The Shining Place

The Shining Place

Description

In The Shining Place, I explored music and poetry by twentieth- and twenty-first-century women artists, including composers Eve Beglarian (b. 1958), Missy Mazzoli (b. 1980), Judith Weir (b. 1954), Lori Laitman (b. 1955), Margaret Bonds (1913-1972), and poets Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), Mary Oliver (1935-2019), and Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) in collaboration with pianist Michael Sheppard and audio/video engineer Andrew Bohman. As I navigated the continual isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was most drawn to music and texts that spoke of a desire to expand the self, either through mining the interiority of one’s life or seeking new adventures in the larger world.

Regarded as a towering figure in English literature, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), who wrote over 1,800 poems, spent most of her life at her family’s property in Amherst, Massachusetts. Although Dickinson’s circle of family and friends were aware of her writing, the true extent of her poetry was not discovered until after her death. I kept returning to Dickinson’s imagining of a “shining place,” in which she imagines her entrance into paradise. In awe of such otherworldly surroundings, the poet describes her joy as the saints speak her name for the first time.

Me — come! My dazzled face
In such a shining place!
Me — hear! My foreign Ear
The sounds of Welcome — there!

The Saints forget
Our bashful feet —

My Holiday, shall be
That They — remember me —
My Paradise — the fame
That They — pronounce my name —
(431)

While Dickinson’s poem engages with religious themes, I also interpreted her “shining place” as a paradise within oneself. By February 2022, like all of us, I continued to grapple with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, including filming this recital in an empty hall with no audience permitted. As I prepared to perform for no one, I took inspiration from Dickinson’s ability to plumb the depths of her own imagination from the desk in her bedroom, nourishing her creativity in solitude.

In searching for an image to encapsulate my version of Dickinson’s “shining place,” I kept returning to the vivid paintings of Washington DC-based artist Alma Thomas (1891-1978), which I had seen in pre-pandemic trips to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Thomas, who was the first Black woman artist to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1972, experimented with color theory and abstraction throughout her long career as an artist and educator. Thomas’ aesthetic became synonymous with her colorful, mosaic-like images, such as A Fantastic Sunset (1970). With its saturated, red sun surrounded by rings of multi-colored light, Thomas’ sunset is a brilliant visual incarnation of what I imagine my “shining place” could look like. For more information on Thomas and her incredible artwork, check out the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

February 2022
Baltimore, MD

Daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson, c. early 1847
Amherst College Archives & Special Collections

Portrait of a Lady (Alma Thomas) by Laura Wheeler Waring (1947)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
A Fantastic Sunset (1970) by Alma Thomas

Program

Multimedia

“You Are the Dust” by Missy Mazzoli from Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt
“A Letter” by Lee Hoiby from The Shining Place: Five Poems by Emily Dickinson
“Hyacinth” by Margaret Bonds from Six Songs on Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Pianist Michael Sheppard and myself at St. Thomas’ Parish in Washington, DC prior to filming A Shining Place

For more clips from The Shining Place, check out my media page and YouTube channel.


The Shining Place is in partial fulfillment of the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Vocal Performance at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.

In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau

In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau

Description

My musicological research focuses on the song repertoire of women composers, particularly those from the nineteenth century. By challenging gendered historiographical narratives that surround “canon” creation, I work to dismantle socio-cultural constructs and biases that continually diminish the historic contributions of women creators within classical vocal repertoire.

19th-century engraving of women making music in the drawing room
World History Archive | Alamy Photos

In 2021, I conceived of In Search of Luise Adolpha Le Beau, a multifaceted project to research the Lieder (songs) of German composer Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927), a body of vocal repertoire that remains overlooked to the present day.

Le Beau’s entire oeuvre contains over sixty works, including nineteen song opuses with a total of fifty-seven songs, vocal duets, and vocal trios. Ten Lieder opuses were published between 1877 and 1898, while nine Lieder opuses, composed between 1880 and 1921, remain unpublished. Le Beau’s Lieder aesthetic aligns itself most readily with Lieder practices of the 1830s to 1850s, akin to those of composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856), and Le Beau composed strophic and through-composed songs with texts by twenty-seven individual poets.

Historical Background

1893 photograph of Le Beau, printed in her 1910 memoir Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin

Born in Rastatt, Germany, Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927) was raised in a musical family, and her parents devoted themselves to her education. She later cultivated her professional career as a composer, pianist, music critic, and piano pedagogue, although she identified primarily as a composer. Le Beau wrote in large-scale forms, such as symphonies, operas, and choral works, but also embraced small-scale Lieder and instrumental chamber music. During the 1870’s and 1880’s in Munich, Le Beau was successful in publishing and seeking performances of her newest works. In the decades that followed, however, she struggled to find further performance opportunities, moving to Wiesbaden, Berlin, and Baden-Baden to seek more fertile collaborative landscapes.

In her 1910 memoir Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin (Memoirs of a Woman Composer), Le Beau outlines the trajectory of her career as a German woman composer of the late nineteenth century. Ultimately, the author reveals how gender prejudice hindered the public success of her musical works and thwarted her career ambitions as a composer. To combat the gendered bias that had obstructed her professional efforts, Le Beau self-consciously preserved her own musical legacy. By bequeathing her Nachlass (estate) to the state libraries in Karlsruhe, Munich, and Berlin, Le Beau hoped her music and life story would survive to earn an “unparteiischer und gerechter” (“more impartial and fairer”) assessment from future generations. [1]

Upon her death in 1927, the composer’s act of self-preservation proved prescient. Le Beau and her music were simply “forgotten,” a cultural erasure precipitated by the partial destruction of Le Beau’s estate at the Badische Landesbibliothek during the bombing of Karlsruhe in World War II. While more recent scholarship has explored her large-scale works and instrumental chamber music, there is little to no scholarship about Le Beau’s Lieder repertoire, only a handful of her ten published Lieder opuses are readily accessible to the public, and to my knowledge, no professional recordings of Le Beau’s Lieder exist.

Memorial plaque for Luise Adolpha Le Beau in Baden-Baden at Lichtenthaler Straße 46; as of 2021, the plaque has been removed from the building after renovation
Photo: Gerd Eichmann | Wikimedia Commons

Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin
(Memoirs of a Woman Composer)

If I now, at the age of fifty-nine, try to describe my experiences as objectively as possible, it is not done out of vanity or arrogance, but rather, from other motives. Firstly, it was a wish of my dear, blessed father that I would point out the many difficulties that stand in the way of a woman in the field of musical composition, the envy and resentment of my colleagues, as well as the prejudice and misunderstanding in the advice of those who were the most qualified and best situated to nurture a talent, and that I speak the truth loudly without shyness or regard for well-known individuals – however, I was also supported by others, who played a role in my life as an artist, who encouraged me to tell my story…

In his encyclopedia of music history, Herr Ritter compares the making of music in the nineteenth century with a large forest that is covered with all kinds of trees and says, that not only do a few giant trees make up the forest, but rather, the small trees, bushes, grasses, flowers, and mosses are essential to giving it its real character… Whatever gifts I was given, I have nurtured with all my strength; no one can do anything more! I did not disdain even the smallest gifts, but rather, I took delight in all musical works, as long as they were artistically serious and true… Should one or another of my compositions please later generations, I have not written in vain. I have never wished for more recognition than I deserve! Finally, I thank all those who are still living or have already led the way to a better land, all those who have given me the gift of interest and friendly encouragement for my striving!   

Excerpted from “Foreword” in Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin (1910) by Luise Adolpha Le Beau
Translation by Noelle McMurtry

Cover for Le Beau’s autobiography, Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin (1910)

Woman Walking Through A Forest (1878)
Peter Mønsted (1859-1941)
Brave Fine Art

Archival Research in Germany

With support from The Presser Foundation, I traveled to Germany from March to early June 2022, where I collected materials relevant to Le Beau’s song practice from the composer’s self-curated Nachlass (estate) at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, the Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe, and the Stadtbibliothek Baden-Baden.

In April 2023, I completed my DMA thesis at Peabody Institute, titled Unearthing a Self-Curated Nachlass: A Survey of Luise Adolpha Le Beau’s Published Lieder. I presented a lecture recital on Le Beau’s published songs with pianist Hui-Chuan Chen, as well as performed excerpts from Le Beau’s vocal duets and trios with sopranos Julie Bosworth and Claire Galloway Weber on the January 2023 chamber music recital, Sauvez-moi de l’amour. Watch our performance in the multimedia section below.

Beginning in October 2024, I’m excited to announce that I will be a 2024/2025 Max Kade Postdoctoral Fellow at the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies at the Freie Universität in Berlin. To read more on the 2024/2025 Berlin Program fellows and their research, click here. During the fellowship, I will revise and expand my DMA thesis on the Lieder of composer Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927). My project is titled, Cornflowers and Heather: The ‘In-Between’ Songs of Luise Adolpha Le Beau. Follow this page for updates as my research in Berlin unfolds.

Le Beau Lieder Publishing Project

Since spring 2022, composer Līva Blūma and I have collaborated to create a collected edition of Le Beau’s Lieder, vocal duets, and vocal trios. Using Sibelius Notation software, Līva has engraved Le Beau’s nine unpublished Lieder manuscripts into working scores. Throughout the transcription process, we have encountered some unexpected (and interesting!) challenges. Le Beau exclusively wrote in Kurrentschrift, a cursive script standardized throughout Germany from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Kurrentschrift uses a distinct alphabet, and due to the interconnected nature of its letters, Le Beau’s song texts are challenging for the contemporary reader to decipher. In order to read and ultimately translate Le Beau’s song lyrics into English, we sought assistance from independent scholar and Kurrentschrift translator Christina Petterson, who translated Le Beau’s Kurrentschrift lyrics into German Roman script.

In the coming year, Līva and I plan to publish a collected edition of Le Beau’s Lieder, vocal duets, and vocal trios, as well as to create a digital humanities project that contextualizes Le Beau’s song repertoire for a wider audience online. Check out this space for updates on our progress!

Collaborator Spotlight

Līva Blūma

Līva Blūma (b. 1994) is a Latvian composer and singer. Her work as a composer incorporates varied extra-musical sources such as poetry, visual art, spam emails, and boxing matches. Curiosity and collaboration are instrumental parts of her creative process, be it a piece for string orchestra, vocal a cappella or music for a shadow theatre performance engaging patients from a local mental health facility. As a singer, Līva performs solo art song and choral music. She sings everything from the medieval to the contemporary. Līva has been singing full-time with the State Choir LATVIJA since September 2022.

Līva holds a Bachelor’s degree in composition from Jazeps Vitols Latvian Music Academy. She completed her Master’s in Composition at the Peabody Institute Of Johns Hopkins University, under the tutelage of professor Michael Hersch in 2021. Currently, Līva is based in Rīga, Latvia where in November 2023 she premiered her first chamber opera MONSTERA DELICIOSA for four singers, piano, and percussion. This opera centers on stories of Baltic women and plants. Listen to examples of Līva’s music on Soundcloud.

Līva is also sincerely interested in engraving the works of historic women composers. This interest stems from a personal conviction that amplifying the voices of historically marginalized composers is of true necessity. For Līva, making historic manuscripts into performance-ready editions raises awareness about voices that have been silenced by the political climate and other societal issues.

Multimedia

Excerpts from Zwei Duette, op. 6 and Vier Terzette, op. 5 by Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927)
i. “Frühlingsanfang” from Zwei Duette, op. 6 (1877) | ii. “Zur Nacht” from Vier Terzette, op. 5 (1877) | iii. “Abendlied” from Zwei Duette, op. 6 (1877) | iv. “Gefunden” from Vier Terzette, op. 5 (1877)
Noelle McMurtry (soprano), Julie Bosworth (soprano), Claire Galloway Weber (soprano) & Hui-Chuan Chen (piano)
Peabody Institute | January 2023

Notes

1. Luise Adolpha Le Beau, Lebenserinnerungen einer Komponistin (Baden-Baden: E. Sommermeyer, 1910), 8-9. Translation by Noelle McMurtry.

Portraits: The Self Illuminated

Portraits: The Self Illuminated

Description

In Portraits and Persons: A Philosophical Inquiry, Cynthia Freeland discusses how the ever-changing nature of portraiture, across locale and era, reflects “what it is to be a person.” [1] She defines the portrait artist as “an alchemist who seeks to make inert physical material ‘live’ and show us a person, an actual individual whose physical embodiment reveals psychological awareness, consciousness, and an inner emotional life.” [2] One of the more striking features of a portrait is its ability to capture the “essence” of a person, if only for a specific moment in time. While this momentary “essence” of an individual is elusive and highly susceptible to interpretation, portraiture remains a fascinating portal into the body, mind, and emotional life of another person. Arguably, portraits illuminate some aspect of “the self,” be it us or the self of another.

Isadora Duncan Dancers (1915-1923)
Photo: Arnold Genthe, Library of Congress


Along with considering portraiture a representation of some facet of a subject’s “inner life,” Freeland also details another crucial element: “the ability to pose or present oneself to be depicted in a representation.” As a singer, this struck me deeply – the self-awareness of posing both vocally and physically, of putting oneself forward to represent or be represented, of revealing some part of “the self” (either my own self, or an imagined character in a poem or libretto) through sound. It made me wonder – did most of my creative work as a singer involve “painting” portraits with my body, vocal sounds, and words? Often, I have felt the tension of being both the painter and the sitter. While I express interpretive agency through my performance, the audience’s gaze nevertheless maintains my position as an object to be viewed and perceived.

Portraits: The Self Illuminated explores the intersection of these tactile, linguistic, visual, and sonic portraits through the music of Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Francis Poulenc, Barbara Strozzi, and Lacy Rose and the portraiture of Gwen John, John Duncan, Gustav Klimt, and Bernardo Strozzi. I have consciously paired each musical work with a visual portrait, some of which are known to have directly influenced the musical composition, while others are linked purely through my own imagination. Can they melt into one another to bring “the self” momentarily to the surface, creating that ever-elusive glimpse at the inner life of a human being?

October 2019
Baltimore, MD

NOTES
1. Cynthia, Freeland. Portraits and Persons: A Philosophical Inquiry. New York, Oxford University Press, 2010, 1.
2. Freeland, Portraits and Persons, 74.

Selected Artwork from Portraits: The Self Illuminated

Program

Image: Semele by John Duncan (c.1921)

Multimedia

Movement I, from Hope by Lacy Rose
Eunchan Kim, piano
Christopher Ciampoli, violin
William Weijia Wang, violin
Flavia Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola Alexander Cousins, cello

Movement II, from Hope by Lacy Rose
Eunchan Kim, piano
Christopher Ciampoli, violin
William Weijia Wang, violin
Flavia Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola Alexander Cousins, cello

Movement III, from Hope by Lacy Rose
Eunchan Kim, piano
Christopher Ciampoli, violin
William Weijia Wang, violin
Flavia Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola Alexander Cousins, cello

Ria Munk I, from Ria Munk by Lacy Rose
Christopher Ciampoli, violin
William Weijia Wang, violin
Flavia Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola Alexander Cousins, cello

Ria Munk II, from Ria Munk by Lacy Rose
Christopher Ciampoli, violin
William Weijia Wang, violin
Flavia Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola Alexander Cousins, cello

Ria Munk III, from Ria Munk by Lacy Rose
Christopher Ciampoli, violin
William Weijia Wang, violin
Flavia Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola Alexander Cousins, cello

Semelé by Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre
Paula Maust, harpsichord
Christian Paquette, Baroque flute
Theodore Welke, theorbo
E giungerà pur mai by Barbara Strozzi
Theodore Welke, theorbo
Trois poèmes de Louise de Vilmorin by Francis Poulenc
Eunchan Kim, piano

Portraits: The Self Illuminated is in partial fulfillment of the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Vocal Performance at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.

Head, Heart

Head, Heart

The Heart wants what it wants – or else it does not care… Not to see what we love, is very terrible – and talking – doesn’t ease it – and nothing does – but just itself.

Emily Dickinson, Letter to a friend (Spring, 1862)

Description

In Head, Heart, works by Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, Kaija Saariaho, Kate Soper, and John Harbison all share a common theme: the struggle between the head and the heart. While the severity of this struggle and its consequences vary, its underlying tension lingers. As the musical protagonists of these works experience love, loss, death, violence, and ecstatic bliss, they must continually examine what they are willing to sacrifice to achieve their aims.

For de la Guerre’s Esther of the Old Testament, it is a question of ultimate survival: should she risk her own life to save the Jewish people of Persia from annihilation at the hands of Haman? For Harbison’s Mirabai, should she abandon her family, her possessions, her noble status, and everything she has ever known to devote her life to the Hindu deity Krishna? For both Soper and Saariaho, the heart becomes disembodied altogether, adopting its own voice to teach the head about life, counseling the self to be released from its painful burdens, but at what cost?

Ultimately, the inter-play between these parts of ourselves, not the dominance of one over another, truly defines our actions. By exploring these characters, no matter how divided they seem by time, place, and musical style, we encounter a glimpse of our own fragile selves, as we too navigate the ever-complex binary of the head and the heart. 

May 2019
Baltimore, MD

Program

Collaborator Spotlight

Christian Paquette
© Kate L Photography

French Canadian flutist Christian Paquette is the Principal Flute of the York Symphony Orchestra and newly appointed Principal Flute of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. In September of 2022 he will hold the position of Principal Flute of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra in Canada. He is a doctoral candidate at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University under the tutelage of Marina Piccinini.  He has also worked in flute repairs with Adam Workman, founder of Flutistry Boston.  He has frequently performed back in his hometown of Ottawa, Canada with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Thirteen Strings Ensemble.  He was also the President of the Ottawa Flute Association from 2015 to 2017.

​Christian has performed in the Shriver Hall Concert Series, Music and Beyond Festival, recitals at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage, Concerto performances with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra (Nielsen) under the baton of Miguel Harth-Bedoya, the University of Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (Ibert and Nielsen), and with the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra (Rodrigo). He is greatly looking forward to his performance of the Reinecke Flute Concerto with the Farnborough Symphony Orchestra in England later in 2022. He is the recipient of numerous competition awards, such as the MPIMC (Marina Piccinini International Master Classes) Concerto Competition, first prize at the Yale Gordon Competition, Canadian Music Competition, the National Music Festival, the NACO Bursary Competition and many others. This past summer he was a fellow in the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble and has been reinvited for the 2022 summer season. Past teachers include Paula Robison, Denis Bluteau, and Camille Churchfield.

​Christian is extremely grateful to the Fondation Baxter et Alma Ricard as well as the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation for their generous support in his doctoral studies at the Peabody Institute.

Multimedia

Only the words themselves mean what they say by Kate Soper (b.1981)
Christian Paquette, flute
The Clouds, from Mirabai Songs by John Harbison (b.1938)
Eric Sedgwick, piano

Head, Heart is in partial fulfilment of the Graduate Performance Diploma in Vocal Performance at Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.

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