The Gorgeous Nothings (2016) for Soprano, Flute, Oboe and Piano
Text: Emily Dickinson fragments
Duration: ca. 10 minutes
Vocal Range: C4-A5
Commission: Lawrence Arts Center
Premiere: Sarah Tannehill-Anderson, Soprano and Trio Allegresse, March 11, 2017

Digital Score & Parts $25.

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Program Notes: “The Gorgeous Nothings” takes its title and inspiration from the facsimile publication of Emily Dickinson’s complete envelope writings edited by Marta L. Werner and Jen Bervin.  These beautiful fragments range from completed, self-contained short poems to mere thoughts hastily expressed on scraps of paper.  I was drawn to these sketches as they seem to give us a glimpse into Dickinson’s creative process.  Also, perhaps because of their very nature of incompleteness, the fragments allow the reader to engage in new ways with Dickinson’s words. It is my hope that the music captures these wonderfully suggestive aspects of the fragments.
“The Gorgeous Nothings” was commissioned by the Lawrence Art Center and premiered by Trio Allegresse with Soprano Sarah Tannehill-Anderson on March 11, 2017.

Text: Emily Dickinson
I. Clogged Only With Music
Clogged
only with
Music, like
the Wheels of
Birds –

Afternoon and
the West and
the gorgeous
nothings
which
compose
the
sunset
keep
their high
appointments

II. In This Short Life
In this short Life
that only  (merely) lasts an hour
How much – how
little – is
within our
power

III.  Paradise Is No Journey
Paradise is no Journey
because it is within –
but for that very cause
though – it is the
most arduous of
Journeys – because as
the servant conscientiously
says at the Door
we are out –
always – invariably –

IV. The Little Sentences
The little
sentences
I begun
and never
finished –
the little
wells I dug and
never
filled –

V.It Is Very Still
It is very still in the
world now – Thronged
only with Music, like the

Decks of
Birds –

and the Seasons
take their hushed
places like figures
in a Dream –

Permission to use “Clogged Only With Music,“ “Paradise Is No Journey,” “The Little Sentences” and “It Is Very Still“ granted by Harvard University Press. THE LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, Associate Editor, Theodora Ward, Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1958 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © renewed 1986 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1914, 1924, 1932, 1942 by Martha Dickinson Bianchi. Copyright © 1952 by Alfred Leete Hampson. Copyright ©1960 by Mary L. Hampson.

Permission to use “In This Short Life “granted by Harvard University Press. THE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1951, 1955 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © renewed 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1914, 1918, 1919, 1924, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1935, 1937, 1942, by Martha Dickinson Bianchi. Copyright © 1952, 1957, 1958, 1963, 1965, by Mary L. Hampson.


But A Day  (2019) for Soprano, Baroque String Trio and Harpsichord
Text: Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
Duration: ca. 8 minutes
Vocal Range: B3-A5
Commission: Kansas City Baroque Consortium
Premiere: Victoria Botero, Soprano and the Kansas City Baroque Consortium. August 23, 2019, Kansas City, MO.

Digital Score & Parts $25.
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Program Notes: 

Program Notes: “But a Day” for Soprano, Baroque String Trio and Harpsichord was written as a companion piece to Barbara Strozzi’s “Che si puo fare,” in celebration of her 400th birthday anniversary. I was inspired by Strozzi’s setting of the text; the way she uses melodic nuances, repetitions and metric shifts to express feelings of despair, hopelessness and, perhaps, reluctant resolve. I wanted to echo Strozzi’s work by choosing a poem that expressed similar emotional themes. Finding the poem “Larghetto” by nineteenth-century poet Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, felt like kismet; I was able to employ another female voice from a different time period and highlight the similarities between the texts musically. “But a Day” was commissioned by the Kansas City Baroque Consortium.

Larghetto

Grant me but a day, love,
But a day,
Ere I give my heart,
My heart away,
Ere I say the word
I’ll ne’er unsay.

Is it earnest with me?
Is it play?
Did the world in arms
Cry to me, “Stay!”
Not a moment then
Would I delay.

Yet, for very love,
I say thee nay.
Ere I give my heart,
My heart away,
Grant me but a day, love,
But a day!

—-Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861 –1907)
This poem is in the public domain and was first published in 1908 in “Poems by Mary E. Coleridge” – London, Elkin Mathew, Vigo Street.


Darest thou now, O Soul (2014) for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano
Text: Walt Whitman from “Leaves of Grass”
From “Soul Journey – Three Whitman Songs”
Vocal Range: A3 –G#5
Duration: 5:30 minutes
Commission: Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival
Premiere: Phyllis Pancella, Mezzo-Soprano and Shields-Collins Bray, piano, July 10, 2016, Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival, New Mexico

Digital Score & Part $10.
More information

Program Note: The moment I read Whitman’s poem Grand is the Seen, I knew I had to set these beautiful words to music. A soundworld arose immediately and as I was getting deeper into the writing process, the music flowed freely, as if Whitman’s words themselves already had the music embedded in them and all I had to do was tap into the energy of it all. At times it felt truly magical and mysterious!

After finishing the first song, I realized I was not quite ready to let go of Whitman’s words. I discovered two more wonderful poems from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass that, although written at different times, seemed to belong together with Grand is the Seen to form a cycle. For me, these three poems create a beautiful journey, a journey of the soul from awakening to awareness to transcendence.  Soul Journey – Three Whitman Songs (2014) was commissioned by the Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival.

Walt Whitman from “Leaves of Grass”

Darest thou now, O Soul
Darest thou now, O Soul,
Walk out with me toward the Unknown Region,
Where neither ground is for the feet, nor any path to follow?

No map, there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.

I know it not, O Soul;
Nor dost thou—all is a blank before us;
All waits, undream’d of, in that region—that inaccessible land.

Till, when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds, bound us.

Then we burst forth—we float,
In Time and Space, O Soul—prepared for them;
Equal, equipt at last—(O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil, O Soul.

Phyllis Pancella, Mezzo Soprano and Ellen Sommer, Piano – “Darest thou now, O Soul”
“Darest thou now, O Soul” is the third song. Page 25 on the PDF.

Grand is the Seen (2014) for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano
Text: Walt Whitman from “Leaves of Grass”
From “Soul Journey – Three Whitman Songs”
Vocal Range: Bb3 –G#5
Duration: 5 minutes
Commission: Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival
Premiere:  Virginia Dupuy, mezzo-soprano and Shields-Collins Bray, piano
July 20, 2014 in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Digital Score & Part $10.
More information

Program Note: The moment I read Whitman’s poem, I knew I had to set these beautiful words to music. A soundworld arose immediately and as I was getting deeper into the writing process, the music flowed freely, as if Whitman’s words themselves already had the music embedded in them and all I had to do was tap into the energy of it all. At times it felt truly magical and mysterious!

Being able to experience the grandeur of nature, the amazing sky and millions of stars while staying at the Gallina Canyon Ranch in the heart of the Chama wilderness in New Mexico was inspiring and invaluable to my creative process. What an amazing and thoughtful gift from the Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival in preparation for this commission. Whitman’s poem could not be more fitting and I am so grateful to have been able to live with these words and in this soundworld for several months.

“Grand is the Seen” was commissioned by the Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival and premiered by Mezzo Soprano Virginia Dupuy and pianist Shields-Collins Bray on July 20, 2014 in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Walt Whitman from “Leaves of Grass”
Grand is the seen, the light, to me – grand are the sky and stars,
Grand is the earth, and grand are lasting time and space,
            And grand their laws, so multiform, puzzling, evolutionary;
            But grander far the unseen soul of me, comprehending, endowing all those,
            Lighting the light, the sky and stars, delving the earth, sailing
            the sea,
 (What were all those, indeed, without thee, unseen soul? of what
            amount without thee?)
            More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul!
            More multiform far-more lasting thou than they.


I swear I think (2014) for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano
Text: Walt Whitman from “Leaves of Grass”
From “Soul Journey – Three Whitman Songs”
Vocal Range: Bb3-F5
Duration: 3:30 minutes
Commission: Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival
Premiere: Phyllis Pancella, Mezzo-Soprano and Shields-Collins Bray, piano, July 10, 2016, Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival, New Mexico

Digital Score & Parts $10.
More information
Program Note: The moment I read Whitman’s poem Grand is the Seen, I knew I had to set these beautiful words to music. A soundworld arose immediately and as I was getting deeper into the writing process, the music flowed freely, as if Whitman’s words themselves already had the music embedded in them and all I had to do was tap into the energy of it all. At times it felt truly magical and mysterious!

After finishing the first song, I realized I was not quite ready to let go of Whitman’s words. I discovered two more wonderful poems from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass that, although written at different times, seemed to belong together with Grand is the Seen to form a cycle. For me, these three poems create a beautiful journey, a journey of the soul from awakening to awareness to transcendence.  Soul Journey – Three Whitman Songs (2014) was commissioned by the Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival.

Walt Whitman from “Leaves of Grass”
I swear I think (from “To Think of Time”)
I swear I think now that every thing without exception has an

     eternal soul!

The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds of the sea have!
     the animals!

I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!

That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it,
     and the cohering is for it!

And all preparation is for it—and identity is for it—and life and
     materials are altogether for it!

Phyllis Pancella, Mezzo Soprano and Ellen Sommer, Piano – “I swear I think”
“I swear I think” is the second song and starts on page 15.

Livid Loneliness of Fear (2019) for Mezzo-Soprano, Flute, Clarinet ,Violin, Cello and Percussion (1 Player: Vibraphone, Concert Bass Drum)
Duration: 15 min
Text: Amelia Earhart
Vocal Range: G#3-F#5
Commission: Music in the American Wild

Digital Score & Parts $45.
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Program Notes:
“Livid Loneliness of Fear” for Mezzo Soprano, Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Percussion was commissioned by the Music In The American Wild Ensemble as part of their series entitled “The American Aviatrix.” Being a long-time resident of Kansas myself, I chose to celebrate the famous American aviation pioneer and Kansas native, Amelia Earhart. When I first learned that in addition to being a record-breaking aviator and outspoken advocate for women’s rights, she was also an avid lover and writer of poetry, it was clear that my composition celebrating her pioneering legacy would have to include her words. Her poem “courage,” which was published the year of her first transatlantic flight in 1928, is extraordinary and i was immediately drawn to her vivid imagery and powerful poetic voice. My setting is guided by this imagery as well as the strong formal aspects of the poem. In addition, during my research into Amelia Earhart I found it endearing that her family and friends always called her by her initials, so I thought it fitting to prominently incorporate these pitches in structurally important moments.

Courage – Amelia Earhart (1897-1937)

Courage is the price that Life exacts
for granting peace.
The soul that knows it not
Knows no release
from little things:

Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy
can hear
The sound of wings.

How can life grant us boon of living,
compensate
For gray dull ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare

The soul’s dominion? Each time we
make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold the resistless day,
And count it fair.

First published in Survey Graphic magazine on July 1, 1928 in an article by Marion Perkins entitled “Who is Amelia Earhart?”


Mondspiel  (2022) for Soprano, Flute, Clarinet, Viola and Cello
I. Der Mond ist aufgegangen
Text: Matthias Claudius (1740 -1815)
II. Verstohlen geht der Mond auf
Text: Anton Wilhelm von Zuccalmaglio (1803–1869)
Duration: 6 min     
Vocal Range: B3-G5
Commission: Left Coast Chamber Ensemble
Premiere: Nikki Einfeld, soprano; Leighton Fong, cello; Phyllis Kamrin, viola; Jerome Simas, clarinet; Lance Sazuki, flute; Matilda Hofman, conductor

Digital Score & Parts $20.
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Program Notes:
“Mondspiel” is a reimagining of two famous German evening songs for Soprano, Flute, Clarinet, Viola and Cello. The words for “Der Mond is aufgegangen” and “Verstohlen geht der Mond auf” have inspired many composers throughout western music history, including Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms. I grew up with the folk melodies as well as the art songs and choral settings. As I sat down with the poems, I found new ways of reimagining what a melody in my own compositional voice would sound like, yet with the goal to capture the essence of a folk song.  For “Der Mond ist aufgegangen” a through-composed idea for two stanzas emerged that for me expressed the nuanced differences in the meaning. My version of “Verstohlen geht der Mond auf” is a lively and playful setting that harkens back to its origin as a festive harvest song.

“Mondspiel” was commissioned by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble as companion songs to Luciano Berio’s “Folk Songs” and uses a subset of the instrumentation. 

Premiere performance as part of the Myth & Memory: Berio Folk Songs with New Companions, 29th Season (2021-2022)

I. Der Mond ist aufgegangen
Text: Matthias Claudius (1740 -1815)

Der Mond ist aufgegangen,
die goldnen Sternlein prangen
am Himmel hell und klar;
der Wald steht schwarz und schweiget,
und aus den Wiesen steiget
der weiße Nebel wunderbar.

Seht ihr den Mond dort stehen?
Er ist nur halb zu sehen
und ist doch rund und schön.
So sind wohl manche Sachen,
die wir getrost belachen,
weil unsre Augen sie nicht sehn.

Translation: Ingrid Stölzel
The moon has risen,
the golden stars shine
Bright and clear in the sky;
The forest stands black and silent,
And from the meadows rises
a white marvelous fog.

Do you see the moon up there?
You can only see half of it
and yet it is round and beautiful.
So are perhaps some things
that we confidently laugh at,
because our eyes do not see them.

II.Verstohlen geht der Mond auf
Text: Anton Wilhelm von Zuccalmaglio (1803–1869)

Verstohlen geht der Mond auf,
blau, blau Blümelein!
Durch Silberwölkchen führt sein Lauf;
Rosen im Tal, Mädel im Saal, o schönste Rosa!

O Schaue, Mond, durchs Fensterlein!
Blau, blau Blümelein!
Schön Trude lock mit deinem Schein!
Rosen im Tal, Mädel im Saal, o schönste Rosa!

Translation: Ingrid Stölzel
Surreptitiously the moon rises,
Blue, blue little flower!
Through silvery clouds leads his path;
Roses in the valley, girl in the hall, oh most beautiful Rosa!

Oh moon, look through the small window;
Blue, blue little flower!
Entice beautiful Trude with your glow;
Roses in the valley, girl in the hall, oh most beautiful Rosa!

Poetic translations of both of these evening songs are widely available. I am providing my own more literal translation.


To One Beyond Seas (2018) for Soprano, Violin and Piano
Text: Emily Pauline Johnson
Duration: 18 min     
Vocal Range: C#4-A5
Commission: NAVO
Premiere: Sarah Tannehill Anderson, Soprano; Véronique Mathieu, Violin; Ellen Sommer, Piano. May 12, 2018, Overland Park, KS

Digital Score & Parts $40.
More information

Program Notes:
When I first encountered the poetry of Mohawk-Canadian poet Emily Pauline Johnson (1861–1913), also known in Mohawk as Tekahionwake, I was moved by her unique and strong poetic voice. “Autumn’s Orchestra,” a suite of ten short verses, is a powerful mediation on nature and life. Throughout the poem, Johnson uses vivid visual and auditory imagery as well as symbolism, which inspired my own musical imagination and became a driving force behind my setting. “To One Beyond Seas” was commissioned by NAVO.

AUTUMN’S ORCHESTRA
By Emily Pauline Johnson

(INSCRIBED TO ONE BEYOND SEAS)
Know by the thread of music woven through
This fragile web of cadences I spin,
That I have only caught these songs since you
Voiced them upon your haunting violin.

THE OVERTURE
October’s orchestra plays softly on
The northern forest with its thousand strings,
And Autumn, the conductor wields anon
The Golden-rod – The baton that he swings.

THE FIRS
There is a lonely minor chord that sings
Faintly and far along the forest ways,
When the firs finger faintly on the strings
Of that rare violin the night wind plays,
Beneath the English pines beyond the sea.

MOSSES
The lost wind wandering, forever grieves
    Low overhead,
Above grey mosses whispering of leaves
     Fallen and dead.
And through the lonely night sweeps their refrain
Like Chopin’s prelude, sobbing ‘neath the rain.

THE VINE
The wild grape mantling the trail and tree,
Festoons in graceful veils its drapery,
Its tendrils cling, as clings the memory stirred
By some evasive haunting tune, twice heard.

THE MAPLE
I.
It is the blood-hued maple straight and strong,
Voicing abroad its patriotic song.

II.
Its daring colours bravely flinging forth
The ensign of the Nation of the North.

HARE-BELL
Elfin bell in azure dress,
Chiming all day long,
Ringing through the wilderness
Dulcet notes of song.
Daintiest of forest flowers
Weaving like a spell –
Music through the Autumn hours,
Little Elfin bell.

THE GIANT OAK
And then the sound of marching armies ‘woke
Amid the branches of the soldier oak,
And tempests ceased their warring cry, and dumb
The lashing storms that muttered, overcome,
Choked by the heralding of battle smoke,
When these gnarled branches beat their martial drum.

ASPENS
A sweet high treble threads its silvery song,
Voice of the restless aspen, fine and thin
It trills its pure soprano, light and long –
Like the vibretto of a mandolin.

FINALE
The cedar trees have sung their vesper hymn,
And now the music sleeps –
Its benediction falling where the dim
Dusk of the forest creeps.
Mute grows the great concerto – and the light
Of day is darkening, Good-night, Good-night.
But through the night time I shall hear within
The murmur of these trees,
The calling of your distant violin
Sobbing across the seas,
And waking wind, and star-reflected light
Shall voice my answering. Good-night, Good-night.


Silent Music of Infinity (2021) for Soprano and Piano
Vocal Range: B3-Ab5
Duration: 5 minutes
Text: Sara Teasdale
Commission: Rebekah Alexander, soprano and Alessandra Volpi, pianist
Premiere: Rebekah Alexander, soprano and Alessandra Volpi, pianist
Sparks & Wiry Cries for the 2022 songSLAM Festival, New York City (Jan. 15, 2022)

Digital Score & Parts $10.
More information

Program Note: 

SILENCE by Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

(To Eleonora Duse)
We are anhungered after solitude,
Deep stillness pure of any speech or sound,
Soft quiet hovering over pools profound,
The silences that on the desert brood,
Above a windless hush of empty seas,
The broad unfurling banners of the dawn,
A faery forest where there sleeps a Faun;
Our souls are fain of solitudes like these.
O woman who divined our weariness,
And set the crown of silence on your art,
From what undreamed-of depth within your heart
Have you sent forth the hush that makes us free
To hear an instant, high above earth’s stress,
The silent music of infinity?

From “Helen of Troy and Other Poems by Sara Teasdale” (1911)


Soul Journey  – Three Whitman Songs (2014) for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano
Vocal Range: A3-G#5
Duration: 14 minutes
Commission: Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival
Premiere: Phyllis Pancella, Mezzo-Soprano and Shields-Collins Bray, piano, July 10, 2016, Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival, New Mexico

Digital Score & Parts $25.
More information

Program Note:
The moment I read Whitman’s poem Grand is the Seen, I knew I had to set these beautiful words to music. A soundworld arose immediately and as I was getting deeper into the writing process, the music flowed freely, as if Whitman’s words themselves already had the music embedded in them and all I had to do was tap into the energy of it all. At times it felt truly magical and mysterious!

After finishing the first song and hearing the wonderful premiere by Mezzo Soprano Virginia Dupuy and pianist Shields-Collins Bray at the Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival in New Mexico, I realized I was not quite ready to let go of Whitman’s words. I discovered two more wonderful poems from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass that, although written at different times, seemed to belong together with Grand is the Seen to form a cycle. For me, these three poems create a beautiful journey, a journey of the soul from awakening to awareness to transcendence.  Soul Journey – Three Whitman Songs (2014) was commissioned by the Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival.

Text from Leaves of Grass
I. Grand Is the Seen
 Grand is the seen, the light, to me – grand are the sky and stars,
 Grand is the earth, and grand are lasting time and space,
 And grand their laws, so multiform, puzzling, evolutionary;
 But grander far the unseen soul of me, comprehending, endowing all those,
 Lighting the light, the sky and stars, delving the earth, sailing
     the sea,
 (What were all those, indeed, without thee, unseen soul? of what
     amount without thee?)
 More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul!
 More multiform far-more lasting thou than they.

II. I swear I think (from “To Think of Time”)
I swear I think now that every thing without exception has an
     eternal soul!
The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds of the sea have!
     the animals!

I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!
That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it,
     and the cohering is for it!
And all preparation is for it—and identity is for it—and life and
     materials are altogether for it!

III. Darest thou now, O Soul
Darest thou now, O Soul,
Walk out with me toward the Unknown Region,
Where neither ground is for the feet, nor any path to follow?

No map, there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.

I know it not, O Soul;
Nor dost thou—all is a blank before us;
All waits, undream’d of, in that region—that inaccessible land.

Till, when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds, bound us.

Then we burst forth—we float,
In Time and Space, O Soul—prepared for them;
Equal, equipt at last—(O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil, O Soul.


The Shelter (2016) for Soprano, Cello and Piano
Text: Emily Dickinson
Duration: 5 min     
Vocal Range: C4-A5
Commission: 2017 Vox Feminae Festival, Tel Aviv, Israel
Premiere: Rona Israel-Kolatt, Soprano, Yotam Baruch, Cello and Tali Morgulis, Piano. April 27, 2017, Tel Aviv, Israel

Digital Score & Part $10.
More information

Program Note:
The Shelter (2016) for Soprano, Cello and Piano was written for the 2017 Vox Feminae Festival in Tel Aviv, Israel. The music for the festival was themed around the idea of shelter and its multitude of interpretations. For me, Emily Dickinson’s poem “The Shelter” is a beautiful and powerful interpretation of our body as a shelter for spirit and soul.

The Shelter
The body grows outside, —
The more convenient way, —
That if the spirit like to hide,
Its temple stands alway
Ajar, secure, inviting;
It never did betray
The soul that asked its shelter
In timid honesty.
Source: Dickinson, E. (1896). The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Series Two. Boston, MA: Roberts Brothers.