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Teaching and Learning in the Time of Covid-19

A privilege to sojourn through this time with colleagues and students. Here is a brief reflection on shifting from seminar room to semaphore.

Artblog

Composer Samuel E. McLaughlin ponders the resonance of the eternal in an essay that features Jennifer Higdon’s The Singing Rooms and a few of my poems. Thank you, Samuel.

Five Minahan Songs Performance Video

Ya-Jhu Yang's beautiful setting of five short poems is now available in the Video tab (Jean Kim, cello, and Dennis Chmelensky, baritone).

New Voices CD Available featuring "Oars in Water"

Michael Djupstrom's rich setting of "Oars in Water" has been recorded by the Brooklyn Art Song Society with BASS artistic director Michael Brofman, piano, and Kyle Oliver, baritone. The CD, New Voices, is available here.

Rowing toward Spring

What better way to greet spring than to hear pianist Amy J. Yang and soprano Lauren Pearl Eberwein collaborate as they perform March 10, 7:30 pm, Pennswood Village, Langhorne, PA. The recital will include Michael Djupstrom's Oars in Water, a setting of four poems.

Glimmer Train Honorable Mention

What a thrill to share the news that one of my stories has received an Honorable Mention in the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers.

Bucknell Alumni Article

In this brief article for Bucknell Magazine Dave Allen describes the pull of poetry in my life. I'm grateful to Editor Sherri Kimmel, and to Gordon Wenzel, who was able to get a reluctant subject to laugh and recite poems while he framed and captured amazing photographs. 

Brooklyn Bound ~ June 7

Brooklyn Art Song Society, with Artistic Director Mike Brofman, will present Michael Djupstrom's complete cycle "Oars in Water" at 7:30 pm, June 7, 2019 in Brooklyn. It will be a gift to hear these talented musicians perform Michael's evocative setting of four poems. 

PA Girlchoir Concert ~ May 12

Come hear the PA Girlchoir lend gorgeous voices to words. Ya-Jhu Yang expanded her setting of "Proof" with haunting and beautiful results. I had the privilege to meet the choir and conduct a workshop with them--a talented cohort! May 12, Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill (3 pm & 6 pm).

The Singing Rooms in Concert at Verizon Hall

Temple University will perform "The Singing Rooms," a setting of six poems by Pulitzer Prize and Grammy-award winning composer Jennifer Higdon (Tickets). March 24, 2019, 8 pm, 

Film - The Blue Dory

Artists Balázs Böröcz & Miklós Váli created the film, "The Blue Dory" (posted in the WATCH section), in response to the poem by that name. This new genre recasts word, sound and image in a new medium. We hope you'll enjoy it.

The Philosopher in my life and I trekked to Strathmere, NJ, with Balázs and Miklós for the project. We filmed on a rainy day that gave way to a redsky evening. Two images I'll treasure that didn't make it into the film: Miklós sitting in a beach chair beside the tide, headphones on, recording its speech and Balázs's countenance transformed by the change in light as the sun re-appeared and began to set over Strathmere Bay and Corson's Inlet. Late afternoon light stops time for visual artists, I think. We were never so happy to almost miss the train. 

Profile In Overtones

With thanks to author Dave Allen and Melinda Whiting, editor, for this profile in Curtis Institute of Music's Overtones. Pete Checchia, photographer, joined class for the action shots. 

College Magazine Citation

An unexpected kick--to be named one of the "Top 10 Music Professors Who Inspire Us." To view the piece (and read about some cool profs), just click the x in the upper right to close the ad and pull up the article. A big shout out to Helen Gerhold, a Curtis student, who is quoted. 

Spring 2018 Concerts

A World Premier

Composer Ya-Jhu Yang has selected five poems to set for baritone and cello. Her eagerly awaited piece premiered in Philadelphia, April 14, 2018, in Field Concert Hall, 8 pm, 1726 Locust Street. 

 

Not Your Typical Telegram

Ever receive a telegram from the past? The future? or ... from Elvis? DePauw University Chamber Singers, under the direction of Kristina Boerger, delivered a few telegrams of their own last February. These poems, set to music by Pulitzer Prize and Grammy-award winning composer, Jennifer Higdon, were performed as part of a week-long residency devoted to her work.

Lyric Fest Spring 2017

Kites careening overhead. Crocus. Afternoon sun setting tidepools ablaze. What is it about spring that stirs? Something elemental?

Join us to test this theory as Lyric Fest presents It's Elementary, "an eclectic program of songs about the natural world--earth, wind, fire, water."  Composer Mike Djupstrom set four poems about water (adding to "Oars in Water," our collaboration for the Lake George Music Festival) as part of Lyric Fest's commission of new art songs. His music, like the season, stirs.

Lyric Fest Friday March 31, 2017  7:30 pm The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill  8855 Germantown AvenueSunday April 2, 2017  3:00 pm Academy of Vocal Arts, 1920 Spruce St. Philadelphia

A Tennesse Waltz

 

from Three Windows: Two Versions of the Day

 

Three windows offer two versions of the day,

the first: cool and sweet, a blue cascade

of watered light,

the second: bright heat barely held back

by the venetian blind.

 

Is this a day for dancing or window-dreaming?

Join us as Jennifer Higdon's "The Singing Rooms" travels to Memphis to be conducted by William Skoog, who premiered the work in Paris as part of the International Choral Festival (see below). The piece, co-commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, and the Minnesota Orchestra, offers six poems with which to travel through a house, a house of singing rooms. At each step across a threshold, the poems ask, What will this day be? Maestro Skoog will also workshop Higdon's "Telegram" (commissioned by the Yale Glee Club), based on a series of poems I titled "A Recently Discovered Correspondence." These performances are part of Rhodes College's week-long celebration of the music of Jennifer Higdon. Dancing, singing, poem-making, much that is breath-taking, may break out on campus that week as musicians and singers give life to the art within.

Sunday April 23, 2017  3:30 PM  Rhodes College

The Singing Rooms in Knoxville

 

The Interpretation of Dreams

 

If I told you my dream

(the one on a boat);

if I told you how I read

your dream with a cello:

a new laugh

an old hush.

 

From Farmers' Markets to First Friday, Knoxville's arts and cultural scene is an on-going festival of food, art and music. This February, Jennifer Higdon's setting of six poems for violin, chorus and orchestra, joins the party. Soloist Geoffrey Herd will be joined by the University of Tennessee choirs and the University of Tennessee Symphony Orchestra (James Fellenbaum, conductor).

February 19, 2017  4 pm  James R. Cox Auditorium  University Of Tennessee Knoxville

Spring 2017 Concerts

 

"The Singing Rooms" Memphis, TN  April 23

"Telegram" in workshop, Memphis, TN April 21

"Oars in Water" Lyric Fest, Philadelphia, PA  March 31 and April 2

"The Singing Rooms" Knoxville, TN  February 19

Read below for more information.

Highlights of 2015-16

Rowing

 

Composer Michael Djupstrom's setting of "Oars in Water" will reach many shores this spring. I'm grateful to Alex Lombard of the Lake George Music Festival for commissioning the work and to Michael Brofman of the Brooklyn Art Song Society for the tour; thanks, too, to the singers who will bring the poem to life.  You can find the poem, "Oars in Water," in Poems - Commissioned.

 

May 9, 2015
 4:00 PM
 Oars in Water 
Brooklyn Art Song Society
 Michael Brofman, piano, University of Chicago
  Chicago, IL

May 13, 2015
 7:30 PM 
Oars in Water Brooklyn Art Song Society
 Kyle Oliver, baritone, Michael Brofman, piano
 South Oxford Space
  Brooklyn, NY

May 15, 2015
 8:00 PM 
Oars in WaterBrooklyn Art Song Society
 Michael Brofman, piano, Woodfords Congregational Church
  Portland, ME

May 17, 2015
 2:00 PM 
Oars in WaterBrooklyn Art Song Society
 Michael Brofman, piano, Newton Free Library
 Newton, MA

Yale v. Harvard: More than a Game - 21 November

 

The Yale/Harvard rivalry isn't limited to Nobel Prizes (or that game with goalposts). When the two Glee Clubs step on stage, they will continue the 115 yr. old tradition of singing together (or towards one another!). Be prepared for pranks.  Yale will sing a piece they commissioned from Jennifer Higdon, a setting of a series of telegrams I wrote, "Telegram: A Recently Discovered Correspondence." The Yale Glee Club premiered the piece 14 November (see post below: "Pure Glee"). They will also take "Telegram" on the road to Spain later in the academic year. Maybe the poem will send back a telegram from all these sojourns.

 

21 November, 2014 Sanders Theatre, Harvard University, 8 pm.

Pure Glee - 14 November

 

The Yale Glee Club premiered Jennifer Higdon's setting of "A Recently Discovered Correspondence" at 8:00 p.m. on 14 November, in Woolsey Hall, Yale University, New Haven.

 

Woolsey Hall:  Where else can you hear two world premieres in one night and see President Taft's seat (very accommodating) still intact on the balcony of the Hall? The premiere of "Telegram" was in the happy company of another world premiere, a lovely setting of a lovely poem, "A Valentine for Hands," (Dale Trumbore, composer, Annie Finch, poet).  Trust the talented director, Jeffrey Douma, to invigorate the world of choir music with two new commissions, and trust the Yale and Princeton Glee Clubs to present an unforgettable evening of art song, spirituals, folk tunes, Shaker melodies, settings of the Mass, and rollicking fight songs from the long history of Ivy League rivalries. 

A Stave for Lake George - 16 August

 

Composer Michael Djupstrom and I were commissioned to write a piece for the Lake George Music Festival.  "Oars in Water" premiered Saturday, 16 August, at 7:30 pm. in the Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum, Lake George. Kyle Oliver, baritone, and Michael Brofman, piano, of the Brooklyn Art Song Society, performed the piece.

 

At the pre-concert workshop, Mike and I explained how the Festival's theme -- regarding invasive aquatic species -- inspired our work. Corrina Parnapy, from The Fund for Lake George, was on hand to explain some of the threats to the lake, and how members of the community are working together to address the challenges invasive species create. Read the full set of Lake George poems as well as some poems for young naturalists in Poems - Commissioned

Concert in Église de la Madeleine - 3 July

 

The Singing Rooms had its European premiere in the City of Lights on 3 July, 2014. Jennifer Higdon's piece, The Singing Rooms, was performed as part of the Paris Choral Festival under the artistic direction of Dr. William Skoog. 

The evening concert featured 20 choirs and over 470 singers, as well as a local orchestra and an overflowing audience at the Église de la Madeleine. Some 200 voices performed "The Singing Rooms."  The program included Fauré's Requiem and other favourites as part of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasions.

The Singing Rooms - Concert in Carnegie Hall - 29 April

 

A night with rain. A night with music: singers, violin, cello, English horn, bassoon. A room, Carnegie Hall, that sang. A Singing Room.

 

Maestro David Hayes conducted the New York Choral Society in the New York premiere of Jennifer Higdon's The Singing Rooms with Jennifer Koh, violin. The audience saluted the performers and the composer with a standing ovation.

 

Pulitzer-prize winning composer Jennifer Higdon set six of my poems for chorus, orchestra and solo violin. I've posted the poems and samples of the settings under POEMS and LISTEN. I've learned it's one thing to scribble a few lines at the kitchen table in the dark light of dark, as you wait for what the day might murmur, it's quite another to hear the likes of Jennifer Koh rouse the sun and carry it, room to room, illuminating what the dawn may have missed, while a choir of 100+ voices transforms a studio apartment to a dwelling place, a home. "Three windows offer two versions of the day," according to the first line in the sequence; Jennifer Higdon translated that window-framed reverie to music. 

 

And of that night of rain? Downpour, deluge, niagara of sound: like the thrill of rain, the thrill of quiet that follows, to hear the piece performed with such integrity and passion. 

Highlights of 2014

A Cup of Tea for Eleanor Sokoloff - 7 May

 

The Curtis community gathered in the Graffman Common Room on May 7 to celebrate Mrs. Sokoloff's 100th birthday at the last tea of the academic year. The fanfare included speeches and remembrances by President Roberto Diáz, Dean Paul Bryan, and former Curtis director and co-piano faculty member Gary Graffman. For her part, Mrs. Sokoloff thanked her family, students, and the community, and promised to be back at tea in the new school year.

 

Roberto asked me to write a poem for the occasion and I was happy to read it to the assembled well wishers.

 

Occasional poems require a bit of tacking in familiar winds.  You may have to sail off course to arrive. I took my bearings from the lens of a first-year student at Curtis. It can be a challenge just to get to Wednesday tea--but what a destination. You can read "A Cup of Tea for Mrs. Sokoloff" in the Poems - Commissioned section of POEMS. Writer Peter Dobrin, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, joined the celebration as well; you can read his account of the party in his posted article "At Curtis, she came, she stayed - for 83 years."

Panel Discussion - 13 April

 

I participated on a lively panel with composer Jennifer Higdon and Maestro David Hayes in a Meet the Composer event. Robert Sherman, of WQXR Young Artists Showcase, moderated the session with insight, warmth, and humor, as we talked about Jennifer Koh's vision for the piece, Jennifer Higdon's writing process, David Hayes unlocking the treasures of the writing as he conducts, and how the Curtis faculty lounge can be a dangerous place for poets. The audience shared our passion for poems, new music and the gift of song. Here are some of the photos of the panel and the delightful reception hosted by the NY Choral Society.

The Courier`s Last Letter - 31 March

 

Composer Rene Orth's orchestral piece had its Philadelphia premiere on 31 March, 2014, with the Curtis Chamber Orchestra under the direction of conductor Kensho Watanabe,  featuring soprano Elena Perroni. Rene set "The Courier's Last Letter,"  a sonnet I wrote in response to reading the work of political geographer Dr. Melissa Wright regarding Ciudad Juárez and the Mexico/U.S. border. Dr. Wright is a professor at Penn State University. You can read "The Courier's Last Letter" in the POEMS section and you can listen to the recording of the evening performance in the WATCH section.

Highlights of 2013

 

Poetry Masterclass with Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate of England, and Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales. The course took place at Tŷ Newydd Writers' Centre on the southern coast of the lush Llŷn Peninsula of North Wales. Spectacular setting for poem casting. A group of fine poets gathered shoulder to shoulder to shape and craft new work. The intense pace gave way to welcome rambles across fields to the sea and down lanes to the sometimes open pub. How was it? Hot Welsh cakes with tea, nights of pasta and wine, readings and revisions, verb angling, story making, and Welsh in my ear. How was it? Stunning.

 

An Afternoon of Poetry and Music held at Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia. I gave a poetry reading and then joined the audience to hear the work of three composers, Joseph Hallman, Andrew Hsu, and Ya-Jhu Yang presented by Rebecca Anderson, violin, Lauren Eberwein, mezzo-soprano, Ashley Hsu, piano, Sarah Shafer, soprano, and Amy J. Yang, piano. Each composer set six of my poems (look for texts and excerpts under POEMS and LISTEN). A great honor to hear these interpretations. 

 
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