What the Heart Desires



What the Heart Desires

Merola Opera Program presents What the Heart Desires. This recital, part of the 2021 Merola Summer Festival, was originally performed and filmed at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on July 3, 2021 in front of invited donors and guests in attendance. Make a gift today to support the future of opera.


What the Heart Desires

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Celebrating diversity in song, this recital co-curated by mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller (Merola ‘05) and tenor Nicholas Phan will explore the many things our hearts desire. Featuring compositions by women and people of color, the program will include selections about romantic desire, physical desire, and the longing for home, for rest, for peace, and for a better world performed by select 2021 Merola young artists.
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Havana Dreams by Robert Owens
Celeste Morales, soprano
Erica Xiaoyan Guo, piano


"Her Eyes, Twin Pools"
"Your Lips are Wine"
from Passionale by Henry Thacker Burleigh
Tianchi Zhang, tenor
Bryan Banowetz, piano

"Among the Fuchsias" from Five Songs of Laurence Hope
by Henry Thacker Burleigh
Edward Graves, tenor
Bryan Banowetz, piano


I Will Lie Down In Autumn by Howard Swanson
Pastourelle by Zenobia Powell Perry
Tianchi Zhang, tenor
Bryan Banowetz, piano


Bright Moonlight by Chen Yi
Gabrielle Beteag, mezzo-soprano
Erica Xiaoyan Guo, piano

Ahora hablo de gaitas by Laureano Quant
Laureano Quant, baritone
Erica Xiaoyan Guo, piano

Alien by Zenobia Powell Perry
Edward Graves, tenor
Erica Xiaoyan Guo, piano


"What Can One Woman Do?" from In Eleanor's Words
by Stacy Garrop
Gabrielle Barkidjija, mezzo-soprano
Marika Yasuda, piano


After The Revels by Mohammed Fairouz
Laureano Quant, baritone
Marika Yasuda, piano

Whilst Alexis Lay Press'd by Justine F. Chen
Gabrielle Barkidjija, mezzo-soprano
Marika Yasuda, piano


"Where There's A Wall" from Where There's A Wall by Ian Cusson
Gabrielle Beteag, mezzo-soprano
Shiyu Tan, piano

Sympathy by Florence Price
Celeste Morales, soprano
Shiyu Tan, piano

Heart by Robert Owens
Edward Graves, tenor
Shiyu Tan, piano

Daedalus by Errollyn Wallen
Gabrielle Beteag, mezzo-soprano
Shiyu Tan, piano


Lyric for Truelove by Undine Smith Moore
Celeste Morales, soprano
Anna Smigelskaya, piano

O Do Not Love Too Long by Viet Cuong
Laureano Quant, baritone
Anna Smigelskaya, piano

I want to die while you love me by Undine Smith Moore
Edward Graves, tenor
Anna Smigelskaya, piano

Jurame by Maria Grever
Celeste Morales, soprano
Anna Smigelskaya, piano

This production of What the Heart Desires is sponsored by Amazon.
Ronnita Miller is sponsored by Mr. Glenn H. Reid, and the Five Arts Foundation.
Nicholas Phan is sponsored by Bob and Terri Ryan.


Amazon offers support for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts in the Music Community with Sponsorship of Merola Recital What the Heart Desires

About Amazon
Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit amazon.com/about and follow @AmazonNews.



Ronnita Miller, Co-curator

Ronnita Miller (Merola ’05) received her Masters of Music from the Manhattan School of Music and graduate diploma from The Juilliard School before spending two years in the Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program at Los Angeles Opera. In 2013 she became a principal artist in the ensemble at Deutsche Oper Berlin where she remained until 2020, singing many roles including Mamma Lucia in Cavalleria rusticana, Fenena in Nabucco, Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte, Mary in Der fliegende Holländer, Madelon in Andrea Chenier, Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera, and Fidès in Le prophète. Miller appeared in several roles in Der Ring des Nibelungen, most notably Erda and First Norn, roles she also sang at San Francisco Opera, Teatro Real Madrid, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Semperoper Dresden, and The Metropolitan Opera of New York. Miller sang concert performances of the work at Tanglewood Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival, and in Amsterdam at the Concertgebouw. She has appeared in many concerts worldwide, and has shared the concert stage with Christian Thielemann, Simon Rattle, Andrew Davis, Alexander Vedernikov, Donald Runnicles, Fabio Luisi, and Riccardo Muti, among others. Returning to the U.S. in 2020, Miller joined The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for a gala concert last fall, and recently appeared as Mrs. Peachum in The Threepenny Opera at The Atlanta Opera. She returns to The Metropolitan Opera next season for the role of Big Stone in Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice.


Nicholas Phan, Co-curator

Described by The Boston Globe as “one of the the world’s most remarkable singers,” American tenor Nicholas Phan is increasingly recognized as an artist of distinction. An artist with an incredibly diverse repertoire that spans nearly 500 years of music, he performs regularly with the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies. A celebrated recording artist, Phan’s most recent album, Clairières, a recording of songs by Lili and Nadia Boulanger, was nominated for the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. His album, Gods and Monsters, was nominated for the same award in 2017. He remains the first and only singer of Asian descent to be nominated in the history of the category, which has been awarded by the Recording Academy since 1959. Sought after as a curator and programmer, in addition to his works as Artistic Director of the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC), Phan has created programs for broadcast on WFMT and WQXR, and served as guest curator for projects with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Laguna Beach Music Festival, Apollo’s Fire, and San Francisco Performances, where he served as the vocal artist-in-residence from 2014-2018. His programs often examine themes of identity, highlight unfairly underrepresented voices from history, and strive to underline the relevance of music from all periods to the currents of the present day.

Production Artists

Ronnita Miller ('05)


Nicholas Phan


Technical Staff

Kathy Rose

Production Manager

Alina Novotny

Stage Manager

Cynthia Fusco

Wardrobe Supervisor


Bryan Banowetz
Bryan Banowetz
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    Schools & Young Artist Programs: University of Cincinnati, College–Conservatory of Music; Luther College

    Teachers: Kenneth Griffiths, Donna Loewy, Andy Villemez, Dr. John F. Strauss, Nicholas Shaneyfelt

    Coaching ExperienceThe Sound of Music; Hand of Bridge

    Awards: Luther College Distinction in Accompanying and Collaborative Piano (2015, 2016); Luther College Concerto Competition, Winner 2015

    Merola Sponsors: Donna Lee Grassman Memorial Fund, Patricia Yakutis Endowment Fund, Charles Rolle, M.D. Endowment Fund

Gabrielle Barkidjija
Gabrielle Barkidjija
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    Schools & Young Artist Programs: Boston University Opera Institute; Northwestern University; Central City Opera; Aspen Music Festival and School

    Teachers: Penelope Bitzas, W. Stephen Smith, Karen Brunssen, Elizabeth Hynes

    Major Roles: Proserpina (L’Orfeo); Fanny Price (Mansfield Park); Captain (Dog Days); Béatrice (Béatrice et Bénédict); Mrs. Grose (The Turn of the Screw); Zerlina (Don Giovanni); Mère Marie (Dialogues des Carmélites); Estelle (Later the Same Evening)

    Awards: National Opera Association Carolyn Bailey and Dominick Argento Competition, Finalist 2021; Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions - Boston District, Encouragement Award 2020; Orpheus Vocal Competition, Second Place 2021; Classical Singer Music Vocal Competition, Second Place 2017

    Merola Sponsors: A. Barlow Ferguson Endowment Fund, James Heagy in memory of Janey Heagy

Gabrielle Beteag
Gabrielle Beteag
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    Schools & Young Artist Programs: Chautauqua Opera; Georgia State University; University of West Georgia

    Teacher: Kay Paschal

    Major Roles: Woman in a Hat, Duchess (The Ghosts of Versailles); Augusta Tabor (The Ballad of Baby Doe); Lady Billows (Albert Herring); Madame de Croissy (Dialogues des Carmélites); Katisha (The Mikado); Secretary (The Consul)

    Upcoming: The Michael O'Neal Singers Atlanta Choir: Alto Soloist (Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass)

    Awards: The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Winner 2020; Opera Birmingham Vocal Competition, Finalist 2019; Kristin Lewis Foundation Vocal Scholarship Auditions, Grand Prize Winner 2018; Georgia State University Brumby Concerto/Aria Competition, Winner 2018; Opera Guild for Atlanta Vocal Scholarship Competition, Graduate Division Winner 2017

    Merola Sponsors: Amici di Merola Fund, Zheng Cao Opera Fund, Anthony I. Balestrieri Endowment Fund, Dr. David D. Stein and Dr. Phyllis A. Kempner

Edward Graves
Edward Graves
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    Schools & Young Artist Programs: Towson University; Indiana University; The Glimmerglass Festival; Florentine Opera; Michigan Opera Theatre

    Teachers: Aaron Sheehan, Patricia Havranek, Connie Haas, Gran Wilson

    Major Roles: Bastien (Bastien und Bastienne); Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi); Policeman 2/Congregant 2 (Blue); Robbins (Porgy and Bess); 1st Armored Man (Die Zauberflöte); Grimoaldo (Rodelinda)

    Upcoming: InSeries: Tamino (Black Flute)

    Awards: The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Wisconsin & Michigan District, Encouragement Award, 2017 and 2019

    Merola Sponsors: Al Garren Fund, Bernice Lindstrom, San Francisco Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Erica Xiaoyan Guo
Erica Xiaoyan Guo
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    Schools & Young Artist Programs: University of Maryland; New England Conservatory of Music; Hochschule für Musik und Theater München; Manhattan School of Music; Aspen Music Festival and School; Pittsburgh Festival Opera

    Teachers: Rita Sloan, Kathleen Kelly, Cameron Stowe, Jonathan Feldman, Antti Siirala, Solomon Mikowsky

    Coaching Experience: La finta giardiniera, Owen Wingrave, Die Zauberflöte, Falstaff, Partenope, The Bartered Bride, Proving Up, Le nozze di Figaro, La bohème

    Merola Sponsors: Rusty and Mike Rolland Fund, Diana C. Yee

Celeste Morales
Celeste Morales
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    Schools & Young Artist Programs: Living Music Institute; Texas State University; Manhattan School of Music; Opera San Antonio Resident Artist; Musiktheater Bavaria; Spotlight on Opera

    Teachers: Bill Schuman, Shirley Close, Oliver Worthington, Annalisa Mendiola

    Major Roles: Claire (SIX); Mimì (La bohème); Mrs. Grose (The Turn of the Screw); Gertrude (Hänsel und Gretel); Madame Lidoine (Dialogues of the Carmelites); Donna Anna (Don Giovanni)

    Awards: Living Music Institute, Aria Competition Winner 2020; Vienna Summer Music Festival Competition, Winner 2019; Margaret Howell van Der Marck Scholarship in Opera, 2016-18; Texas State Aria Concerto, Winner 2015; South Texas NATS Aspiring Artist Grant, 2015; Tuesday Music Club Young Artists Competition, 2015; Teresa Gordon Opera, Excellence Award 2014

    Merola Sponsors: Susan York, Merola Members Fund, Leona Gordon Lowin Memorial Fund

Laureano Quant
Laureano Quant
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    Schools & Young Artist Programs: Merola Opera Program; SongStudio; SongFest; Manhattan School of Music; Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

    Teachers: James Morris, Carolina Plata

    Major Roles: Figaro (I due Figaro); Mr. Maguire (Emmeline); Zurga (Les pêcheurs de perles); Prince Ragotsky, Captain (Candide); Demetrius (A Midsummer Night's Dream)

    Awards: The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Middle/East Tennessee District Winner, 2020; Mae Zenke Orvis Opera Scholarship, 2018-2020; Concurso de Canto Ciudad de Bogotá, First Prize 2018; ICETEX Jóvenes Talentos, Winner 2018; Jóvenes Talentos of Banco de la República de Colombia, Winner 2018; Concurso Nacional de Canto OFB, Second Prize 2016

    Merola Sponsors: Maureen Clarke, Albert L. Mosher and John E. McCormick AIDS Memorial Fund, Querita Eybel Endowment Fund, Barbara J. Ross

Anna Smigelskaya
Anna Smigelskaya
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    Schools & Young Artist Programs: Manhattan School of Music; Music Academy of the West; University of Houston, Moores School of Music; Sam Houston State University; Musical College N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov of Saint Petersburg

    Teachers: Warren Jones, Ana María Otamendi, Nancy Weems, Ilonka Rus, Sergio Ruiz, Svetlana Karzina, Olga Vinogradskaya

    Coaching Experience: Cold Mountain; Emmeline; Suor Angelica; Così fan tutte

    Awards: Texas Music Teachers Association Piano Performance Contest, First Place 2014

    Merola Sponsors: Amy Roth and Robert Epstein

Shiyu Tan
Shiyu Tan
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    Schools & Young Artist Programs: Manhattan School of Music; Shanghai Conservatory of Music; Aspen Music Festival and School

    Teachers: Warren Jones, Cristina Stanescu, Kenneth Merrill

    Coaching ExperienceIl barbiere di Siviglia, The Turn of the Screw, The Cunning Little Vixen

    Merola Sponsors: Otto Guth Fund, Patricia Yakutis Endowment Fund, Gropper Memorial Fund

Marika Yasuda
Marika Yasuda
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    Schools & Young Artist Programs: Indiana University; Oberlin College and Conservatory; Ravinia's Steans Music Institute; Tanglewood Music Center; SongFest

    Teachers: Kevin Murphy, Anne Epperson, Alvin Chow, Philip Highfill

    Coaching ExperienceIl barbiere di Siviglia, La bohème, Gianni Schicchi; The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs; West Side Story; In America (world premiere)

    Awards: Indiana University Associate Instructorship (2015-present); Oberlin College and Conservatory Dean Talent Award (2011-2015); Oberlin College and Conservatory Senior Concerto Competition, Winner 2015; Oberlin College and Conservatory Piano Accompaniment Prize, 2015

    Merola Sponsors: Jacobs Family Trust, Patricia Yakutis Endowment Fund, Alma Brooks Walker Fund

Tianchi Zhang
Tianchi Zhang
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    Schools & Young Artist Programs: Shandong University of Arts; Mannes School of Music; NY Summer Opera Scenes; Pittsburgh Festival Opera

    Teachers: Arthur Levy, Joshua Greene

    Major Roles: Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi); Nadir (Les pêcheurs de perles); Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor); Ernesto (Don Pasquale); Alfredo (La traviata)

    Awards: Career Bridges Grant Award, 2019; Verismo Opera Vocal Competition, Third Prize 2019; The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Eastern Region, Encouragement Award 2019

    Merola Sponsors: Zheng Cao Opera Fund, Diana Yee



What the Heart Desires Trailer

Merola Opera Program presents What the Heart Desires. Celebrating diversity in song, What the Heart Desires was co-curated by mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller (Merola ‘05) and tenor Nicholas Phan. It explores the many things our hearts desire and features compositions by women and people of color. The program includes selections about romantic desire, physical desire, and the longing for home, for rest, for peace, and for a better world​​​​​. The recital was performed and filmed live on July 3, 2021 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Concert Hall.






– Ronnita Miller & Nicholas Phan

In the prelude to his recent book, Wagnerism, author and music critic Alex Ross describes a scene in which the white, cis-gendered, heterosexual man who is perhaps the most influential composer in the history of opera, Richard Wagner, plays music on the piano at his palazzo in Venice the night before he dies. He plays the music of the Rheinmaidens from his revolutionary cycle of four operas, The Ring of the Nibelung. After he finishes playing, Ross quotes the composer:

❝ I am quite fond of them, these subordinate beings of the deep, with their yearning. ❞

Over the past year, as the United States has experienced its most recent reckoning with its racial history and the rifts that history continues to cause in our current society, we are called to right the wrongs of inequity in all industries, including our own operatic one. As singers of color, it has been heartening to see other people’s eyes open to the inequities we have always observed and experienced over the course of our careers. It has been moving to hear the cries for increased representation on our stages. It has also been exhilarating to witness a fresh discussion about the myths of canon and meritocracy, and the dynamics of privilege within our art form. Most notably, it has been thrilling to see the growing interest in composers who have been unfairly overlooked because of the historic hegemony of the white patriarchy in classical music.

Music is often loftily described as “being or everyone” and a "universal language”, but the long list of white, mostly European, mostly straight men that make up the canon of “great” composers paints an exclusive and exclusionary picture of our medium. Nonetheless, those of us from unrepresented backgrounds were drawn to music precisely because it was a safe space where we found acceptance and community as young people, so there must be some truth to these maxims.

Some assume that music which has been lost to history has been lost for a reason, yet many pieces that are now considered central to the operatic musical canon are works that were deemed complete failures at the time of their premieres. Wagner’s opera, Tannhäuser, required significant revision after its premiere in Dresden and had a disastrous reception at the premiere of its Paris version. Yet, both the public and the industry continued to give Wagner and his opera more chances, a privilege denied to non-white and non-male composers. An effect of the last year of reckoning has been to demand that we look at the music of composers from historically marginalized groups with a fresh lens, giving it more chances to be heard, performed, and assessed in its own right.

Today’s program is a modest contribution to this larger, much-needed movement within our art form. No longer considered “subordinate”, women and composers of color are raised from the deep and brought up to an equitable platform so that our stories can be heard. Song, which uniquely combines the universal language of music with the concrete language of written text, carries with it an infinite potential to communicate the varied stories of human experience, as well as increase empathy by encouraging listeners and performers alike to be attuned to the humanity of those around us. In our increasingly fractured world, it is our hope that as we give a platform to those voices that have been stifled by being held in the deep, in hearing the yearnings of those who seem poles apart from us, it will become apparent that our desires are not so different, after all.



  • Program Notes
  • Song Texts
  • Robert Lee Owens | Henry Thacker Burleigh | Howard Swanson | Zenobia Powell Perry | Chen Yi | Stacy Garrop | Mohammed Fairouz | Justine F. Chen | Ian Cusson | Florence B. Price | Errollyn Wallen | Undine Smith Moore | Viet Cuong | Maria Grever | Laureano Quant

    Raised in Berkeley, CA, Robert Lee Owens (1925 – 2017) had simultaneous careers as a concert pianist, vocal accompanist, composer, and stage and television actor; and for most of his adult life, he was an American expatriate in Europe, principally in Munich, Germany, where he lived for more than 50 years. Owens began composing art songs after meeting the poet, social activist, novelist, and playwright Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967), who gifted him a copy of his collection, Fields of Wonder, suggesting he “see what he could do” with the poems. Both Havana Dreams and Heart are from his song cycle, Heart on the Wall, one of many song cycles Owens composed using Hughes’ poetry.

    The first prominent Black composer in America, Henry Thacker Burleigh (1866 – 1949), composed a distinguished catalog of songs which were quite popular with singers in the earlier part of this century, including the tenor John McCormack, who often featured Burleigh’s songs in recital. As a student at the National Conservatory in New York City, Burleigh came into contact with Antonin Dvořák. Through his work with Burleigh, Dvořák came to believe that it was in the music of African American spirituals where the true American sound would be found. A prolific composer, with an output of well over 200 compositions, Burleigh was one of the most important American composers of the first half of the 20th century. Burleigh’s short cycle, Passionale, consists of four songs (two of which feature on today’s program), with poetry by James Weldon Johnson (1871 – 1938). The song Among the Fuchsias is taken from Burleigh’s collection of settings of the poetry of Laurence Hope, which was the pen name of Violet Nicolson (1865 –1904), an English poet who spent most of her life in colonial India.

    American composer Howard Swanson (1907 – 1978) came to prominence through his art songs, which were championed by singers such as the contralto Marian Anderson, soprano Leontyne Price, tenor George Shirley, and bass William Warfield. Through performances of these vocal works, Swanson’s music was introduced to the conductor Dmitri Mitropoulos, who gave the composer a premiere at the New York Philharmonic, leading to the first of many international awards and commissions for Swanson. Born in Atlanta, Swanson studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music as well as pursued post-graduate studies with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, where he would live for many years both before and after World War II. I Will Lie Down in Autumn, is one of his final songs, and is a setting of the poetry of American poet May Swenson (1913 – 1989).

    Born to parents of African-American and Creek Indian heritage, Zenobia Powell Perry (1908-2004) negotiated a varied and untraditional musical education. Despite discouragement from her father, Perry pursued a music education as a pianist, largely thanks to the insistence of her mother. After completing her undergraduate studies in piano, Perry was permitted by her father to attend the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where she studied education. While at Tuskegee, after gaining notice for her choral arrangements, Perry was encouraged to begin composing music of her own. Perry went on to pursue a masters degree in education in Colorado, and was supported in her studies by Eleanor Roosevelt, who was keen to support her educational vision. It would not be until 1950 that Perry would fully devote herself to composition, a decision that would lead to an output of works for choir, orchestra, and solo piano; chamber pieces; an opera; and many art songs. Alien and Pastourelle are taken from one of her most frequently performed song cycles, Threnody, a collection of musical settings of the poetry of Donald Jeffrey Hayes.

    Chen Yi (born in 1953) is an innovative and prolific composer who blends Chinese and Western traditions, transcending cultural and musical boundaries. Born in China, she survived hard labor and separation from her family during the Cultural Revolution of 1966. At the age of 17, she returned to her home city of Guangzhou and served as concertmaster and composer with the Beijing Opera Troupe, and it was then that her fascination with traditional Chinese music and Western classical music theory began. Dr. Chen is the recipient of the prestigious Charles Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001 and has been commissioned by many organizations and previously was the composer-in-residence with Chanticleer. The first Chinese woman to receive a Master of Arts in music composition from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, she currently serves on the composition faculty of the University of Missouri–Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music. Bright Moonlight is a setting of a text Chen wrote in English, following a structure borrowed from ancient Chinese poetry.

    Born and raised in the Bay Area and now based in Chicago, composer Stacy Garrop (b. 1969) represents a continuation of a long tradition of Chicagoan women composers that includes not only Florence Price, but also Margaret Bonds, Shulamit Ran, Ruth Crawford Seeger, and Augusta Read Thomas. Premiered in 2006, Garrop’s In Eleanor’s Words draws on excerpts of Eleanor Roosevelt’s syndicated newspaper column, My Day, which ran from 1935 through 1962. The cycle affords the chance to revisit some of the musings of one of America’s most progressive women leaders. Over the course of the work, we hear snippets of Roosevelt’s thoughts on systemic oppression of people of color and the poor, and in the final song of the cycle, What Can One Woman Do?, her pleas for pacifism and her beliefs about the importance of the participation of the individual in our democracy – all statements that remain sadly relevant nearly a century hence.

    Mohammed Fairouz (b. 1985) is one of the most frequently performed, commissioned, and recorded composers working today. Fairouz’s large-scale works engage major geopolitical and philosophical themes with a cosmopolitan outlook that reflects his transatlantic upbringing and extensive travels. His catalog encompasses virtually every genre, including opera, symphonies, vocal and choral settings, chamber and solo works. Fairouz’ After the Revels, is a setting of a translation of the poet Ibn Shuhayd (992 – 1034) from the early 11th century. Fairouz writes that his intention in setting the text was “in celebration of love as a gay composer” and describes the song as being “one of my most sensual songs describing the sexual act as a celebration of being human and alive.”

    Born in New York City, Taiwanese-American composer Justine F. Chen (b. 1975) draws inspiration from animation, film, theater, classical Indian dance and music, ballet, and contemporary dance. She studied violin and composition at the pre-college division of The Juilliard School, where she also completed her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral studies in violin and composition. Also a dancer, she trained at the School of American Ballet and performed in various productions with New York City Ballet at the New York State Theater. She has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and commissions, including prizes from BMI and ASCAP. Chen’s Whilst Alexis Lay Press’d is a setting of a text taken from John Dryden’s (1631 – 1700) play, the Restoration comedy Marriage-à-la-mode.

    Of Métis (Georgian Bay Métis Community) and French Canadian descent, Ian Cusson’s (b. 1981) work explores the Canadian Indigenous experience, including the history of the Métis people, the hybridity of mixed-racial identity, and the intersection of Western and Indigenous cultures. He studied composition with Jake Heggie and Samuel Dolin and piano with James Anagnoson at the Glenn Gould School. Cusson was an inaugural Carrefour Composer in Residence with the National Arts Centre Orchestra from 2017-2019. He is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the Canadian League of Composers. Cusson’s song Where There’s A Wall is taken from his song cycle of the same name, which premiered in 2018. The song is a setting of a poem by the Canadian poet Joy Kogawa (b. 1935), who was interned with her family at the Japanese-Canadian internment camp in Slocan, British Columbia during World War II.

    Florence B. Price (1887 – 1953) made history as the first black woman in history to have a symphony performed by a major symphony orchestra when the Chicago Symphony and Frederick Stock performed her Symphony No. 1 in e minor in 1933. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Price moved North to Chicago following a torrent of racial violence following the lynching of an African-American man in Little Rock. She remained a resident of Chicago for the majority of her adult life. A fixture on the city’s classical music scene, Price was a prolific composer who composed roughly 300 pieces in a wide range of genres, from symphonic works to popular songs. Price’s Sympathy is a setting of a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 – 1906), one of the first Black American writers of influence. The poem has inspired many, including Maya Angelou, who used an excerpt as the title of her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

    Errollyn Wallen, CBE (b. 1958), a Belize-born British citizen, is a prolific composer who has written numerous chamber and orchestral works, multiple operas, and scores of songs. Her Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra was the first piece composed by a black woman to be performed at the BBC Proms in 1998, 103 years after the festival’s founding. A free-spirited composer, Wallen’s music draws on influences of many genres, including the avant-garde edges of classical music as well as popular song. Wallen’s Daedalus is the composer’s imagining of the title character’s take on his own story in Greek mythology. The father of Icarus, who ignored his warnings and flew too close to the sun, Wallen also references an earlier aspect of Daedalus’ mythical biography: his murder of his nephew and apprectice, Perdix, for fear that he would outshine him.

    Often referred to as the "Dean of Black Women Composers," Undine Smith Moore (1904-1989) was an American composer and professor of music in the twentieth century. Moore was originally trained as a classical pianist, but developed a compositional output of mostly vocal music—the genre she most preferred as a result of her musical upbringing, which was filled with African American spirituals, the music that inspired much of her work. In her youth, Moore experienced the full effect of the Jim Crow era. On looking back at her life, she later stated: “One of the most evil effects of racism in my time was the limits it placed upon the aspirations of blacks, so that though I have been ‘making up’ and creating music all my life, in my childhood or even in college I would not have thought of calling myself a composer or aspiring to be one....all liberation is connected… as long as any segment of the society is oppressed… the whole society must suffer.” Moore’s incredible talent for vocal writing is on display with the two songs on this evening’s program: Lyric for Truelove musically sets a poem by Midwestern poet Florence Hynes Willette (1901 – 1982), and I Want to Die While You Love Me is a setting of African-American poet and playwright, Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880 – 1966).

    American composer Viet Cuong (b. 1990) has been commissioned and performed internationally by ensembles such as the New York Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony, Eighth Blackbird, PRISM Quartet, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, among many others. He enjoys exploring the unexpected and whimsical and is often drawn to projects where he can make peculiar combinations and sounds feel enchanting or oddly satisfying. Currently the California Symphony’s Young American Composer-in-Residence, the orchestra recently premiered his new piece Next Week’s Trees, the first of three new orchestral works that he and the symphony will develop together over the course of his three year residency. Premiered in 2018, O Do Not Love Too Long is Cuong’s musical take on William Butler Yeats’ (1865 – 1939) poem about the fickleness of love.

    A pioneer in popular music, Maria Grever (1885 – 1951) was the first Mexican woman to become a successful international composer. Born in Léon, Guanajuato, Mexico, Grever lived in Mexico City before moving with her family to Seville in 1891 at the age of six. Following studies in France with Claude Debussy and Franz Lenhard, she moved back to Mexico and continued her musical studies in 1900. Following her marriage to American oil executive, Leo A. Grever, she became a U.S. citizen and moved to New York City, where she launched her compositional career. Jurame was her first big, international hit, putting her on the map. Over the course of her career, she composed hundreds of popular tunes, writing for giant stars ranging from Esther Williams to Enrico Caruso, as well as for Hollywood studios like Paramount and 20th Century Fox. Speaking of how she wanted to share Mexico’s music with the rest of the world, Grever said: “There is such a cultural richness in Mexican Music (its Hispanic and indigenous origins and how they mix)...It is my wish and yearning to present the native rhythms and tunes (of Mexico) from a real perspective, but with the necessary flexibility to appeal to the universal audience."

    Current Merola Artist, baritone Laureano Quant (b. 1993), is also a composer, having completed his undergraduate studies in composition at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia, and it is thrilling to be able to present his song Ahora hablo de gaitas on this program. For this song, Quant sets to music a poem by the Colombian poet, Jorge Artel (1909 – 1994).

    The composers featured on today's program are but a sampling of the many diverse voices that have been making valuable contributions to the classical vocal repertoire for roughly the last 150 years of music history, spanning from the late 19th century through today. It is an impossible task to distill the vast body of work by women and composers of color down into a single 70-minute program. Making decisions about which songs to include on this program was difficult as there were so many precious gems from which to choose, and due to the limits of time, many a masterpiece of song had to be left to be sung another day. As our art form emerges into a new chapter in a post-pandemic world, it is our greatest hope that recitals like this one become the new normal, and that great works hidden in the shadows of history see fresh light and that newer works by living composers can continue to take root and flourish, allowing both to take their rightful place in a new, more inclusive canon. Then, perhaps, songs truly can be for all, allowing music to live up to its universal potential.






    Havana Dreams – Langston Hughes

    The dream is a cocktail at Sloppy Joe's —
    (Maybe — nobody knows.)

    The dream is the road to Batabano.
    (But nobody knows if that is so.)

    Perhaps the dream is only her face —
    Perhaps it's a fan of silver lace —
    Or maybe the dream's a Vedado rose —
    (Quien sabe? Who really knows?)





    Her Eyes, Twin Pools – James Weldon Johnson

    Her eyes, twin pools of mystic light,
    The blend of star-sheen and black night;
    O’er which, to sound their glamouring haze,
    A man might bend, and vainly gaze.

    Her eyes, twin pools so dark and deep,
    In which life’s ancient mysteries sleep;
    Wherein, to seek the quested goal,
    A man might plunge, and lose his soul.

    Your Lips are Wine – James Weldon Johnson

    Your lips are wine, —
    O Heart’s Desire,
    Give me the flame
    Of their passion-kindling fire;
    The world melts away
    In the glow of your kiss,
    And leaves just you and me,
    Alone in silent bliss.

    Your lips again,
    Give them to mine,
    One more full draught
    Of their nectar’d anodyne.
    In the fold of your arms
    Lull me softly, softly until
    There comes the wondrous calm
    Of love so deep and still.



    Among the Fuchsias – Laurence Hope

    Call me not to a secret place
    when daylight dies away,
    tempt me not with tine eager face
    and words thou shouldst not say.

    Entice me not with a child of thine,
    ah, God, if such might be,
    for surely a man is half divine
    who adds another link to the line
    whose last link none may see.

    Call me not to the Lotus lake
    where drooping fuchsias hide,
    what if my latent youth awakes
    and will not be denied?

    Ah, tempt me not for I am not strong
    (thy mouth is a budded kiss)
    My days are empty, my nights are long;
    ah, why is a thing so sweet so wrong,
    why is a thing so sweet so wrong
    as thy temptation is?

    Tide – Francis Bacon Paine

    The tide of love in my heart runs high
    When sands are bear and the sea is low;
    But oh! when, the sea runs high
    Then Love! Come take from my heart its overflow!



    I Will Lie Down in Autumn – May Swenson

    I will lie down in autumn
    let birds be flying
    Swept in a hollow by the wind
    I’ll wait for dying
    I will lie inert unseen
    my hair same-colored with grass and leaves
    Gather me for the autumn fires
    with the withered sheaves
    I will sleep face down in the burnt meadow
    not hearing the sound of water over stones
    Trail over me cloud and shadow
    Let snow hide the whiteness of my bones



    Pastourelle – Donald Jeffrey Hayes

    Walk this mile in silence —
    Let no sound intrude
    Upon the vibrant stillness
    Of this solitude!

    Let no thought be spoken
    Nor syllable be heard
    Lest the spell be broken
    By the thunder of a word!

    Here, such matchless wonder is
    As might tear apart —
    Should the lip give tone

    To the fullness of the heart…!



    Bright Moonlight – Chen Yi

    Outside my window bright moonlight
      Kissing the grassland,
      Kissing the grassland;
      Near in front, far away,
    Given to the world of consonance.

    Look at the window bright moonlight
      Missing my homeland,
      Missing my homeland;
      Near in front, far away,
    Yearning for the world of consonance.

    Ahora Hablo de Gaitas – Jorge Artel

    Gaitas lejanas la noche
    nos ha metido en el alma.
    ¿Vienen sus voces de adentro
    o de allá de la distancia?

    -De adentro y de la distancia,
    ¡porque aquí entre nosotros
    cada cual lleva su gaita
    en los repliegues del alma!

    -Compadre José Morillo,
    No toque más su guitarra:
    ¡oigamos mejor las gaitas
    que nos cuentan su nostalgia

    -Y aquellos que no comprenden
    la voz que suena en sus almas
    y apagan sus propios ecos
    con las músicas extrañas,
    que se sienten en la tierra
    para que escuchen lo dulce
    que han de sonar sus gaitas.

    Cuando la estrella del alba
    nos venga a bañar el rostro
    y ya nos inunde a todos
    fresca luz de la mañana,
    compadre José Murillo:
    ¡entonces serán más puras
    las voces de nuestras gaitas!

    Translation by Laureano Quant
    Now, I speak of gaitas – Jorge Artel

    The night has put distant gaitas
    in our soul.
    Do their voices come from the inside
    or from the distance?

    -Both from the inside and from the distance,
    Because here between us
    everyone carries his own gaita
    in the wrinkles of the soul!

    -Compadre José Murillo,
    Play no more your guitar:
    Let us instead hear the gaitas
    recount their nostalgia!

    -And those of you who do not comprehend
    the voice that sounds in your souls
    and dim your own echoes
    with the strange music
    Sit on the ground
    So you will hear how sweet
    your gaitas might sound.

    When the star of the dawn
    Comes to bathe the face
    And flood every one of us
    With fresh light of the morning,
    Compadre José Murillo:
    then the voices of our gaitas
    will be more pure!



    Alien – Donald Jeffrey Hayes

    Do no stifle me with the strange scent
    Of low growing mountain lilies
    Do not confuse me
    With the salubrious odor of honeysuckle!

    I cannot separate in my mind
    Sweetness from sweetness--
    Mimosa from wild white violets;
    Magnolia from Cape jasmine!

    I am from north tide country,
    I can understand only the scent of seaweed;
    Salt marsh and scrub pine
    Riding on the breath of an amorous fog!

    O do not confuse me
    With sweetness upon sweetness;
    Let me escape safely from this gentle madness--
    Let me go back to the salt of sanity
    In the scent of the sea…!



    What Can One Woman Do? – Eleanor Roosevelt

    What can one woman do to prevent war?
    This is the question that comes my way in any
    number of letters these days?

    For many years war has been looked upon as almost
    inevitable in the solution of any question that has
    arisen between nations, and the nation that was
    strong enough to do so went about building up its
    defenses and its power to attack. It felt that it could
    count on these two things for safety.

    As I travel around this country I cannot help thinking
    what a pity it would be to destroy so much beauty,
    and I am sure this thought crosses the mind of many
    a Russian traveling through his country.

    To the women and men asking themselves
    “What can I do as an individual?” my answer is this:
    Take a more active interest in your government,
    have a say in who is nominated,
    work for these candidates
    and keep in close touch with them if they are elected.

    If our objective is to do away with the causes of war,
    build up the United Nations and give the U.N. more
    control over the weapons of total destruction,
    we should urge that world law be developed
    so the people’s grievances can be heard promptly
    and judiciously settled.

    What can one woman do?




    After the Revels – Ibn Shuhayd, trans. Cola Franzen

    When the wine he drank put him to sleep,
    and the eyes of the watchmen were closed also,
    I moved toward him timidly, one who seeks to come
    close, but on the sly pretending not to.
    I crept towards him imperceptible as a dream,
    I moved myself close to him softly as a breath.
    I kissed his throat, a white jewel,
    drank the vivid red of his mouth,
    and so I spent my night with him deliciously, until
    darkness smiled,
    showing the white teeth of dawn.



    Whilst Alexis Lay Press'd – John Dryden

    Whilst Alexis lay press'd
    In her arms he loved best,
    With his hands ‘round her neck,
    And his head on her breast,
    He found the fierce pleasure too hasty to stay,
    And his soul in the tempest just flying away.

    When Celia saw this,
    With a sigh and a kiss,
    She cried, 'Oh, my dear,
    I am robbed of my bliss;
    'Tis unkind to your love,
    and unfaithfully done,
    To leave me behind you,
    and die all alone.'

    The youth, though in haste,
    And breathing his last,
    In pity died slowly, while she died more fast;
    Till at length she cried, 'Now, my dear, let us go:
    Now die, my Alexis, and I will die too.'

    Thus entranced they did lie,
    Till Alexis did try
    To recover new breath, that again he might die:
    Then often they died; but the more they did so,
    The nymph died more quick,
    and the shepherd more slow.



    Where There’s a Wall – Joy Kogawa

    Where there’s a wall
    there’s a way around, over or through
    there’s a gate maybe a ladder a door
    a sentinel who sometimes sleeps.
    There are secret passwords you
    can overhear. There are methods
    of torture for extracting clues
    to maps of underground passageways.
    There are zeppelins, helicopters,
    rockets, bombs, battering rams,
    armies with trumpets whose
    all at once blast shatters
    the foundations.

    Where there’s a wall there are
    words to whisper by a loose brick,
    wailing prayers to utter, birds
    to carry messages taped to their feet.
    There are letters to be written —
    poems even.

    On this side of the wall I am standing
    staring at the top
    lost in the clouds I hear ev’ry sound you make
    but cannot see you
    I incline in the wrong direction
    a voice cries faint as in a dream from the belly of the wall.

    Sympathy – Paul Laurence Dunbar

    I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
    When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
    When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
    And the river flows like a stream of glass;
    When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
    And the faint perfume from its chalice steals
    I know what the caged bird feels!

    I know why the caged bird beats his wing
    Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
    For he must fly back to his perch and cling
    When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
    And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
    And they pulse again with a keener sting
    I know why he beats his wing!

    I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
    When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,–
    When he beats his bars and he would be free;
    It is not a carol of joy or glee,
    But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
    But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings
    I know why the caged bird sings!



    Heart – Langston Hughes

    Took his heart
    And hung it
    On a wayside wall.

    He said,
    “Look, Passers-by
    Here is my heart!”

    But no one was curious,
    No one cared at all
    That there hung
    Pierrot’s heart
    On the public wall.

    So Pierrot
    Took his heart
    And hid it
    Far away.

    Now people wonder
    Where his heart is

    Daedalus – Errollyn Wallen

    Is this the life you would have hoped for?
    Is this the life you would have died for?

    But how things change.
    Ah. Yet stay the same.

    Is this the life you would have wished for?
    Is this the life you would have killed for?

    But how things change.
    Ah. Yet stay the same.

    Can you still find him?
    Will you still find him?
    He is fallen,
    Fallen to the sea.

    Yes. You can find him.



    Lyric for Truelove – Florence Hynes Willette

    True love, true love arisse for our trysting
    a young scented wind hastens by to remind us,
    the season is on us; the hour is right.

    Oh do you remember an April behind us when
    dogwood twined gentle and white? Your voice was a
    singing bird caught in the branches. Your hair a bright
    river that curved as it fell and silky your eyelids were,
    cool as the blossoms; Your mouth for my thirst was a

    True love, true love arise for our trysting.
    Leave your throat bare and your long hair undone.
    We lean to each other where wild boughs are misting
    and shake out our dreams in the sun.

    O Do Not Love Too Long – William Butler Yeats

    Sweetheart, do not love too long:
    I loved long and long,
    And grew to be out of fashion
    Like an old song.

    All through the years of our youth
    Neither could have known
    Their own thought from the other’s,
    We were so much at one.

    But, O in a minute she changed--
    O do not love too long,
    Or you will grow out fashion
    Like an old song.



    I Want to Die While You Love Me – Georgia Douglas Johnson

    I want to die while you love me,
    While yet you hold me fair,
    While laughter lies upon my lips
    And lights are in my hair.

    I want to die while you love me,
    And bear to that still bed,
    Your kisses turbulent, unspent
    To warm me when I’m dead.

    I want to die while you love me
    Oh, who would care to live
    Till love has nothing more to ask
    And nothing more to give?

    I want to die while you love me
    And never, never see
    The glory of this perfect day
    Grow dim or cease to be!

    Jurame – Anonymous

    Todos dicen que es mentira que te quiero,
    porque nunca me habían visto enamorado.
    Yo te juro que yo mismo no comprendo,
    el porqué tu mirar me ha fascinado.

    Cuando estoy cerca de ti estoy contento,
    no quisiera que de nadie te acordaras.
    Tengo celos hasta del pensamiento,
    que pueda recordarte a otra persona amada.

    Júrame, que aunque pase mucho tiempo,
    no olvidarás el momento en que yo te conocí.

    Mírame, pues no hay nada más profundo,
    ni más grande en este mundo,
    que el cariño que te di.

    Bésame, con un beso enamorado,
    como nadie me ha besado,
    desde el día en que nací.

    Quiéreme, quiéreme hasta la locura,
    así sabrás la amargura,
    que estoy sufriendo por ti.

    Translation by Micaela Nerguizian
    Swear to Me - Anonymous

    Everyone says it's a lie that I love you,
    because they had never seen me in love.
    I swear to you that I myself do not understand myself
    why your look has captivated me

    When I'm near you I'm happy,
    I would not want you to remember anyone else.
    I'm even jealous of the thought,
    that I can remind you of another person you loved

    Swear to me, that even if a long time passes
    you will never forget the moment in which I met you.

    Look at me, there is nothing deeper
    and more beautiful in this world
    than the love I gave you.

    Kiss me, with an enamored kiss,
    like no one has kissed me
    from the day I was born

    Love me, love me to the point of madness
    so you will taste the bitterness
    that I'm suffering for you




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