The little ghost

The little ghost

The Little Ghost

I knew her for a little ghost
That in my garden walked;
The wall is high—higher than most—
    And the green gate was locked.

And yet I did not think of that
     Till after she was gone—
I knew her by the broad white hat,
     All ruffled, she had on.

By the dear ruffles round her feet,
     By her small hands that hung
In their lace mitts, austere and sweet,
     Her gown’s white folds among.

I watched to see if she would stay,
     What she would do—and oh!
She looked as if she liked the way
     I let my garden grow!

She bent above my favourite mint
     With conscious garden grace,
She smiled and smiled—there was no hint
     Of sadness in her face.

She held her gown on either side
     To let her slippers show,
And up the walk she went with pride,
     The way great ladies go.

And where the wall is built in new
     And is of ivy bare
She paused—then opened and passed through
     A gate that once was there.​

 insomnia on Flckr
Photo: simpleinsomnia, Date Unknown

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
Originally published in Renascence and Other Poems (Mitchell Kennerley, 1917)

Description

I conceived of The Little Ghost as a means of highlighting and examining women’s viewpoints in song, be it through the voice of the composer, the poet, or the performer of the song itself. I hope to create a mosaic of women’s creative contributions and opinions, which cross historical era and musical style, from the early Baroque to the 20th Century. By exploring the musical works of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Libby Larsen, the poetry of Louise Lévêque de Vilmorin, and the lives of Restoration-era performers Anne Bracegirdle and Mary Hodgson, I wish to reveal the timeless, universal stories expressed so powerfully through their music, as well as the evolution of female expression throughout the centuries, a topic that I find fascinating, relevant, and sadly, underrepresented.

My title, the little ghost, refers to an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem of the same name, written in 1917 from Renascence and Other Poems, in which the poet observes the ghost of the former owner of her home as she walks through the garden. Millay shares a certain intimacy with the ghost; they inhabit the same space. Though she can see this apparition clearly from her window, there is much that divides these two women. The ghost cannot be completely “known” or understood by Millay; in fact, she exists both inside and outside of Millay’s reality. For the ghost, the wall of the garden once held a gate, while for the poet, it is now overgrown with lush greenery. Through this concert program, I hope to situate myself and my audience in the divide between Millay and her ghost, finding ways to give voice and deepen our understanding of the lives, stories, and musical contributions of women of the past and the present. The little ghost was performed as part of The Cantanti Project’s Project 4.

October 2015
New York City

Program

Multimedia

Morgenständchen, from Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Sechs Lieder, Op. 1
Joseph Yungen, piano
Violon, from Francis Poulenc’s Fiançailles pour rire
Joseph Yungen, piano
To the queen of my heart

To the queen of my heart

Description

As a performer, I have long been fascinated by the song recital as a medium for questioning notions of “canon,” as well as giving voice to those who have been marginalized in classical music. In doing so, I discover voices that I have never heard before, voices of historic women that are completely unknown to me. In communing with these composers and their music, I pay homage to a tradition of female creation that I wish to claim my place amongst. Through the works of Francesca Caccini, Germaine Tailleferre, Maddalena Casulana, Vittoria Aleotti, Leonora Orsini, and Agathe Backer-Grøndahl, I acknowledge that I exist partly because they existed; in some small way, I stand on their shoulders.

September 2017
Baltimore, MD


Program


For more information on the composers and musical works featured in To the queen of my heart, check out my research and writing!
Image: Le miroir psyché by Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)
Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

Multimedia

Lute Songs by Renaissance Women Composers
Tre Sange, Op. 1 by Agathe Backer-Grøndahl  
Six chansons françaises by Germaine Tailleferre        

To the queen of my heart is in partial fulfilment of the Doctorate in Musical Arts Degree in Vocal Performance at Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.

German Romantics: Clara

German Romantics: Clara

Description

What names come to mind when you think of the songs of German Romantic composers? Schumann? Mendelssohn? Schubert? If you imagine Robert, Felix, or Franz, you may want to think again. With the film series “German Romantics,” The Pleiades Project challenges how we define this group of composers by insisting that we not forget the women.

Clara Schumann (1819-1896) was a virtuosic pianist, composer, and piano pedagogue.  From the age of eleven, she maintained a sixty-one-year concert career, touring throughout Europe. Her success as a concert artist secured essential income for her family, including her husband, the renowned composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856), and their eight children. She began composing as a child, and her compositions later included solo piano pieces, chamber music, choral works and songs (or Lieder).

For German Romantics: Clara, The Pleiades Project re-conceptualizes the three Lieder of Clara’s Op. 12, originally part of a twelve-song collection jointly published by Clara and Robert to poetry by Friedrich Rückert. In 1841, soon after their marriage, Robert urged his wife to collaborate on a compositional project. Although she was initially ambivalent about composing, Clara began to work on the songs of Op. 12.

While these songs may have marked the beginning of Clara and Robert’s union, the protagonist of German Romantics: Clara navigates Op. 12 as she copes with the end of an important relationship. As she confronts the end of this chapter in her life, her imagination travels to vibrant fantasy worlds of the past. In becoming the heroine of her own story, our protagonist reaches closure and the ability to move forward.

For more information about Clara Schumann and Op. 12, read “one heart and one soul”: The Songs of Clara and Robert Schumann on my blog She Is Song.

German Romantics: Clara – Full Version
For more episodes, check out the Multimedia section below.

Performance History

German Romantics was made possible by the generous support and in collaboration with Washington-DC based opera company, IN Series

German Romantics was conceived to be watched on INVision: The Logan Opera House Without Walls.  Created in response to performance restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and embracing the opportunity to collaborate broadly and reach worldwide audiences, INVision is IN Series’ first-of-its kind multi-venue digital performing arts center dedicated to disseminating new, transformative works of operatic theater free of charge.

Click here for more information on the two other series’ installments, German Romantics: Louise and German Romantics: Fanny, and watch a YouTube playlist of all three installments here.

Multimedia

“Liebst du um Schönheit”
from German Romantics: Clara
“Er ist gekommen”
from German Romantics: Clara
“Warum willst du and’re fragen”
from German Romantics: Clara
Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts

Description

Inspired by American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Love Is Not All,” Queen of Hearts is an evening of cabaret theatre that explores the many stages of romance: an initial self-questioning, a longing for human connection, the spark of deeper feelings, the pain of unrequited desire, the contentment in being loved, the rupture of a bond, and the ultimate decision to move forward wiser, but scarred.

Through storytelling and song, we explore age-old questions about love. Will I ever feel deeply loved? Am I worth loving “forever”? And when love finds me, will I be able to offer it in return?

Songs included: “Who Am I?,” from Leonard Bernstein’s Peter Pan, “The Right Guy For Me,” from Kurt Weill’s You and Me, “I Wish It So,” from Marc Blitztein’s Juno, “Love for Sale,” from Cole Porter’s The New Yorkers, “Making Love Alone” by Marilyn Miller & Cheryl Hardwich, “I’ll Follow My Secret Heart,” from Noël Coward’s Conversation Piece, Alphabet City Cycle by Georgia Stitt & Marcy Heisler, “I Loved,” from Jovannest & Rauber’s Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living In Paris, “To Oakland, With Love” by Jeanna Phillips, and “Lightning Strikes” by Jeanna Phillips & Alex Thrailkill.

“I Hardly Remember” from Georgia Stitt’s Alphabet City Cycle

Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX)

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Love is Not All” (Sonnet XXX),” from Collected Poems
Copyright 1931, 1934, 1939, © 1958 by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Norma Millay Ellis

Edna St. Vincent Millay reads “Love Is Not All”

Performance History

Queen of Hearts premiered at The Duplex Cabaret Theatre (NYC) in 2016 and was later workshopped at The Pleiades Project Launch Event. Awarded a Career Development Grant from Peabody Institute in 2017 to expand its theatrical scope, Emma and Noelle collaborated with visual artist Andrea Kleinbussink for their performance at Stillpointe Theatre (Baltimore). In 2018, Noelle and Emma performed Queen of Hearts at Areté Venue and Gallery through Inception to Exhibition (NYC).

Publicity

Photo: Elizabeth Van Os

Collaborator Spotlight

Emma Tattenbaum-Fine

Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedic actor and writer. She played Logainne in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at ACT of CT (Broadway World Nomination for “Best Ensemble”) and she returned there to do Godspell in winter of 2020, with Stephen Schwartz revising his classic for this revamped production. Emma appears in Netflix’s Explained. She’s been a joke writer for NYTW gala hosts, Broadway’s Jeremy O. Harris & Heidi Schreck and has hosted HQ Trivia live in front of millions of players internationally. She’s written several full-length scripts, and sketch and stand-up comedy for truTV, Comedy Central and Refinery29.

Emma’s book, Trash Mermaid — Essays, Stories, Recollections, Rants, and Ramblings that Came to Me by the Jersey Sea is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Nobles. For more of Emma’s writing, subscribe to her Substack.

Listen to examples of Emma’s storytelling here and in the Multimedia section below. Also, check out her audio album of stories, Commuter’s Companion, now streaming on Spotify.

Multimedia

“Sunday Light,” from Georgia Stitt’s Alphabet City Cycle
Insouciant by Emma Tattenbaum-Fine
“La Diva de l’Empire” by Erik Satie
“Der genügsame Liebhaber,” from Arnold Schoenberg’s Brettl Lieder
“Almost Everything I Need,” from Georgia Stitt’s Alphabet City Cycle
“Tell Me The Truth About Love,” from Benjamin Britten’s Cabaret Songs
“Es regnet” by Kurt Weill
“The Wanting of You,” from Georgia Stitt’s Alphabet City Cycle
“Je te veux” by Erik Satie
“I’m A Stranger Here Myself,” from Kurt Weill’s One Touch of Venus
The Inner Voices of Women in a Lingerie Store by Emma Tattenbaum-Fine
World of Miyabi: Japanese Women in Song

World of Miyabi: Japanese Women in Song

Description

In collaboration with Multi-Cultural Sonic Evolution’s 2019 Sound of Arts Festival and The Pleiades Project, I co-curated and produced World of Miyabi: Japanese Woman in Song. This program explores Japanese poetic genres from women’s perspectives through song and recited poetry, including Kiyoshi Nobutoki’s settings of waka and tanka from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, 20th-Century Japanese art songs by composers Akane Nakanishi and Makiko Kinoshita, and into the shimmering (2015), Leslie Uyeda’s contemporary song cycle with poetry by Joy Kogawa. These musical selections are interwoven with recited tanka, written by prominent female poets from the Heian period. World of Miyabi features sopranos and co-curators Aine Hakamatsuka and Manami Hattori-Fallen with pianist Marina Iwao.

Miyabi (雅), often translated as elegance, refinement, or courtliness, is a traditional Japanese aesthetic ideal from the Heian period (794 to 1185). Miyabi adherents, typically courtiers, rejected artistic styles that embraced rough or “vulgar” attributes, focusing instead on sensitive, transient depictions of nature and the human condition. In World of Miyabi, The Pleiades Project and our collaborators attempt to re-contextualize miyabi through the musical and literary contributions of Japanese female artists to explore Japanese poetry and song. By particularly highlighting female creators, we hope to present an inclusive and more accurate historical narrative around the creative contributions of Japanese women within these respective fields.

Japanese wood block print of water lilies
Poster: Elizabeth Van Os

What is Ogura Hyakunin Isshu?
Ogura Hyakunin Isshu is a collection of one hundred waka, a form of Japanese classical poetry with a 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count. This collection highlights the works of one hundred individual poets, both men and women, over a 300-year period from the 10th to the 13th Centuries. Its title roughly translates to “one hundred people, one poem [each].” It was believed to be compiled by Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241), a prominent poet living in the Ogura district of Kyoto, Japan, thus establishing the “Ogura” in its title. These waka, many of which are also tanka, include themes of nature, the passing of the seasons, the impermanence of life, and the joys and heartbreak of relationships. Ogura Hyakunin Isshu became the model for poetry collections of this type, and it has achieved an iconic status in Japanese cultural life to this day.

What is tanka?
Tanka, often translated as “short poem,” is a 31-syllable poem, traditionally written in a single, unbroken line. It can also be composed in a 5-line structure with a 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count. Tanka is the short form of waka, and from the 7th Century onwards, it became an incredibly popular poetic form amongst nobility in the Japanese Imperial Court. Due to its condensed format, tanka often dealt with intimate subject matter, and it was written and shared as a means of courtship.

Selected Poets from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu

Selected Poetry from World of Miyabi

92 二条院讃岐

わが袖は
潮干に見えぬ
沖の石の

人こそしらね
かはくまもなし


19 伊勢

難波潟
みじかき芦の
ふしのまも

あはでこの世を
過ぐしてよとや


57 紫式部

めぐりあひて
見しやそれとも
わかぬ間に

雲がくれにし
夜半の月かげ

92 Nijoin no Sanuki (c.1141-1217)

Like a rock at sea,
At ebbtide hidden from view,
Is my tear-drenched sleeve:

Never for a moment dry,
And no one knows it is there.
from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu

19 Lady Ise (c. 875 – c. 938)

Even for a time
Short as a piece of the reeds
In Naniwa’s marsh,

We must never meet again:
Is this what you are asking me?
from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu

57 Murasaki Shikibu c. 973 – c. 1031

Meeting on the path:
But I cannot clearly know
If it was he,

Because the midnight moon
In a cloud had disappeared.
from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu

English translations by Clay MacCauley (1917)

Collaborator Spotlight

Aine Hakamatsuka

Japanese Soprano Aine Hakamatsuka is the winner of the 2013 Yokohama International Music Competition (Japan) based in New York. She has performed roles including Papagena (Die Zauberflöte), Gretel, Dew Fairy (Hansel & Gretel), Lucy (The Telephone), Blonde (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Susanna, Barbarina (Le nozze di Figaro), Nanetta (Falstaff), Silberklang (Der Schauspieldirektor), Lucia (The Rape of Lucretia), and Belinda (Dido & Aeneas).

In concerts, she has appeared as a solosit in Paukenmesse (Haydn), Magnificat (Schubert), Requiem (Faure), 9th Symphony (Beethoven), Cantata No. 51 (Bach), and Gloria (Vivaldi). Ms. Hakamatsuka’s appearances in New York includes St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Queens Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, and Lincoln Center.

Manami Hattori-Fallen

Soprano Manami Hattori is originally from Kobe, Japan but she has been living and singing in the US for more than a decade. She has recently sung several leading roles in the US and Canada, including the title role in Madame Butterfly with Mercury Opera, Opera Canada, Opera Lancaster, and Amore Opera. Other recent performances include Nedda in Pagliacci with Utopia Opera, Suor Angelica in Suor Angelica, Micaela in Carmen, and Musetta in La Boheme with DiCapo Opera Theater. She also sang Musetta with National Lyric Opera in MA. Ms. Hattori is also featured on a DVD of Sheila Silver’s The Thief of Love, on Hummingbird Films, as Hira. Other operatic performances include Berta in The Barber of Seville with the Ashlawn Opera Festival.

On the concert stage, she has sung numerous oratorios as a soloist, including The Messiah, St Matthew PassionThe Creation, Elijah, Faure RequiemBeethoven 9Coral Fantasie, Mass in C Minor by Mozart, and several Bach Cantatas.

She was also the winner, out of more than 200 Japanese singers, of the International Auditions of The San Francisco Opera Center in Japan, where she won a spot in the coveted Merola Opera Program. While at Merola, she sang in productions of The Elixir of LoveIl Barbiere di Siviglia, and the Grand Finals Concert, where she received the Minton B. Evans Memorial Award. She is a very active musician in the NY area, where she regularly performs at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center with ASO and NY Philharmonic.

Ms. Hattori’s education includes a bachelor’s and graduate degree from KCUA, as well as a master’s degree from SUNY at Stony Brook.

Marina Iwao

Japanese born pianist, Marina Iwao has appeared on concert stages throughout Japan and the United States as a soloist and collaborative pianist. Performing regular recitals in Boston, New York, and Japan, Marina has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Merkin Concert Hall, and Across Fukuoka Symphony Hall in Japan.  Marina was recently featured on WQXR’s McGraw Hill Young Artists Showcase with a cellist, Mina Kim, performing Lucas Foss’s Capriccio.

Marina was named a collaborative piano fellow at Music Academy of the West in summer 2018 and 2019 and was a collaborative piano fellow at Bowdoin International Music Festival in 2017. In fall 2017, she performed the Schumann Piano Quintet with the Quatuor Debussy at Fukuoka Symphony Hall in Japan. 

​As a soloist, she was the first prize winner of the 2015 Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition and was invited to perform at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.  Marina also won the Solo con Tutti concerto competition, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 as a soloist with the Alliance Ohio Symphony Orchestra. She has also attended the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine as well as the International Keyboard Institute Festival in New York.  

​Marina holds a master’s degree in Collaborative Piano from the Juilliard School, studied with Jonathan Feldman. She also holds professionals Studies Diploma in Piano Performance from Mannes College the New School for Music, an undergraduate diploma from Longy School of Music as well as a Bachelor of Music from Emerson College.

​Currently based in New York City, she is a chamber music faculty and a staff pianist at The School for Strings and holds a staff pianist position at the Kaufman Music Center, the Juilliard School, and Mannes College the New School for Music preparatory division. 

Program

Multimedia

Photos: Elizabeth Van Os

Tanka from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu 小倉百人一首
Manami Hattori-Fallen, soprano
Marina Iwao, piano
into the shimmering 微光の中へ by Leslie Uyeda (b. 1953)
Aine Hakamatsuka, soprano
Marina Iwao, piano
Japanese Art Songs 日本歌曲 by Akane Nakanishi (b. 1956)
Aine Hakamatsuka, soprano
Marina Iwao, piano
Japanese Art Songs 日本歌曲 Makiko Kinoshita (b. 1965)
Manami Hattori-Fallen, soprano
Marina Iwao, piano