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
A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!

A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!

Nannie Burroughs holding banner reading, “Banner State Woman’s National Baptist Convention”
Photo: Library of Congress (1905-1915)

Photo: Unknown Author (1917), Public Domain
Sisters of the world, let’s gather our power, and shock the men who belittle us by saying, ‘What can women do’?



Komako Kimura (1887-1980), from “The New Real Woman’s Society”

Photo: Unknown Author (1917)



Description

In our November 2021 staged readings of A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, Maestra Impresaria and her dynamic vaudeville troupe present the stories of the trail-blazing leaders and watershed moments of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. Through unique adaptations of suffrage propaganda, popular music from the Library of Congress Songs of Suffrage Archive, and new songs from NYC-based composers Lacy Rose and November Christine, we endeavor to display the breadth and diversity within this eight-decade long struggle, including the pivotal contributions of suffragists of color, who have been continually marginalized and erased from our collective re-telling of the history of the women’s suffrage movement.

Join us on an exhilarating jaunt to celebrate, explore, and problematize this historic fight to win women the vote! By examining the intersection of the voices of American women of the past and women of today, we ask ourselves and our audience to consider how the fight for equality continues in this quest for the enfranchisement of all citizens in our democracy.


Introducing… our Suffragists!

Synopsis

Led by our daring Maestra Impresaria, the “Great Women of History” will go head-to-head in a fight for the right to vote! The show starts with a bang as “The Sharpshootin’ Suff,” Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) duels with legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) over the 15th Amendment. Anthony’s quick on the draw—but her racist rhetoric misses the bullseye.

The next act is Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927) as “The Magician.” A true visionary, Woodhull is a medium, a newspaper editor and the first female presidential candidate. Her power to see the future has the audience mesmerized—until “The Anti Suffrage Sisters” burst on stage. Staunchly against women’s suffrage, The Antis threaten to steal the show with their catchy anti-suffrage tunes. But have no fear, Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) “The Tallest Woman in the World” is here! A world-famous anti lynching activist and leading Black suffragist, Wells truly towers above the rest.

Not to be outshone, enter Mabel Ping-Hua Lee (1896-1966), the “Teen Tamer of Fire.” Her magical lanterns illuminate the struggles of Chinese immigrant women who aren’t allowed US citizenship, let alone the right to vote. It’s a tough act to follow, but Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972), “Star of the Yiddish Stage,” is up for the challenge. A prominent Jewish American women’s trade union organizer, Schneiderman uses Yiddish song—and a bit of humor—to represent working women in the suffrage movement. Next up is Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947) as “The Ventriloquist.” Catt attempts to manipulate her dummy Woody (President Woodrow Wilson) into passing the 19th Amendment—but who’s pulling whose strings?

Impatient for the spotlight, Alice Paul (1885-1977) storms the stage as “The Strongwoman.” She flexes and grandstands, but can’t outmuscle the political system. The final act is Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez (1881-1977) as “The Spanish Rose.” Preferring unity over divisiveness, Lopez is a bridge between two worlds, using her gift of translation to ignite the suffrage movement in the Spanish-speaking community.

The moment of truth has arrived—will women win the right to vote? The Maestra employs the Vote-O-Meter to determine the verdict. Heavy hitter Susan B. Anthony strikes the mallet and…DING! They’ve won! But their victory is short lived…

To find out how it all ends for the ladies of A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, stay tuned for updates on the development of our show and new performances!

Suffragists picketing the White House in 1917 
Photo: Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Cast & Creative Team

Press & Media

Collaborator Spotlight

November Christine
Co-Creator (Book, Music & Lyrics)

November Christine (she/her/hers) holds a degree in Cellular Biology and Molecular Genetics from the University of Maryland, as well as a BM in Musical Theatre from the East Carolina University School of Music. She produced her award-winning musical MIRROR, MIRROR at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival, followed by a 3-week run in Los Angeles, CA. November’s historical hip-hop drama, LEGACY THE MUSICAL was showcased in London in 2017 and won “Best of Fest” at the 2018 New York Musical Festival.

Her other works include her play IDA, about the anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, and A WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE SPLENDIFEROUS EXTRAVAGANZA! a vaudeville revue written in collaboration with The Pleiades Project. November is a BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop Lyricist, 2021 Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award Winner, and Co-chair of the NYCLU Artist Ambassador Program.

Caroline Miller
Co-Creator (Book & Lyrics)

Caroline Miller is Co-Founder & Artistic Director of The Pleiades Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to championing women’s stories through opera, film, and original music-theater projects. With The Pleiades Project, Caroline has expanded her artistic talents outside of performance, embracing her interdisciplinary skills as a director, writer, programmer, and producer. She produced and starred in the short-film Così, excerpted from W.A. Mozart’s Così fan tutte, which was named an official selection of the NY Indie Theatre Film Festival. Caroline directed the entirety of the 24 Series, a collection of videos based on the 17th and 18th-century song collection, Twenty-Four Italian Songs & Arias.

For the 2020-2021 season, Caroline directed the premiere A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, a vaudevillian revue celebrating and problematizing the US women’s suffrage movement, through a generous grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Suffragists demonstrating against Woodrow Wilson in Chicago, 1916
Photo: National Woman’s Party Records, Library of Congress
A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza! is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and administered by LMCC.