complimentary digital copy of the work for use in the performance.

    Composer Juliana Hall describes the ideas expressed by poet Margaret Widdemer in the songs of Through the Guarded Gate and her approach to those ideas as follows:

    “The Net”
    Ill treatment of our children (most often girls) here within our own country used for whatever nefarious purposes adults may have for them, as we turn our heads away from the injustices that hurt them (especially when they are not "ours" personally)...children as expendable if they are "second class" in gender.

    “A Mother To The War-Makers”
    Ill treatment of our children (most often boys) when they are sent abroad, as the leaders of our nation use them under the guise of national defense (as a pretense for masculine leaders to become wealthy, acquire power, and exert national domination over other nations)...children as expendable if they are "second class" in societal status, offspring of the less affluent, less educated, less "acceptable" ethnic or racial groups.

    “The Old Suffragist”
    The "early" woman standing up for equal personhood, equal rights, but at the expense of a personal life rich with love and attachment (woman no longer "accepting" a second-class role in a world hitherto ruled by those men not acknowledging the natural equality of human beings)...women placing themselves in danger and depriving themselves of life's easier and better things as a way to make a path to those better things for others who will follow.

    “The Modern Woman To Her Lover”
    The "modern" woman taking on the responsibility of equal personhood, equal rights, without permission of the man but benefiting both genders (women no longer "accepting" a second-class love)...women as equals, in a world in which man may feel "belittled" by having to share with his mate...hence the question at the end: "Will you love me still?" At once both fearful and hopeful.

    “The Women's Litany”
    The community of women and like-minded men, demanding equal rights and responsibilities for both genders for the betterment of mankind (women and men both raising their voices against the holders of society's power and claiming their right to be admitted "through the guarded gate" that stops women from exerting their abilities and their insights and their communal "will" towards fixing the problems described in the first four poems)...adults identifying the path through which they must travel to effect permanent change, and a rallying cry in favor of a more equal representation and a more equal responsibility for fixing the injustices and the fears of the first poems, as well as a hope for a better future made possible by the inclusion of women as equals.

    In a later update to this story, we will begin featuring information about post-premiere concerts and the performers who will bring these songs to life across America as part of the "Beyond the Guarded Gate" project, but for now we are very excited for Juliana Hall and the possibility of as many as 200 additional performances of her new cycle Through the Guarded Gate as part of this unique initiative.

    Through the Guarded Gate will become generally available for sale next March. Until then, check out Seattle Art Song Society's concert season and, if you are in the area, we hope you will be able to attend the world premiere of  the cycle as part of their “Womxn’s Voices” recital on Friday, March 8, 2019.

    You might also find the poems of Margaret Widdemer interesting, which we've included below. These are the five poems set to music by Juliana Hall in Through the Guarded Gate.

    THE NET

    The strangers’ children laugh along the street:
    They know not, or forget the sweeping of the Net
    Swift to ensnare such little careless feet.
    And we—we smile and watch them pass along,
    And those who walk beside, soft-smiling, cruel-eyed—
    We guard our own—not ours to right the wrong!
    We do not care—we shall not heed or mark,
    Till we shall hear one day, too late to strive or pray,
    Our daughters’ voices crying from the dark!

    A MOTHER TO THE WAR-MAKERS

    This is my son that you have taken,
    Guard lest your gold-vault walls be shaken,
    Never again to speak or waken.
    This, that I gave my life to make,
    This you have bidden the vultures break—
    Dead for your selfish quarrel’s sake!
    This that I built of all my years,
    Made with my strength and love and tears,
    Dead for pride of your shining spears!
    Just for your playthings bought and sold
    You have crushed to a heap of mold
    Youth and life worth a whole world’s gold—
    This was my son that you have taken,
    Guard lest your gold-vault walls be shaken—
    This—that shall never speak or waken!

    THE OLD SUFFRAGIST

    She could have loved—her woman-passions beat
    Deeper than theirs, or else she had not known
    How to have dropped her heart beneath their feet
    A living stepping-stone:
    The little hands—did they not clutch her heart?
    The guarding arms—was she not very tired?
    Was it an easy thing to walk apart,
    Unresting, undesired?
    She gave away her crown of woman-praise,
    Her gentleness and silent girlhood grace,
    To be a merriment for idle days,
    Scorn for the market-place:
    She strove for an unvisioned, far-off good,
    For one far hope she knew she should not see:
    These—not her daughters—crowned with motherhood
    And love and beauty—free.

    THE MODERN WOMAN TO HER LOVER

    I shall not lie to you any more,
    Flatter or fawn to attain my end—
    I am what never has been before,
    Woman—and Friend.
    I shall be strong as a man is strong,
    I shall be fair as a man is fair,
    Hand in locked hand we shall pass along
    To a purer air:
    I shall not drag at your bridle-rein,
    Knee pressed to knee shall we ride the hill;
    I shall not lie to you ever again—
    Will you love me still?

    THE WOMEN’S LITANY

    Let us in through the guarded gate,
    Let us in for our pain’s sake!
    Lips set smiling and face made fair
    Still for you through the pain we bare,
    We have hid till our hearts were sore
    Blacker things than you ever bore:
    Let us in through the guarded gate,
    Let us in for our pain’s sake!
    Let us in through the guarded gate,
    Let us in for our strength’s sake!
    Light held high in a strife ne’er through
    We have fought for our sons and you,
    We have conquered a million years’
    Pain and evil and doubt and tears—
    Let us in through the guarded gate,
    Let us in for our strength’s sake!
    Let us in through the guarded gate,
    Let us in for your own sake!
    We have held you within our hand,
    Marred or made as we broke or planned,
    We have given you life or killed
    King or brute as we taught or willed—
    Let us in through the guarded gate,
    Let us in for your own sake!
    Let us in through the guarded gate,
    Let us in for the world’s sake!
    We are blind who must guide your eyes,
    We are weak who must help you rise,
    All untaught who must teach and mold
    Souls of men till the world is old—
    Let us in through the guarded gate,
    Let us in for the world’s sake!

    Note:
    Margaret Widdemer lived from 1884 to 1978. Although virtually unknown today, she shared the 1919 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry with the famous and very well-known poet Carl Sandburg.

    Juliana Hall and Brian Armbrust are happy to be able to share Widdemer's wonderful work with audiences of today, bringing back a major poetical talent who up to now has more or less disappeared in the shadow of her Pulitzer co-winner. Hall and Armbrust hope these songs will not only enliven today's conversations about the rights of women and children, but they also hope these performances will finally help Widdemer to receive the public acknowledgment and acclaim for her work they feel she deserves.

    The poems of Margaret Widdemer reprinted here are in the public domain.

  • Everyone Sang: Extended Notes

    We're so thrilled to release David Conte's 2-disc vocal album Everyone Sang, on the Arsis label, a project which has been several years in the making. A modest booklet is included in the physical copy (and viewable here), and we wanted to share extended performer information, program notes, and texts, below.

    Everyone Sang Album Cover Everyone Sang: Vocal Music of David Conte


    Performers

    [In order of appearance on the album]

    Brian Thorsett, Tenor

    Hailed as “a strikingly gifted tenor, with a deeply moving, unblemished voice” (sfmusicjournal.com), tenor Brian Thorsett excels in opera, oratorio and recital across the world. He has been seen and heard across the US and Europe in over 100 roles and a fosters a stylistically diversified oratorio repertoire of over 250 works. An avid recitalist, Brian is closely associated with expanding the vocal-chamber genre and has premiered over 100 works, including those of David Conte, Ian Venables, Shinji Eshima, Stacy Garrop, Scott Gendel, Gordon Getty, Brian Holmes, Eric Choate, Joseph Stillwell, Gregory Zavracky, Michel Bosc and Peter Josheff. His recordings include Transpire (works of Daron Hagen), two song cycles on David Conte’s forthcoming vocal album, Remebering the Voice of Firestone and several as a member of the award winning Philharmonia Baroque Chorale. Brian has also been heard in commercials and movies as the voice for SoundIron’s library Voice of Rapture: Tenor. He is a graduate of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Glimmerglass Opera’s Young American Artist program, American Bach Soloists’ Academy, the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme and Music Academy of the West. Brian is currently Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera at Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts.

    John Churchwell, Piano

    One of the leading collaborative pianists of his generation, John Churchwell enjoys a career on the concert stage as well as in the nation’s leading opera houses.
    In 2011, Mr. Churchwell was named Head of Music for San Francisco Opera.  Prior to that Mr. Churchwell spent fourteen years as an assistant conductor for both the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera.  In that time he has assisted on more than 95 productions and has collaborated with some of the world’s leading conductors.  Since 2000, Mr. Churchwell has spent his summers teaching at the Music Academy of the West working with young singers and pianists.

    On the recital stage, Mr. Churchwell has partnered some of today’s most sought-after vocalists including Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Diana Damrau, Frederica von Stade, Dawn Upshaw, Carol Vaness, David Pittsinger, and Patricia Schuman.  Recent appearances include his debut with San Francisco Symphony and the Mondavi Center for Performing Arts with tenor Michael Fabiano as well as Prairie Home Companion at the Hollywood Bowl with soprano Ellie Dehn.

    A native of Knoxville, TN, Mr. Churchwell is a graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program.

    Kindra Scharich, Mezzo-Soprano

    Mezzo-Soprano Kindra Scharich has been praised by The  San Francisco Chronicle for her "exuberant vitality", "fearless technical precision", "deep- rooted pathos" and "irrepressible musical splendor." As a dedicated recitalist, she has given solo recitals the The American Composer's Forum, The Wagner Society, Lieder Alive and Sala Cecilia Meireles. In May 2018 she and the Alexander String Quartet will record new arrangements of the great orchestral Lieder of Mahler (Rückert, Kindertotenlieder, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen) and in the summer of 2018, Ms. Scharich will return to Brazil, where she and pianist Ricardo Ballestero will concertize songs of Brazilian composer Alberto Nepomuceno and his contemporaries, which until now have remained in relative obscurity. In the world of opera, Ms. Scharich has sung over 25 roles in the lyric mezzo repertoire.  Enthusiastic about working with living composers, she has frequently collaborated with David Conte, Kurt Erickson and Janis Mattox.

    Kevin Korth, Piano

    Since graduating from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s renowned Chamber Music program in 2008, Kevin Korth has held a position at the Conservatory as both collaborative pianist and vocal coach.  Now an in-demand recitalist and coach in the Bay Area, he has collaborated with artists such as Robert Mann, Axel Strauss, Joel Krosnick, Frederica von Stade, Suzanne Mentzer, Nadine Sierra, Lise Lindstrom, Marnie Breckenridge, Kristen Clayton, and Brian Asawa.  This fall, Mr. Korth released his debut album Out of the Shadows, a CD of American art song with soprano Lisa Delan and cellist Matt Haimovitz for Pentatone Classics.  Recorded at Skywalker Ranch, the album features premieres by Jack Perla, Gordon Getty, and David Garner, in addition to previously unrecorded works by Norman Dello Joio, Paul Nardoff, and John Kander.

    Emil Miland, Cello

    Cellist Emil Miland is an acclaimed soloist, chamber and orchestral musician.  He made his solo debut at age 16 with the San Francisco Symphony, the same year he was selected to perform in the Rostropovich Master Classes at UC Berkeley.  A graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, he has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and Chamber Music America.  He has been a member of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra since 1988 and has collaborated with Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade, and the late Zheng Cao and Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson.  In 2010 Miland was invited by von Stade to perform with her at Carnegie Hall for her farewell recital.

    Many composers have written and dedicated works for him, including Ernst Bacon, David Carlson, David Conte, Shinji Eshima, John Grimmett, Lou Harrison, Jake Heggie, Richard Hervig, Andrew Imbrie, James Meredith and Dwight Okamura.  Recordings include David Carlson's Cello Concerto No. 1 with the Utah Symphony on New World Records and his Sonata for Cello and Piano with David Korevaar on MSR Records.  Miland is featured on David Conte's recently released CD of chamber music for Albany Records, on which he performs Conte's Concerto for Violoncello and Piano (written for Miland) with Miles Graber, as well as Conte's Piano Trio with violinist Kay Stern and pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi.  This recording has been met with critical acclaim, with reviewers praising Miland's “impeccable playing in terms of both technique and taste,” and lauding him for “extracting every ounce of passion from this passionate work.”  Miland is featured on many of Jake Heggie's recordings, beginning with the RCA Red Seal CD The Faces of Love:  The Songs of Jake Heggie and, most recently,  the 2013 release Here/After:  Songs of Lost Voices on Pentatone.

    Miland is presented in “The Heart of a Bell,” a film by Eric Theirmann and Aleksandra Wolska, performing Smirti, a haunting elegy for cello, Tibetan chimes and bells with the Sonos Handbell Ensemble.  Miland joined Sonos in December 2012 as a soloist on their nine city tour of Japan.  He also appears in the 2012 documentary “Lou Harrison:  A World of Music” by Eva Soltes.  In 2013 he made his Paris recital debut under the auspices of The European American Alliance.  Earlier this year, Miland toured to Hawaii and Australia performing chamber music and in July was presented in recital at The Bear Valley Music Festival.  He performs on Love Life, a recording featuring soprano Ann Moss and music by Jake Heggie, Liam Wade and Joni Mitchell.  He performs regularly as a member of The Lowell Trio with Janet Archibald, oboe, and Margaret Fondbertasse, piano.

    Matt Boehler, Bass

    Hailed by The New York Times as, "a bass with an attitude and the good to back it up," Matt Boehler is a singer equally at home on the international opera stage, as well as the concert platform. He has appeared as a principal artist with The Metropolitan Opera, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Theater St. Gallen, and Canadian Opera Company, as well as the New York Philharmonic, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and the New York Festival of Song, among many others. Frequently in demand as a collaborator and interpreter of new music, his discography features several world premieres. A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, he trained as an actor at Viterbo College, an opera singer at Juilliard, and as a composer at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he received his Master of Music studying with David Conte.

    A. J. Glueckert, Tenor

    Tenor A. J. Glueckert is a former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow who made his Company debut in various roles in the world premiere of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene in 2013. Other Company appearances include Mr. Knox in Dolores Claiborne, the Steersman in Der Fliegende Holländer, Ambrogio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and The Barber of Seville for Families, Flavio in Norma, Elder Gleaton in Susannah, and the Chief Magistrate in Un Ballo in Maschera. Glueckert is an alumnus of the 2012 Merola Opera Program, where he performed Mr. Owen in Argento’s Postcard from Morocco. Upcoming engagements include Bacchus (Ariadne auf Naxos) with Opera Theatre of St. Louis and roles with the Glyndebourne Festival and English National Opera. In the 2014–15 season he was seen as the Prince (Rusalka) with Frankfurt Opera. As a former resident artist with Minnesota Opera, Glueckert was heard as Arturo (Lucia di Lammermoor) and also created the role of the Crown Prince in the world premiere of Puts’s Silent Night with Opera Philadelphia. He is a graduate of the young artists programs at Santa Fe Opera and Utah Opera. A two-time winner of the regional Metropolitan Opera National Auditions, he holds a degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and appeared as the Drum Major (Wozzeck) with Opera Parallèle in San Francisco.

    James Moore, English Horn

    James A. Moore III was appointed Professor of Oboe and Chamber Music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2001. As a performer, he can be heard with the San Francisco Ballet and Opera orchestras, the California Symphony, and frequently with the San Francisco Symphony with whom he’s recorded and toured extensively. In addition to his work at the Conservatory, he is a coach for the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. He has also taught at the Oberlin Conservatory and the Aspen School of Music, where he was assistant to John de Lancie. Mr. Moore received B.A. and B.M. degrees from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music and an M.M. from the San Francisco Conservatory. He has performed for the national touring productions of Ragtime, Aida, James Joyce’s The Dead, Beauty and the Beast and Fiddler on the Roof as well as the world premiere of Wicked. His teachers were James Caldwell and John de Lancie.

    Scott Macomber, Trumpet

    Scott Macomber has served as Acting 2nd Trumpet of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra since August of 2016. Scott frequently appears with the San Francisco Symphony and Ballet Orchestras in addition to maintaining permanent positions in the Santa Rosa Symphony, California Symphony and Sacramento Philharmonic. A regular in the Skywalker Symphony, Scott has appeared in several commercial game recordings and soundtracks. Currently Scott is on faculty at California State University, East Bay. He holds degrees from Northwestern University and San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

    Marika Kuzma, Conductor

    Conductor Marika Kuzma is a versatile artist with a particular sensitivity to text in music. Her performances have been praised as "electric" (New York Times) and "beautifully nuanced" (SF Chronicle). As the director of choirs at the University of California, Berkeley for twenty-five years, she led ensembles in performances of works ranging from the Machaut Lais de la fonteinne to Monteverdi Vespers, Bach B minor mass, Brahms Requiem, Stravinsky Svadebka, Reich Tehillim, Feldman Rothko Chapel, to premieres of new works. Her recordings have been released on the Wild Boar, Koch International, and Naxos labels. She has also been a chorusmaster for luminary conductors including Gustavo Dudamel (Simon Bolivar Orchestra),  Nicholas McGegan (Philharmonia Baroque), Kent Nagano (Montreal Symphony), and Esa-Pekka Salonen (Philharmonia Orchestra). Of Ukrainian descent, she is an internationally recognized and published scholar-interpreter of Slavic choral music. Marika has also appeared as an actor in various roles on stages such as La Mama Theater in New York City and the Berkeley Repertory Theater.

    Marnie Breckenridge, Soprano

    From Bel Canto heroines to the comic and modern leading ladies, acclaimed soprano Marnie Breckenridge is enjoying a career throughout the US, Europe and South America in opera, concert and recording. She has sung with the San Francisco Opera, The English National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Ft. Worth Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Carnegie Hall, Ravinia Festival, Bard Music Festival, Arizona Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Prague State Opera, The Metropolitan Opera Guild, Teatro Sao Paulo, Opera Parallèlè, National Sawdust, San Francisco Symphony and many other US and European houses. As a favored interpreter of living composers’ music, her in-depth portrayals and excellent musicianship have established her as a go-to performer of critically acclaimed new works with her “lovely soprano” voice (The New York Times), “lyrical poignancy and dramatic power” (The Chicago Tribune). Recent favorite roles include, LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, Mother in Little’s, DOG DAYS, Gilda in RIGOLETTO, La Princesse in Glass’, ORPHÉE, Margarita Xirgu in Golijov’s, AINADAMAR, and Cunegonde in CANDIDE deemed “simply terrific” (Opera Magazine UK). She trained at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in voice (MM) and at The American Conservatory Theatre in drama.

    Nicole Paiement, Conductor

    Nicole Paiement has an international reputation as a conductor of contemporary music and opera. As Artistic Director of Opera Parallèle in San Francisco, Paiement has been responsible for helming the world or American premiere of many new works. Under her baton, the company has earned rave reviews for its innovative work in Contemporary Opera. Paiement is Principal Guest Conductor at The Dallas Opera where she also serves as mentor for The Dallas Opera’s new Institute for Women Conductors.  She is an active guest conductor and has recently appeared with the Glimmerglass Festival, Saratoga Opera, The Atlanta Opera, The Washington National Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Upcoming engagements include debuts at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera and Houston Grand Opera, and a return to Washington National Opera, Glimmerglass and  The Dallas Opera. Her numerous recordings include many world premieres, including David Conte’s “The Gift of the Magi” (Arsis Audio CD 141).  Last year, Paiement was awarded the American Composer’s Forum “Champion of the New Music” Award, for her outstanding contribution to New Music. She also holds the Jean and Josette Deleage Distinguished Chair in New Music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

    Ann Moss, Soprano

    Soprano Ann Moss is an acclaimed recording artist and champion of contemporary vocal music who collaborates with a dynamic array of living composers. Her high, silvery, flexible voice has been singled out by Opera News for “beautifully pure floated high notes” and by San Francisco Classical Voice for “powerful expression” and “luminous tone.” Her newest solo album Love Life (Angels Share Records, 2016), produced and recorded by multi-GRAMMY® award winner Leslie Ann Jones at Skywalker Sound, features music of Jake Heggie, Liam Wade, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Lennon/McCartney with pianists Heggie and Steven Bailey, cellist Emil Miland, violinist Isaac Allen, and GRAMMY® award winning ensemble Chanticleer. Moss has also recorded on PARMA, Naxos, Albany, Navona Records and Jaded Ibis Productions labels. In addition to working closely with well-known composers such as John Harbison, Kaija Saariaho and Aaron Jay Kernis, Ann seeks out and performs music by emerging voices at forums and festivals across the USA. As co-founder and Artistic Director of new-music repertory group CMASH, Moss has been personally responsible for the creation and premiere of over ninety art songs, works of vocal chamber music and operatic roles, and has been a featured soloist with Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, SF Contemporary Music Players, Earplay, Eco Ensemble, the Ives, Alexander, and Hausmann String Quartets, Composers in Red Sneakers, at FENAM, Other Minds Festival, Fresno New Music, PARMA and Switchboard Music Festival, among others. Highlights of the 2016-2017 concert season include a Texas recital tour with pianist Cheryl Cellon Lindquist, previews of new operas by David Conte and Alden Jenks with West Edge Opera, and the World Premieres of A Line Becomes A Circle (2016) by Miya Masaoka, Down the Deep Stair (2017) by Jared Redmond with the Lydian String Quartet, and Finite Differences (2016) by Kenneth D. Froelich (libretto: John Grimmett) with the Hausmann Quartet, all of which were composed specifically for her. Ms. Moss has lectured on vocal composition and led masterclasses on interpretation of contemporary song at institutions including MIT, UC Davis, NYU Tisch School For The Arts, Longy School of Music of Bard College, University of Houston Morse School of Music, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Sacramento State University and CSU Los Angeles. She holds degrees from Hampshire College, Longy School of Music of Bard College, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

    Kay Stern, Violin

    Kay Stern is Concertmaster of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. She has served as assistant to Dorothy DeLay at the Aspen Music Festival, assistant to the Juilliard Quartet at the Juilliard School, and has been a faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She has taught and coached at various music festivals around the world, and has been in residence at Wellesley College and San Diego State University. She has appeared in PBS’s Live from Lincoln Center, CNN’s Women Today, Minnesota Public Radio’s Garrison Keillor A Prairie Home Companion and St. Paul Sunday Morning, and WQXR-NY Robert Sherman’s Listening Room. As former first violinist and founding member of the Lark String Quartet, she performed and gave master classes throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Kay is an active chamber musician, collaborating with colleagues in numerous venues in and around the Bay Area. Kay attended the Juilliard School as a student of Dorothy DeLay. While there she received full scholarships for her Bachelor, Master’s and Doctoral degree programs. Kay Stern’s concerto and chamber music recordings can be heard on Phillips, Nonesuch, Innova, MusicMasters, Koch International and Gramma Vision. In 2017 she joined the violin faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

    Douglas Rioth, Harp

    Douglas Rioth is Principal Harpist of the San Francisco Symphony. He studied Piano from age 6, and harp from age 15. He attended Interlochen Arts Academy studying harp with Elisa Smith Dickon, and the Cleveland Institute of Music, studying harp with Alice Chalifoux. He served as Principal Harp of the Indianapolis Symphony from 1975-1981, and as Principal Harp of the San Francisco Symphony since 1981. He has been the Harp Instructor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music since 2007,  and the Harp Coach of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra since 1981.

    Eric Dudley, Conductor

    Eric Dudley leads a multi-faceted musical career as a conductor, singer, pianist and composer. Following distinguished tenures as assistant conductor for the Cincinnati and Princeton symphony orchestras, his recent guest engagements include the International Contemporary Ensemble, Ojai Festival, National Symphony Orchestra, and the Bendigo Festival and Melbourne International Arts Festival in Australia. Having served for four years on the conducting faculty of Mannes College and The New School in New York, he currently directs the orchestra program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has recently been appointed as the next artistic director for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. A founding member of the Grammy Award-winning octet Roomful of Teeth, he regularly records and tours worldwide with the group in its ongoing mission to create a new body of work for the 21st Century vocal ensemble. While living in New York, he performed and conducted with ensembles as diverse as the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Ekmeles, Talea Ensemble, Tenet, Ensemble Signal, American Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. As a pianist and chamber musician, he has collaborated with members of Novus New York and the Cincinnati, Princeton and Albany symphony orchestras, and his own music has been premiered and recorded by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Quey Percussion Duo, and by Roomful of Teeth. He holds a degree in composition from the Eastman School of Music, and a doctorate in orchestral conducting from Yale.


    Program Notes & Texts

    American Death Ballads
    for High Voice and Piano
    Brian Thorsett, Tenor | John Churchwell, Piano
    American Death Ballads were composed especially for tenor Brian Thorsett. The choice of texts was inspired partly by Aaron Copland’s Old American Songs, which I deeply admire, and even more by my dear friend and colleague Conrad Susa’s Two Murder Ballads.
    “Wicked Polly” is a cautionary tale. Polly has lived a dissolute and immoral life, saying, “I’ll turn to God when I grow old.” Suddenly taken ill, she realizes that it is too late to repent. She dies in agony and is presumably sent to hell; young people are advised to heed. My musical setting is stately and preacherly in character for the narrator; for Polly it becomes pleading and remorseful.
    “The Unquiet Grave” is taken from an English folk song dating from 1400. A young man mourns his deceased lover too intensely, preventing her from obtaining peace. My setting is in a flowing andante with a rocking accompaniment. Three voices are delineated here: the narrator, the mournful lover, and the deceased lover, speaking from the grave.
    “The Dying Californian” first appeared in the New England Diadem in 1854. Its lyrics are based on a letter from a dying New England sailor to his brother, while at sea on the way to California to seek his fortune in the gold fields. He implores his brother to impart his message to his father, mother, wife, and children. My setting opens with the singer alone, in a moderate dirge tempo, and, joined by the piano, moves through many tonalities and moods before ending with supreme confidence as the speaker “gains a port called Heaven/Where the gold will never rust.”
    “Captain Kidd” was a Scottish sailor who was tried and executed for piracy and murder in 1701. Kidd escaped to America, and for a time lived in New York and Boston. He was a wanted criminal by the British authorities, and was extradited and hanged at “Executioner’s Dock.” Though the didactic tone of the text is similar to “Wicked Polly,” it expresses no regret until the final lines. My setting is fast and spirited, expressing the confidence of a man who has lived life as he wanted.

     

    I. Wicked Polly

    Young people who delight in sin, I’ll tell you what has lately been:
    A woman who was young and fair died in sin and deep despair.
    She went to frolics, dances and play, in spite of all her friends could say.
    “I’ll turn to God when I get old, and He will then receive my soul.”
    On Friday morning she took sick, her stubborn heart began to break.
    She called her mother to her bed, her eyes were rolling in her head:
    “O mother, mother, fare you well, your wicked Polly’s doomed to hell,
    The tears are lost you shed for me; my soul is lost, I plainly see.
    “My earthly father, fare ye well; your wicked Poly’s doomed to hell.
    The flaming wrath begins to roll; I’m a lost and ruined soul.
    “Your counsels I have slipted all, my carnal appetite to fill.
    When I am dead, remember well, your wicked Polly groans in hell.”
    She wrung her hands and groaned and cried and gnawed her tongue before she died;
    Her nails turned black, her voice did fail, she died and left this lower vale.
    Young people, let this be your case, oh, turn to God and trust His grace.
    Down on your knees for mercy cry, lest you in sin like Polly die.

    II. The Unquiet Grave

    “The wind doth blow today, my love,
    And a few small drops of rain;
    I never had but one true-love,
    In cold grave she was lain.
    “I’ll do as much for my true-love
    As any young man may;
    I’ll sit and mourn all at her grave
    For a twelvemonth and a day.”
    The twelvemonth and a day being up,
    The dead began to speak:
    “Oh who sits weeping on my grave,
    And will not let me sleep?”
    “’T is I, my love, sits on your grave,
    And will not let you sleep;
    For I crave one kiss of your clay-cold lips,
    And that is all I seek.”
    “You crave one kiss of my clay-cold lips,
    But my breath smells earthy strong;
    If you have one kiss of my clay-cold lips,
    Your time will not be long.
    “’T is down in yonder garden green,
    Love, where we used to walk,
    The finest flower that e’re was seen
    Is withered to a stalk.
    “The stalk is withered dry, my love,
    So will our hearts decay;
    So make yourself content, my love,
    Till God calls you away.”

    III. The Dying Californian

    Lay up nearer, brother, nearer
    For my limbs are growing cold,
    And thy presence seemeth dearer
    When thine arms around me fold.
    I am dying, brother, dying,
    Soon you’ll miss me in your berth,
    And my form will soon be lying
    Neath the ocean’s briny surf.
    Harken, brother, closely harken.
    I have something I would say,
    Ere the vale my visions darken
    And I go from hence away.
    Listen, brother, catch each whisper,
    Tis my wife I speak of now,
    Tell, O tell her how I missed her
    When the fever burned my brow.
    Tell her she must kiss my children
    Like the kiss I last impressed.
    Hold them as when last I held them
    Folded closely to my breast.
    Twas for them I crossed the ocean
    What my hopes were I’ll not tell;
    And I’ve gained an orphan’s portion,
    Yet he doeth all things well.
    Tell them I never reach that haven
    Where I sought the "precious dust,"
    But I’ve gained a port called Heaven
    Where the gold will never rust.

    IV. Captain Kidd

    "My name was Robert Kidd as I sailed, as I sailed,
    My name was Robert Kidd, as I sailed.
    My name was Robert Kidd, God’s laws I did forbid,
    And so wickedly I did, as I sailed, as I sailed,
    And so wickedly I did as I sailed!"
    "My parents taught me well, as I sailed, as I sailed,
    To shun the gates of hell as I sailed.
    I cursed my father dear, and her that did me bear,
    And so wickedly did swear, as I sailed, as I sailed,
    And so wickedly did swear, as I sailed.
    “I’d a Bible in my hand, when I sailed, when I sailed,
    But I sunk it in the sand as I sailed.
    I made a solemn vow, to God I would not bow,
    Nor myself one prayer allow, when I sailed, when I
    sailed,
    Nor myself one prayer allow, when I sailed.
    "I murdered William Moore as I sailed, as I sailed,
    And left him in his gore as I sailed,
    And being cruel still, my gunner did I kill,
    And much precious blood did spill, as I sailed, as
    I sailed,
    And much precious blood did spill as I sailed.
    To Execution Dock, I must go, I must go,
    To Execution Dock, I must go;
    To Execution Dock,
    where many thousands flock,
    But I must bear my shock, and must die.
    Come all ye young and old, see me die, see me die,
    Come all ye young and old, see me die;
    Come all ye young and old,
    you're welcome to my gold,
    For by it I've lost my soul, and must die.
    Take warning now by me, for I must die, for I must die,
    Take warning now by me, for I must die;
    Take warning now by me,
    and shun bad company,
    Lest you come to hell with me, for I must die;
    Lest you come to hell with me, for I must die.

     

    Three Poems of Christina Rossetti
    for High Voice and Piano
    Kindra Scharich, Mezzo-Soprano | Kevin Korth, Piano
    Christina Rossetti (1830–1894) began writing at age 7, but was 31 before her first work was published. She was hailed as the natural successor to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. A devout Anglo-Catholic, her popularity faded in the early twentieth century from Modernism’s backlash, but in the past few decades she has been rediscovered. Her visionary poetry has a deeply religious quality, and a keen sense of the spiritual world.
    “Rest” describes the soul’s journey from physical death to Paradise. “Echo” describes with great sensitivity and passion an attempt to regain a love in dreams that has been lost in reality. “A Hope Carol” describes a vigil of a soul who is called to a vision of Paradise, and the second coming of Christ. “Echo” and “Rest” were written especially for mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook. “A Hope Carol” was originally composed as a choral piece in for the San Francisco Girls’ Chorus. A version for solo voice was composed shortly after the original and is dedicated to mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Mannion. Several years after the original, I prepared an edition for high voice for tenor Brian Thorsett, who premiered it at the at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music

     I. Rest

    O Earth, lie heavily upon her eyes;
    Seal her sweet eyes weary of watching, Earth;
    Lie close around her; leave no room for mirth
    With its harsh laughter, nor for sound of sighs.

    She hath no questions, she hath no replies,
    Hushed in and curtained with a blessed dearth
    Of all that irked her from the hour of birth;
    With stillness that is almost Paradise.

    Darkness more clear than noon-day holdeth her,
    Silence more musical than any song;
    Even her very heart has ceased to stir:
    Until the morning of Eternity
    Her rest shall not begin nor end, but be;
    And when she wakes she will not think it long.

    II. Echo 

        Come to me in the silence of the night; 
            Come in the speaking silence of a dream; 
        Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright 
            As sunlight on a stream; 
                Come back in tears, 
        O memory, hope and love of finished years.

        O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet, 
            Whose wakening should have been in Paradise, 
        Where souls brimfull of love abide and meet; 
            Where thirsting longing eyes 
                Watch the slow door 
        That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

        Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live 
            My very life again tho' cold in death: 
        Come back to me in dreams, that I may give 
            Pulse for pulse, breath for breath: 
                Speak low, lean low, 
        As long ago, my love, how long ago.

    III. A Hope Carol 

    A Night was near, a day was near,
    Between a day and night
    I heard sweet voices calling clear,
    Calling me:
    I heard a whirr of wing on wing,
    But could not see the sight;
    I long to see my birds that sing,
    I long to see. 

    Below the stars, beyond the moon,
    Between the night and day
    I heard a rising falling tune
    Calling me:
    I long to see the pipes and strings
    Whereon such minstrels play;
    I long to see each face that sings,
    I long to see. 

    To-day or may be not to-day,
    To-night or not to-night,
    All voices that command or pray
    Calling me,
    Shall kindle in my soul such fire
    And in my eyes such light
    That I shall see that heart’s desire
    I long to see.

     

    Love Songs
    for Tenor, Violoncello, and Piano
    Brian Thorsett, Tenor | Emil Miland, Cello | John Churchwell, Piano
    The three songs gathered here were composed over a long time period. The first, “Levis Exsurgit Zephirus,” was originally composed in 1993 for male chorus and piano four-hands as the second movement of my “Carmina Juventutis.” I adapted it for solo voice, cello, and piano for several singers in 1999 and 2007, including soprano Sylvia Anderson, mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook, and countertenor Ian Howell. “D’Anne qui me jetta de la neige” and “The Moment” were composed in August, 2016, especially for Brian Thorsett, Emil Miland, and were premiered on October 11th, 2016, at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I have collaborated extensively with both artists; with Mr. Thorsett in my “Yeats Songs” for Tenor and String Quartet, and my “American Death Ballads,” and with Mr. Miland in my Sonata for Violoncello and Piano. For a specific concert, I decided to build a set of three love poems in three different languages; Latin, French, and English. In all three pieces, the violoncello, that most expressive and soulful instrument, represents the very soul of the speaker of these three texts, as he moves through many emotions, including passion, suffering, vulnerability, and joy.
    “Levis Exsurgit Zephirus” is taken from the eleventh century Cambridge Songs. This love song is in rhymed couplets written in Ambrosian quatrains—the most common of all forms used for Latin hymns. The music has a gentle undulating quality as the speaker is “possessed by deep sighs in the midst of all this beauty,” for his soul languishes. After several climaxes, the opening music returns in the minor mode, accompanied by “sighs” in the piano and cello.
    Though I’ve spent many years in France, “D’Anne qui me jetta de la neige” is my first setting in French. The text is by the sixteenth century French poet Clément Marot. The narrative describes a young man suddenly hit by what Italians poetically call the “Thunderbolt,” a single moment where one falls suddenly and passionately in love with someone. The poem is remarkable in that the speaker’s passion is also tempered by a touching vulnerability, as he asks his beloved to show him kindness, even taking pity upon his newfound passion.
    Theodore Roethke is one of my favorite American poets, whom I first set in my choral piece “The Waking” in 1985. His poem “The Moment” is both subtly and unabashedly erotic, and indeed “ends in joy.”

    Levis exsurgit zephirus
    Levis exsurgit zephirus,
    Et sol procedit tepidus,
    Jam terra sinus aperit,
    Dulcore suo diffluit.
    Ver purpuratum exiit,
    Ornatus suos induit,
    Aspergit terram floribus,
    Ligna silvarum frondibus.
    Quod oculis dum video
    Et auribus dum audio,
    Heu pro tantis gaudiis
    Tantis inflor suspiriis.
    Cum mihi sola sedeo
    Et hæc revolvens palleo,
    Si porte caput sublevo,
    Nec audio nec video.
    Tu saltim, veris gratia,
    Exaudi et considera
    Frondes, flores et gramina,
    Nam mea laguet anima.
    Cambridge Songs (11th century)
    - Translation below -

    The West Wind Rises Softly
    The west wind rises softly,
    the warm sun rides on its course,
    the earth bares its bosom
    and overflows with its sweetness.
    The purple spring comes forth
    and girds on its apparel.
    It sprinkles the earth with flowers
    and the trees in the forests with leaves.
    While I see all this with my eyes
    and hear it with my ears
    I am possessed, alas! by deep sighs
    in the midst of all this rejoicing.
    While I sit all by myself with a pale face,
    turning all this over in my mind,
    if by chance I raise my head
    I neither hear nor see.
    Do thou at least, for the sake of spring,
    hear and consider
    the leaves, the flowers, and the grass,
    for my soul languishes.
    Translation that appears in
    Carmina Juventutis

    D’Anne qui me jetta de la neige
    Anne par jeu me jeta de la neige,
    Que je cuidois froide certainement:
    Mais c’était feu, l’expérience en ai-je,
    Car embrasé je fus soudainement.
    Puisque le feu loge secrètement
    Dedans la neige, où trouverais-je place
    Pour n’ardre point?
    Anne, ta seule grâce
    Eteindre peut le feu, que je sens bien,
    Non point par eau, par neige, ni par glace,
    Mais par sentir un feu pareil au mien.
    - Clément Marot
    - Translation below -

    Anne Who Threw Snow at Me
    Anne playfully threw snow at me,
    That I certainly found cold:
    But it was fire, the experience I had,
    For I suddenly felt aflame.
    Since fire secretly lodges
    In the snow, where can I find a place
    That is not burning?
    Anne, only your grace
    Can extinguish the fire that consumes me,
    Not by water, snow, or ice,
    But by feeling a fire like mine.
    Translation by the Editor

    The Moment
    We passed the ice of pain
    And came to a dark ravine,
    And there we sang with the sea:
    The wide, the bleak abyss
    Shifted with our slow kiss.
    Space struggled with time;
    The gong of midnight struck
    The naked absolute.
    Sound, silence sang as one.
    All flowed: without, within;
    Body met body, we
    Created what’s to be.
    What else to say?
    We end in joy.
    - Theodore Roethke

     

    Everyone Sang
    for Bass and Piano
    Matt Boehler, Bass | Kevin Korth, Piano
    Everyone Sang is a collection of four songs, composed at various times between 1998 and 2003. The fourth song which gives the collection its name, “Everyone Sang,” was commissioned by and is dedicated to the late James Schwabacher, who was a dear friend and important tenor and patron of the arts in San Francisco. It was premiered by bass-baritone Maris Vipulis and pianist Marc Shapiro in 1998. The songs “Homecoming,” dedicated to baritone Robert Barefild, and “Quilt,” dedicated to baritone Ryan Villaverde, were commissioned by the West Chester University Poetry Conference and were premiered by Robert Barefield and pianist Carl Cranmer in June 2003. “Entrance,” dedicated to baritone Tim Krol, was written in July 2003 for inclusion in this set. In 2016, I prepared an edition for bass voice for Matt Boehler, who premiered the set in April 2018.
    The four songs of Everyone Sang treat sequentially the themes of attachment, discovery, loss, and celebration. “Homecoming” by A. E. Stallings, an American poet who lives in Greece, explores the psychic thread which binds Odysseus and Penelope. Penelope is weaving a coat to put off her suitors, hoping still for Odysseus’s return. The poem envisions “man and wife dwelling together in unity of mind and disposition.” In Rilke’s poem “Entrance,” translated by American poet Dana Gioia, the speaker entreats the listener to discover the new, see the old through fresh eyes, embrace the unknown, and ultimately let go. “Quilt” by Diane Thiel has a wonderful relaxed formality, being in Terza Rima form, invented by Dante. The quilt is a metaphor for the compartmentalization of life; each patch represents an aspect or event. The poem suggests how we all try to make sense of life by transforming disorder into the order of a quilt. “Everyone Sang” by English poet Siegfried Sassoon expresses the varied emotions of joy and relief at the end of World War I, and sadness for those who have died.

    I. Homecoming

    It was as if she pulled a thread,
    Each time he saw her, that unraveled
    All the distance he had traveled
    To sleep at home in his own bed,
    Or sit together in a room
    Spinning yarns of monsters, wars,
    The hours counted by the chores.
    He loved to watch her at the loom:
    The fluent wrists, the liquid motion
    Of small tasks not thought about,
    The shuttle leaping in and out,
    Dolphins sewing the torn ocean.
    -
    A. E. Stallings

    II. Entrance

    Whoever you are: step out of doors tonight,
    Out of the room that lets you feel secure,
    Infinity is open to your sight.
    Whoever you are.
    With eyes that have forgotten how to see
    From viewing things already too well-known,
    Lift up into the dark a huge, black tree
    And put it in the heavens: tall, alone.
    And you have made the world and all you see.
    It ripens like the words still in your mouth.
    And when at last you comprehend its truth,
    Then close your eyes and gently set it free.
    Original words in German by Rainer Maria Rilke.
    Translation by Dana Gioia.

    III. Quilt

    At night this quiet covers me,
    grown ragged on the center seam,
    dividing all this history.
    I touch the patches always known,
    the ones they wrapped me in, passed down
    for far too long for anyone
    to still remember what was cut,
    that it was once a blouse, a skirt
    she wore the night he took her heart.
    I touch the fields I thought I knew
    and smooth the places healed into
    each other, at the ridges sewn
    with careful secrets mouthed for all
    the years she couldn’t tell a soul.
    - Diane Thiel

    IV. Everyone Sang

    Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
    And I was filled with such delight
    As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
    Winging wildly across the white
    Orchards and dark-green fields; on- on- and out of sight.
    Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
    And beauty came like the setting sun:
    My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
    Drifted away...O, but Everyone
    Was a bird; and the song was wordless;
    the singing will never be done.
    - Siegfried Sassoon

     

    Lincoln
    for Baritone, English Horn, Trumpet, and String Orchestra
    A. J. Glueckert, Tenor | James Moore, English Horn | Scott Macomber, Trumpet
    San Francisco Conservatory String Orchestra, Marika Kuzma, Conductor
    Lincoln was commissioned by the city of Concord, Massachusetts, in celebration of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. The text by John Stirling Walker quotes liberally from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s eulogy for Lincoln. The work alternates between recitative and lyrical passages, with the noble, visionary quality of Lincoln’s character represented by the trumpet, and the quieter, more pastorale and dignified character by the English Horn. The work was premiered by the performers on this recording at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on March 17th, 2013.

    I.

    He stood here in Concord.

    Emerson stood here, and gave us
    Remarks...

    They pertained to a man;
    And that man,
    No matter what you think about it,
    That man was True.

    Emerson stood there, and gave us remarks
    About a man,
    True, who,
    Through and through,
    Felt what was to Do.

    II.

     "His occupying the chair of state was a triumph of
    The good sense of mankind," said the sage of Concord.  

    "Providence makes its own instruments,
    Creates the man for the time,
    Trains him in poverty,
    Inspires his genius,
    And arms him for his task.
    It has given every race its own talent,"
    Ralph went on, "and ordains
    That only that race
    Which combines
    Perfectly
    With
    The virtues of all
    Shall
    Endure."

    Such a race,
    Yes, such a race

    Is True.

    III.

    Are we True?

    Are You?

    - John Stirling Walker

     

    Sexton Songs
    for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble
    Marnie Breckenridge, Soprano
    San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble, Nicole Paiement, Conductor
    The five poems of Sexton Songs span Anne Sexton’s fifteen-year career. The central two poems, “Her Kind” and “Ringing the Bells,” are taken from her book From Bedlam And Part Way Back, published in 1960 and inspired by her stay in a mental institution. They are framed by “Rowing” and “Riding the Elevator to the Sky,” two poems from The Awful Rowing Toward God, published in 1973, one year before she committed suicide at the age of 46. “Us” is from her collection, Love Poems. Through my study of Sexton’s poetry and her life, I gradually formed an image of her as a kind of cabaret performer: a microphone in one hand and a cigarette in the other, delivering her funny—and often devastating—jokes. In my musical settings I have tried to mirror Sexton’s vernacular language and popular images with a style that evokes aspects of jazz and cabaret, and mixes sustained aria-type music with recitiative passages. Sexton’s poet friend Maxin Kumin wrote about Awful Rowing: “The Sexton who had so defiantly boasted...‘I am God la de dah,’ had now given way to a ravaged, obsessed poet fighting to put the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle together into a coherence that would save her—into ‘a whole nation of God.’” For me, Anne Sexton’s painful journey is ultimately a very brave one. She dredges up her feelings and experiences and challenges us to reflect on them, on our own. The version for chamber ensemble was written for and premiered by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble, Nicole Paiement, conductor, Marnie Breckenridge, soprano, on October 9th, 2010.

    I. ROWING

    A story, a story!
    (Let it go. Let it come.)
    I was stamped out like a Plymouth fender
    into this world.
    First came the crib
    with its glacial bars.
    Then dolls
    and the devotion to their plastic mouths.
    Then there was school,
    the little straight rows of chairs,
    blotting my name over and over,
    but undersea all the time,
    a stranger whose elbows wouldn't work.
    Then there was life
    with its cruel houses
    and people who seldom touched -
    though touch is all -
    but I grew,
    like a pig in a trench coat I grew,
    and then there were many strange apparitions,
    the nagging rain, the sun turning into poison
    and all of that, saws working through my heart,
    but I grew, I grew,
    and God was there like an island I had not rowed to,
    still ignorant of Him, my arms and my legs worked,
    and I grew, I grew,
    I wore rubies and bought tomatoes
    and now, in my middle age,
    about nineteen in the head I'd say,
    I am rowing, I am rowing
    though the oarlocks stick and are rusty
    and the sea links and rolls
    like a worried eyeball,
    but I am rowing, I am rowing,
    though the wind pushes me back
    and I know that the island will not be perfect,
    it will have the flaws of life,
    the absurdities of the dinner table,
    but there will be a door,
    and I will open it,
    and I will get rid of the rat inside of me,
    the gnawing pestilential rat.
    God will take it with his two hands
    and embrace it.
    As the African says:
    This is my tale which I have told.
    If it be sweet, if it be not sweet,
    Take somewhere else,
    and let some return to me.
    This story ends with me still rowing. 

    II. HER KIND

    I have gone out, a possessed witch,
    haunting the black air, braver at night;
    dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
    over the plain houses, light by light:
    lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
    A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
    I have been her kind.

    I have found the warm caves in the woods,
    filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
    closets, silks, innumerable good;
    fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
    whining, rearranging the disaligned.
    A woman like that is misunderstood.
    I have been her kind.

    I have ridden in your cart, driver,
    waved my nude arms at villages going by,
    learning the last bright routes, survivor
    where your flames still bite my thigh
    and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
    A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
    I have been her kind.  

    III. RINGING THE BELLS

    And this is the way they ring
    the bells in Bedlam
    and this is the bell-lady
    who comes each Tuesday morning
    to give us a music lesson
    and because the attendants make you go
    and because we mind by instinct,
    like bees caught in the wrong hive,
    we are the circle of the crazy ladies
    who sit in the lounge of the mental house,

    and smile at the smiling woman
    who passes us each a bell,
    who points at my hand
    that holds my bell, E flat,
    and this is the gray dress next to me
    who grumbles as if it were special
    to be old, to be old,
    and this is the small hunched squirrel girl
    on the other side of me
    who picks at the hairs over her lip,
    who picks at the hairs over her lip all day,
    and this is how the bells really sound,
    as untroubled and clean
    as a workable kitchen,
    and this is always my bell responding
    to my hand that responds to the lady
    who points at me, E flat;
    and although we are no better for it,
    they tell you to go.  And you do.

    IV. RIDING THE ELEVATOR INTO THE SKY

    As the fireman said:
    Don't book a room over the fifth floor
    in any hotel in New York.
    They have ladders that will reach further
    but no one will climb them.
    As the New York Times  said:
    The elevator always seeks out
    the floor of the fire
    and automatically opens
    and won't shut.
    These are the warnings
    that you must forget
    if you're climbing out of yourself.
    If you're going to smash into the sky.

    Many times I've gone past
    the fifth floor, cranking upward,
    but only once
    have I gone all the way up.
    Sixtieth floor:
    small plants and swans bending
    into their grave.

    Floor two hundred:
    mountains with the patience of a cat,
    silence wearing its sneakers,
    Floor five hundred:
    Messages and letters centuries old, birds to drink,
    a kitchen of clouds,
    Floor six thousand:
    the stars,
    skeletons on fire,
    their arms singing.
    And a key,
    a very large key, that opens something -
    some useful door - somewhere -
    up there. 

    V. US

    I was wrapped in black
    fur and white fur and
    you undid me and then
    you placed me in gold light
    and then you crowned me,
    while snow fell outside
    the door in diagonal darts.
    While a ten-inch snow
    came down like stars
    in small calcium fragments,
    we were in our own bodies
    (that room that will bury us)
    and you were in my body
    (that room that will outlive us)
    and at first I rubbed your
    feet dry with a towel
    because I was your slave
    and then you called me princess.
    Princess!

    Oh then
    I stood up in my gold skin
    and I beat down the psalms
    and I beat down the clothes
    and you undid the bridle
    and you undid the reins
    and I undid the buttons,
    the bones, the confusions,
    the New England postcards,
    the January ten o'clock night,
    and we rose up like wheat,
    acre after acre of gold,
    and we harvested,
    we harvested.  

    Requiem Songs
    for Soprano, Solo Violin, Harp, and String Orchestra
    Ann Moss, Soprano | Kay Stern, Violin | Douglas Rioth, Harp
    San Francisco Conservatory String Orchestra, Eric Dudley, Conductor
    Requiem Songs were commissioned by the American Music Research Center, Boulder, Colorado, Thomas Riis, director, in loving memory of Don Campbell (1946–2012). Don Campbell and I were deeply connected through our mutual teacher Nadia Boulanger. The inspiration for this commission came from organist Carolyn Shuster Fournier, a dear mutual friend and long-time resident of Paris. The work was premiered at l’Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité, Paris, in 2013 by Alexis Galpérine, violin, Magali Léger, soprano, Saori Kikuchi, harp, and Carolyn Shuster Fournier, organist. In 2016 I created a new version of these songs, replacing the organ with string orchestra.
    To honor Don’s memory I chose three Latin texts from the Requiem Mass. The first, “Exaudi,” is Larghetto and serves as a prelude. The entire composition is based on a plaintive, three-note descending motive first stated in the strings and taken up by the singer and solo violin. The mood begins in a dark and questioning C-sharp minor, and only after much dissonance and tension, resolves quietly in the key of E major; the supplicant’s voice has been heard.
    “Dies Irae,” marked Allegro agitato, is an intense and dark scherzo in D minor with chromatic runs in the strings and solo violin accompanying the soprano, whose line is disjunct and dramatic. There is a central, more lyrical section based on the Lacrymosa text in a slower tempo, which leads to the song’s only serene moment: “Pie Jesu Domine.” The “Dies Irae” music returns, and the song ends violently and decisively.
    The third song, “In Paradisum,” introduces the harp. The soprano melody is modeled very closely on the Gregorian chant based on this text. This song is consciously inspired in part by both Fauré’s setting of the same text and the Lux aeterna of Nadia Boulanger (a work always played at the annual Lili Boulanger memorial service at La Trinité). The song is in the radiant and serene key of F-sharp major (a favorite key of Olivier Messiaen, long-time organist at La Trinité), and almost completely diatonic. There is a gentle climax on the text “habeas eternam,” and the song slowly winds down to its end, having laid to rest life’s struggles in the eternity of heaven.

    I. Exaudi

    Exaudi orationem meam
    Ad te omnis caro veniet.

    Hear my prayer
    All flesh shall come before you.

    II. Dies irae

    III. In Paradisum  

    In paradisum deducant angeli;
    in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres
    et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.

    Chorus angelorum te suscipat
    et cum Lazaro, quondam paupere,
    aeternam habeas requiem.

    May the angels lead you into paradise;
    at your coming may the martyrs receive you
    and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.

    May the chorus of angels receive you
    and with Lazarus, once poor,
    may you have eternal rest.

     

  • Featured @ NATS

    The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) is one of the newer conferences we've added to our summer rounds, and we couldn't be more excited about it collaborating with this great group! In 2018 we loved hosting a showcase of Juliana Hall's music, performed by soprano Amy Petrongelli and pianist Blair Salter, as well as watching Matt Boehler perform his own Foursquare Cathedral.

    NATS Logo NATS logo

    American composer Juliana Hall is well known for her gorgeous and meticulously-crafted art songs, which have been described as “beguiling” (Times of London), “beautiful in ways both traditional and strikingly original” (Austin Chronicle), and “the most genuinely moving music of the afternoon” (Boston Globe). Singers and audiences alike take delight in her songs, whose brilliant tonal, textural, and rhythmic language makes her work immediately recognizable and wonderfully familiar, and show her to be “a composer who savours lyrical lines and harmonies peppered with gentle spices” (Gramophone). Meet the composer at this live performance by soprano Amy Petrongelli and pianist Blair Salter, and find out why the art songs of Juliana Hall are “positively magical.”

    “A Birthday” from Christina’s World

    “Some Things Are Dark” from Night Dances

    “Silver Bells” from The Bells

    “A Northeast Storm”

    “Hiding” from A World Turned Upside Down

    “Dream” from Propriety

    “Under the Harvest Moon” from When the South Wind Sings

    “Sonnet” from Night Dances

    “Papa above!” from In Reverence

     

    In addition to the showcase, we're proud to have several NATS award winners in our catalog. Most recently they are:

    2018: Tawnie Olson, Three Songs on Poems by Lorri Neilsen Glenn (second prize)

    2017: Matt Boehler, Foursquare Cathedral (first prize)

    2016: David Conte, American Death Ballads (first prize)

     

    We're also pleased to release a new 2-disc album just in time for this event: Everyone Sang: Vocal Music of David Conte.

     

    We hope to see you there!

     

  • Discovering Forgotten Treasures

    Guest Post by Dr. Carol Kimball

    Songs of Gouvy, edited by MeeAe Cecilia Nam.  In two volumes. Vol. 1: 40 Poèmes de Pierre de Ronsard, 12 Poèmes de La Pléiade; Vol. 2: 18 Sonnets et Chansons de Desportes; 18 Poésies de Moritz Hartmann. Published by E. C. Schirmer Music Company.

    MeeAe Cecilia Nam MeeAe Cecilia Nam

    Explorers of French mélodie have an interesting journey ahead. Have you heard of the songs of Théodore Gouvy? Neither had I, but thanks to the research and study of Dr. MeeAe Cecilia Nam, there are eighty-eight songs by this nineteenth-century composer now available for perusal and performance. E. C. Schirmer Music Company has recently released a two-volume critical edition titled Songs of Gouvy, containing the song catalog of composer Louis Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898), edited by Dr. Nam, Professor of Voice at Eastern Michigan University, who has devoted the last number of years to Gouvy’s song output. These publications are the fruits of that labor.

    This sizeable collection of 88 French songs has been virtually unknown and forgotten until recently. In order to preserve Gouvy’s legacy and perpetuate research and performance of his music, L’Institut de Théodore Gouvy was founded in 1995 in Hombourg-Haut, France and began to lure scholars and performers to work with and perform his music in concerts. A small number of CDs have been produced, and little by little, Gouvy’s name is surfacing as more than a petit maître.

    Gouvy was a prolific composer; his catalog includes more than 200 compositions, including works for large orchestra (including 8 symphonies), a huge repertoire of chamber music, large vocal religious works, two operas, and over 100 songs.

    His catalog of compositions has been slow to surface, quite possibly due to his birthplace in Alsace, which at the time straddled two countries and cultures, Germany and France. In 1815 the border between France and Germany fluctuated, and Gouvy was the only family member designated as German instead of French. He was denied French citizenship until he was thirty-two.

    Louis Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898) was born into a wealthy French industrial family. He studied law in Paris, but gave it up to pursue a career in music. Always drawn to music, art, and languages, he began to compose, working privately with teachers at the Paris Conservatoire, since the circumstances of his birth precluded admitting him to study there. His compositions drew inspiration from both German and French cultures.

    Gouvy produced a sizeable listing of symphonies, chamber music, and other instrumental forms, waiting until the mid-century mark to really concentrate on composing songs. He led a diverse cultural life, interacting with contemporaries who admired his work and whom Gouvy knew well: Liszt, Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, and Gounod among others. Though he knew and was admired by many fellow composers, his career never really took off as he'd hoped, and his musical legacy remained largely obscure as well. At his death in 1898, his music was largely forgotten. Today his name is slowly being revived.

    It is not surprising that Gouvy’s love for art, and languages manifested itself in his composing a large body of French song, and that he chose poetry almost exclusively from sixteenth-century French poet Pierre de Ronsard, and the group of his compatriots known as the Pléiade poets. Gouvy was a lover of nature and as such, would naturally be drawn to the poems of Ronsard and this group. Gouvy only deviated from Ronsard and the Pléiades to set the verses of his good friend, poet Moritz Hartmann (1821-1872), whom he met around 1845.  Hartmann’s verses tend toward the political, championing the freedom of the individual. The French poet, Adolph Larmande, translated eighteen of Hartmann’s poems from German to French and when these songs were published, they were published in both languages. His cultural duality was very much a part of Gouvy’s compositional persona even then.

    Gouvy’s settings of Hartmann appear in Larmande’s French translation in volume 2. The songs that make up Opus 21 and Opus 26 are Gouvy’s settings of Hartmann’s poetry and are designated for baritone and tenor, respectively.

    E. C. Schirmer’s two anthologies are handsomely designed and sturdily packaged. Each large volume is spiral-bound for ease in handling and performing.  In addition to the musical scores, both volumes contain complete texts and translations, with critical notes on the texts. The original texts in sixteenth-century French spellings—and in the case of Hartmann’s poems, the poems in their original German—are given as well.  All the texts in the musical score appear in modern French used today.

    Songs of Gouvy Songs of Gouvy

    Finally, both volumes end with an extensive article dealing with French versification written by Catherine Bessone, Professor of French Language and Literature. For singers, collaborative pianists, teachers, and any other musicians who want to understand more about the French texts with which they’re working, it is full of information. Some may find it most useful to start by looking up the French poetic forms and using those as guides for exploring the complexities of sixteenth-century French verse.

    Although the two volumes contain works for voice and piano, there are several instances of additional performance combinations: “Avril,” Rémy Belleau’s paean to nature’s bountiful gifts is set as a duet; and “A Cassandre, ” perhaps Ronsard’s best-known ode (“Mignonne, allons voir si la rose”) features a cello obbligato, as does another of the poet’s most celebrated verses, “A sa maîtresse,” which contains a favorite sixteenth century poetic theme—carpe diem—an exhortation to seize and enjoy the moment since youth and love are fleeting. As Ronsard spins his web of seduction, the cello echoes its own tempting subtext.

    Gouvy produced his large body of songs in the compressed time of several years; they were not well known in his life time, and they remain so today, yet here is a composer who had an extraordinary warmth of feeling for the human voice and produced not only songs, but larger vocal works and two operas as well.  In the notes that accompany her CD of Gouvy songs, MeeAe Cecilia Nam writes that the songs have both a French and German character, which might well have caused some confusion in classifying them as French mélodies or German Lieder.  We might conclude that his songs were too German for the French, and too French for the Germans.

    Gouvy’s musical style has been likened to Mendelssohn or Gounod. It may be that like Gounod, Gouvy intended his songs for the consumption of the bourgeoisie, interested in in taking French song into their parlors along with Schubert’s Lieder. Gouvy’s beautifully crafted songs helped establish that French song could blend lovely melodies, expressive accompaniments, and fine poetry with the same results as the German composers did with Lieder. There is a fluid lyricism in the piano accompaniments, and an adherence to classical French style, which combines lyricism and precision.  The songs are notable for their French sense of proportion—graceful and well crafted. Gouvy was himself a pianist, and in his songs, the piano writing often collaborates with the voice, most especially in creating the emotional mood and overall poetic atmosphere.

    Rather than languishing in obscurity, these songs definitely deserve careful consideration as both teaching and performing material. We applaud Dr. Nam’s passion and research for bringing them to light so that teachers and singers may give them careful examination. They have their own unique voice that deserves to be heard, full of melodious vocal phrases rather than subtle details, underpinned with undulating accompaniments encased in colorful rhythmic figures which sustain overall emotional mood. They are inventive, engaging, quite approachable musically, and pose few vocal difficulties. They deserve a place in the body of standard French song repertoire.

    We are fortunate to live in a time in which the rediscovery of musical treasures long forgotten is more possible than it has ever been. Many thanks to Dr. MeeAe Cecilia Nam for her dedicated efforts in bringing this fascinating and substantial catalog of songs to light. In doing so, she has further enriched the art song catalog for singers, scholars, and the many artists for whom discovering new repertoire is always an important part of the vocal experience. Chapeau!

     


    Dr. Carol Kimball is Emerita Professor of Voice, and Barrick Distinguished Scholar at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is the author of Song: A Guide to Art Song Style and Literature; Art Song: Linking Poetry and Music

     

  • Steven Mark Kohn | Welcome to E. C. Schirmer

    Steven Mark Kohn

    We're pleased to announce the addition of composer Steven Mark Kohn to the E. C. Schirmer catalog. Kohn is known particularly for his American Folk Song arrangements, which were premiered by David Daniels and Martin Katz in 2002 at Carnegie Hall. Since then, they have been performed in festivals and on recitals across North America and Europe, and appeared on the NPR series "Song of America." The songs reside in many university music libraries and continue to be featured on professional concerts and university recitals worldwide.

    "Ten Thousand Miles Away," from American Folk Settings
    "Something in the Paper," from Three Impudent Arias

     

    Recent reviews of Kohn's works include:

    The final set consisted of four marvelous American folk-song settings by Steven Mark Kohn, in which quietly expressive piano parts and Daniels' sensitivity found ways to vary the simple light words (of, say, "On the other shore") in telling ways. - The Washington Post, 2016

    Closing the program were Steven Mark Kohn's arrangements of folk songs, delivering some of the most touching moments in the entire evening....seemed to speak to Brits and North Americans alike. - Schmopera review of David Daniels and Martin Katz performance in London, 2017

    More on Steven Mark Kohn

    Steven Mark Kohn has worn several different creative hats. As a composer, he has written music for a number of award-winning children’s films, including Frog and Toad Together, Uncle Elephant, Cousin Kevin, Morris Goes to School, Commander Toad in Space, Ralph S. Mouse and the Emmy-nominated Runaway Ralph starring Fred Savage and Ray Walston. He has composed and arranged commercial music for Wheaties, Arby’s, Volvo, Hickory Farms, TRW, BP, Stanley Steemer, Matrix and many others. His music can be heard nationally on NPR for the Sylvia Rimm Show and on the Time-Warner audio book series “Health Journeys”, which has sold nearly two million copies worldwide. His “Hymn for String Orchestra” (publ. by Carl Fischer) has been recorded by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and Classical Vocal Repertoire publishes his many art songs. His three volumes of American Folk Song arrangements were premiered in Carnegie Hall by David Daniels and Martin Katz and have been performed all over the world by a number of artists. Andrew Garland and Donna Loewy recorded the entire set for Azica Records. He has co-written and directed the short films Bugfeast, Lord J’s Wild West Daredevil Show and How’s My Driving?, which have been screened at festivals around the country and in Europe. For the theater, he created lyrics for the musicals The Quiltmaker’s Gift (Dramatic Publishing), Unstoppable Me, Little Mozart and the opera The Tale of the Nutcracker, all to the music of Craig Bohmler. His Mary Chesnut; a Civil War Diary was written for soprano Jennifer Larmore and his short story The Professor’s Diary appeared in National Lampoon magazine. He recently completed the libretto for the grand opera Riders of the Purple Sage (music by Mr. Bohmler), which was premiered by Arizona Opera in February of 2017. He currently serves on the composition faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music as Director of the Electronic Music Studio.

    Availability

    Kohn's works are currently available through Classical Vocal Reprints. They will be in production at E. C. Schirmer in summer of 2018.

  • Beauty, Truth, and Insight through Song: Interview with Juliana Hall

    January 2018 Featured Composer: Juliana Hall

    This month we're featuring American art song composer Juliana Hall (b. 1958). A prolific and highly-regarded composer of vocal music, her songs have been described as “brilliant” (Washington Post), “beguiling” (Times of London), and “the most genuinely moving music of the afternoon” (Boston Globe). The NATS Journal of Singing wrote that “Hall’s text setting is spot on and exquisite”, and Voix des Arts noted that Hall “perpetuates the American Art Song tradition of Beach, Barber, and Bolcom with music of ingenuity and integrity.”

    Juliana Hall

    In addition to performances at prestigious concert venues including the 92nd Street Y, the Library of Congress, the Théâtre du Châtelet, and Wigmore Hall, Hall's songs have been presented at numerous festivals, including the London Festival of American Music, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Ojai Music Festival, and Tanglewood Music Center.

    Art song organizations and ensembles presenting Hall’s music include ÆPEX Contemporary Performance, ANA Trio, Boston Art Song Society, Calliope’s Call, Cantabile Project, Capital Fringe, Casement Fund Song Series (Sparks & Wiry Cries), CHAI Collaborative Ensemble, Contemporary Music Forum, Contemporary Undercurrent of Song Project, Ensemble for These Times, Ensemble Lyrae, Fourth Coast Ensemble, Cincinnati Song Initiative, Denver Art Song Project, Feminine Musique, Lowell Trio, Lynx Project, Lyric Fest, Mallarmé Chamber Players, Mirror Visions Ensemble, Northwest Art Song, One Ounce Opera, Oxford Song Network, Project 142, “re-Sung” Series, Schubert Club, Second Street Sonorities, Songeaters, “Song in the City” Series, The Ensemble of Oregon, Voices of Change, and Zenith.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Special recital appearances include songs from Hall's soprano song cycle “Night Dances” on Dawn Uphaw’s “First Songs” series at the Morgan Library and Museum and a performance of her mezzo soprano song cycle “Letters from Edna” on the 2016 Joy in Singing’s Edward T. Cone Composers Concert at Lincoln Center, both in New York City, as well as a performance of her tenor song cycle “The Holy Sonnets of John Donne” in a Holy Week meditation service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

    Juliana Hall’s art song catalogue was signed by E. C. Schirmer last June.

    Unlike many composers, you specialize in art song. What, for you, is special about writing art songs?

    Art song is so special to me, more than any other genre of music, because it combines the two worlds I most love—the world of poetry and literature, and the world of music—and joins them into a small and concentrated musical form.

    I have composed over 300 art songs and works of vocal chamber music and, although I’ve written larger forms including a cantata, a chamber opera, a few choral anthems, and a handful of instrumental solo and chamber music pieces for family and friends, the world of art song is the world I feel closest to, musically and personally.

    Since art song is very different from other types of composition, is there a special purpose you have in mind as you compose your art songs?

    My strongest desire when composing art songs is to share whatever beauty, truth, or insight a poem or other text may possess, through a musical framework.

    Because music is an art that so directly and so powerfully goes to both the head and the heart, it is the perfect “carrier” for words whose message I wish to share with an audience, and the small scale of art song performance—usually just a single singer with a single pianist—makes that sharing a very direct and personal communication.

    How were you first introduced to music, and what inspired you to pursue composition?

    I first studied piano with my mother, beginning when I was six years old, and I pretty much planned on a career as a professional pianist. However, even as I practiced the Bach, Beethoven, and Schumann pieces that I loved, I always wondered about composing; for some reason, I had a feeling inside that I might be able to write music, as well as play it.

    When I was 13, I composed a piece for our little family church—a setting of the Creation Story from the Book of Genesis in the Bible—for flute, piano, children’s choir, and narrator. Even though it was my first piece of music, writing it felt very natural and it was extremely satisfying to see it come to life.

    Later, when I went to college at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, faculty composer Darrell Handel encouraged me to switch studies from piano to composition after hearing some pieces I had written for a "composition for performers" class. I didn't change paths then, but that encouragement to pursue the writing of my own music planted a seed.

    When did you know you wanted to become a composer?

    Twenty years after I began studying the piano, as a 26-year-old graduate student at the Yale School of Music, I signed up for composition lessons with a visiting composer, Frederic Rzewski, as an elective—just for fun. Around the same time, a friend gave me a book of poetry (Sylvia Plath, I think) and I really felt close to it, so I began reading a lot more poetry. For my composition lessons, then, I tried to join these wonderful newly-discovered words with original music, by composing my first art songs.

    When those first songs were performed on student concerts, my composition teachers there—Frederic, Leon Kirchner, and Martin Bresnick—encouraged me to make composition my primary focus (just as Darrell Handel had done at Cincinnati during my undergraduate years), so I finally took the plunge, and in 1987 my graduate piano performance degree became a graduate composition degree.

    As much as I had enjoyed playing the piano up to that point in my life, it had never felt completely “right” and I almost didn’t realize how important this feeling was, until I began composing art songs. For the first time in my life, I felt like I’d found my true place in the world…it was a huge gift really, to finally have that grounded sense of who I was.

    How did your career as an art song composer begin?

    While at Yale, I sent one of my earliest song cycles—In Reverence, 5 songs on poems by Emily Dickinson—to renowned vocal composer Dominick Argento, who was then teaching at the University of Minnesota. He accepted me as his student, and in the 18 months following Yale that I studied with him, he taught me an awful lot about English-language literature and its use in vocal music.

    While still in my first semester at Minnesota, I received my first commission for a song cycle, Night Dances; this was the first event in building that important bridge between student life and “real life." One of the area’s premier musical organizations, The Schubert Club of Saint Paul, MN, asked me to write a set of songs for a young, up-and-coming singer who had won the Naumburg Award a few years earlier, and who was taking the musical world by storm, soprano Dawn Upshaw.

    A few years later, in 1989, I received a second Schubert Club commission for Winter Windows for another great Metropolitan Opera singer, baritone David Malis.

    In 1989 I was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition.  The Guggenheim was particularly helpful, because first, it was a very public and tangible acknowledgement of my compositional abilities, which was helpful in being taken seriously as a composer, and second, more practically speaking on a daily basis, it gave me a whole year of writing time during which I completed dozens of songs, including Bells and Grass, Lovestars, and Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    What kinds of poems have you set in art songs?

    Poets whose words have found their way into my art songs include W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lewis Carroll, Fanny J. Crosby, E. E. Cummings, Jean de La Fontaine, Walter de la Mare, Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Anne Frank, Thomas Hardy, James Joyce, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Amy Lowell, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore, Amelia Forrester Peterson, Edgar Allan Poe, Christina Rossetti, Carl Sandburg, William Shakespeare, Percy Byssche Shelley, and Sara Teasdale.

    Have you worked with living poets?

    Although I’ve written much less using the works of living poets, one very special recent project, just premiered this past October, was a commission from the art song organization Lynx Project in which composers were offered texts written by high-performing, but non-verbal, autistic young men. The poet whose texts I chose to set, Sameer Dahar, wrote wonderfully evocative poems full of rich and beautiful imagery…perfect for the tenor song cycle Great Camelot.

    Other recent projects I have really enjoyed working on include a couple song cycles with singers who also have significant gifts as writers, including Metropolitan Opera soprano Molly Fillmore, on whose lovely poems I wrote the song cycle called Cameos, and the soprano and librettist Caitlin Vincent, whose text formed the basis of my second song cycle for unaccompanied soprano, Sentiment.

    Another tenor song cycle I’m looking forward to composing this year is a setting of the six poem work, Piano Lessons, by the great American poet Billy Collins , which is set for a Spring 2020 premiere.

    What does the future hold for Juliana Hall?

    I am busier than I’ve ever been before, and have several wonderful things coming up. I’ve already mentioned the Billy Collins piece, but in addition to that, I am also writing a large song cycle for mezzo soprano on the words of Margaret Widdemer, whose beautiful poetry I recently discovered.

    I’ve also got a beautiful Christmas text taken from the Gospel of Luke from the Bible, which will be a piece for countertenor voice to be sung (hopefully) during the next Christmas season, and there’s also a wonderful little set of two poems by E. E. Cummings which I hope to write for a very high coloratura voice type.

    And performances?

    I’ve been very blessed with quite a few recent performances, including concerts in Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, England, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Scotland, as well as across the United States in locations including Albuquerque, Amarillo, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Hartford, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Princeton, San Antonio, San Diego, Seattle, Syracuse, Tucson, and Washington, DC.

    Upcoming performances include three premieres this month: Roosters, for soprano, mezzo soprano, and piano; In Closer Bonds of Love to Thee, for soprano and piano; and The Poets, for bass voice and piano. I'm also looking forward to the premiere of my first song cycle for unaccompanied soprano, In Spring, in February; the premiere of a new soprano song, I Know a River Wide and Deep, later in the Spring; the premiere of a soprano cycle, How Do I Love Thee?, in September; the premiere of the soprano cycle Cameos during the 2018-2019 concert season; the premiere of my second cycle for unaccompanied soprano, Sentiment in Spring of 2019; and the premiere of my upcoming tenor song cycle Piano Lessons in Spring 2020.

    As yet unscheduled premieres include the new song cycle on the Margaret Widdemer poems, Will You Love Me Still?; my new contralto song cycle, Of That So Sweet Imprisonment; and new songs for high coloratura, Two Birds.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Any other exciting activities coming up for you?

    Summertime has been an exciting time for me. Last summer I received the 2017 Sorel Commission from SongFest for my soprano song cycle When the South Wind Sings.

    This coming summer is no different; I have two wonderful events to which I’m eagerly looking forward:

    The first event is the 2018 Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, where I have been asked to be this year’s Guest “Spotlight” Composer.  I’m looking forward to working with some extremely talented singers and collaborative pianists preparing for a concert of my songs to take place on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at the Crane School of Music, SUNY, Potsdam, NY.

    The second event is the NATS National Conference, the biannual meeting of members of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, where my songs will be presented in a publisher’s showcase on Sunday, June 24, 2018.  I’m really looking forward to the showcase, but also to meeting as many of the thousand conference attendees as I can, signing scores, and sharing my work as widely as possible.

     

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