Aghababian At Fifty - A Concert Series


CMASH is pleased to announce a series of concert events centered around an exciting milestone in our community. During the 2014-15 season, a multi-city concert series will feature the compositions of Dr. Vartan Aghababian, a long-term collaborator and true genius of vocal music, who celebrated his fiftieth birthday earlier this year.

During his long and prolific career, Boston-based composer Dr. Vartan Aghababian has written over 100 art songs as well as music for choir, chamber ensembles, orchestra, and opera. “I have enjoyed a close collaborative relationship with Vartan that spans over thirteen years,” says soprano and CMASH Artistic Director Ann Moss, “and have had the honor of premiering and recording several works he has composed specifically for me. I have been privileged to share his compositions with audiences in Northern and Southern California, Washington State, Massachusetts, and Southern Texas. Last year, it was my great pleasure to record his SEVEN SONGS at Skywalker Sound for release on my debut album CURRENTS.”

A series of intimate concert programs pair Dr. Aghababian’s songs and vocal chamber works with selections from like-minded American contemporaries such as Jake Heggie and William Bolcom, as well as music by another visionary Massachusetts composer, John Woods Duke. Concerts will take place in San Francisco, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Antonio, Austin, and Moss’s hometown of Lincoln, MA. Programs will feature art song cycles, trios for soprano, viola and piano, and music for solo piano.

Dates and details will be updated regularly. Keep an eye on this space for information about events in your area.

OCT 10 2014, LINCOLN MA 
Ann Moss, Justin Ouellet, Steven Bailey
Three Dickinson Songs (2011)
Songs of a Second April (2007)

Songs for Soprano, Viola and Piano (1988-2010)
Additional Repertoire TBA
Bemis Hall, 7:30pm

Ann Moss, Justin Ouellet, Steven Bailey
Three Dickinson Songs (2011)
Songs of a Second April (2007)

Songs for Soprano, Viola and Piano (1988-2010)
Additional Repertoire TBA
Academy of Vocal Arts, 4:00pm

Ann Moss, Cheryl Cellon Lindquist
Three Dickinson Songs (2011)
Songs of a Second April (2007)

When We Were Very Young (2002)
Additional Repertoire TBA
Ingrid Seddon Hall, 7:30pm

NOV 7 2014, AUSTIN TX 
Ann Moss, Cheryl Cellon Lindquist
Three Dickinson Songs (2011)
Songs of a Second April (2007)

When We Were Very Young (2002)
Additional Repertoire TBA
Blackerby Violin Shop, 7:30pm


This concert series, as well as all of our performance and educational activities, is made possible in large part by the generosity and enthusiasm of our donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today to help us continue to offer the highest level of concert and workshop experiences.

CMASH is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of CMASH must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Donate now!

Nerd Songs: Part Song Cycle, Part Memoir, All-Eighties

by Ann Moss


California Composer Kenneth Froelich's music has been described as “energetic, exciting, and rhythmically dynamic” and “set with imagination and imagery.” I had the pleasure of first meeting Dr. Froelich in the summer of 2008, when we were co-teachers at CSU Summer Arts' Composer/Performer Collaboration Workshop. When the workshop reconvened for a second session in 2011, Kenneth approached me with an idea to collaborate on a song cycle.

The resulting five NERD SONGS, (2012) are light-hearted and nostalgic pieces that depict hobbies from the composer’s childhood. Themes include Dungeons & Dragons, 8-bit video games such as Super Mario Bros., Star Trek, a variety of quintessential television shows, and a serially composed homage to the BASIC programming language.

This recording of NERD SONGS is from the premiere performance in August, 2012 at CMASH’s Fifth Annual New American Chamber Music program at Old First Concerts in San Francisco. In the program note for NERD SONGS, Froelich revealed to the audience a rather personal motivation for his choice of subject matter:

“As a child growing up in the 80s, it was often very difficult to come to terms with my identity. I was a nerd. That meant I was shunned by my peers, pursued obscure and often obtuse hobbies that few others understood, and spent much of my childhood on my own. Being a nerd was simply not accepted during this period of time. So, as a teenager I worked to hide this identity as much as possible - in effect living a double-life between pursuing nerdy hobbies at home and conveying (quite poorly) a “cooler” exterior to my peers. I am thus quite fortunate that, in recent years, being a nerd is not the stigma that it was once. As a result, I have been able to not only accept my identity as a nerd - but fully embrace it. Make no mistake - NERD SONGS is a labor of love, representing everything that I enjoyed as a child, now brought forth with pride. Each song within the cycle directly references subjects that are near-and-dear to my geeky soul. Classic role-playing games, Super Mario Bros., the BASIC computer language, Star Trek, and a small list of 80s television shows each serve as the inspiration of both the text and the music for each piece. These topics also happen to be passionate pursuits of mine - hobbies and interests that I indulged in as a child and teenager, and continue to pursue even today.”

After searching in vain for suitable poetry on the subjects he wished to explore, Ken had made the decision to compose his own texts for the song cycle. In an email to me, he mused about the experience of penning and setting his own poems:

"I knew I wanted to write about subjects that I was intimately familiar with. As such, each of the poems deals with those ‘nerdy pursuits’ that I was most engaged with throughout my childhood. Some of the poems came very easily - for instance, I wrote 'Red Shirt' in a single sitting. Others, like ‘Guk’s Lament’ took several days to refine. I even spent several hours trying to come up with a decent name for the dwarven protagonist, eventually using a ‘random dwarf name generator’ (yes - that really is a thing!) that I found on the internet. The poem that was by far the most rewarding was 'Hello World,' considering it isn’t a poem at all but rather a fully functional BASIC program. Granted - it is without a doubt HORRIBLE code - no programmer in their right mind would ever write that way. However, a two-line program wouldn’t be nearly as interesting for a song! Of course, the most personal of the set is 'Child of the 80s.' I wanted to make sure that the songs ended on a somewhat tender and reflective note, revealing these songs to be less humor and more nostalgia than anything else.”

The first full-length album exclusively featuring Kenneth Froelich’s vocal music is slated for release in 2016, and will include NERD SONGS as well as a forthcoming work I recently co-commissioned from Ken with the Hausmann String Quartet. Recording sessions for NERD SONGS with myself and pianist Steven Bailey took place in January, 2014 at Maximus Studios in Fresno, California.

NERD SONGS will appear on a program hosted by Fresno New Music next weekend, performed by soprano Mary Elizabeth Southworth and pianist Philip Amalong of the contemporary ensemble Conundrum. I can think of no greater thrill than knowing a piece I helped to create has been taken on by another collaborative duo. I feel the deep sense of pride and excitement I imagine a parent must feel as they watch their child board the school bus for the first time. As NERD SONGS launches into the great wide world of standard vocal repertoire, I feel so happy to have been present as it took its first steps. Congratulations Ken, and here’s to our next project. Bring it on!


Composer Kenneth Froelich sits down with recording engineer Eric Sherbon to listen to live takes of NERD SONGS at Maximus Studios in Fresno, CA



Ill fate!
How could this happen?
Where did I go wrong?

The plan was perfect!
My plus five demonic battle-axe of cleaving in my hands,
I was invincible.

But luck was cruel.
I rolled a ONE.
The goblin archer rolled a TWENTY.
I collapsed, my dwarven honor was crushed.

My days as a warrior done,
I will spend the rest of my years drinking mead,
Warning young adventures of the perils of
Goblin Arrows.


Is it true? Am I saved?
My loyal servant tells me so!
My hero has slain my captor -
MARIO comes for me!

Oh wonder, oh rapture!
I knew he would triumph!
No mushrooms, nor turtles, could
Stop his victory charge!

I think I hear him now!
He approaches my door!
It opens! And - what’s that now?
He went to the wrong castle???


note: the following text paraphrases a working segment of BASIC code - actual code is printed below

TWENTY. Print A-String.  
FORTY. Let A-String equal “L O Space.”  
FIFTY. Print “H E L.” 
SEVENTY. Print B-String “L D.” 
NINETY. Let B-String equal “W O R.”  



10 GOTO 40
20 PRINT A$;
30 GOTO 70
40 LET A$=”LO “
50 PRINT “HEL”; 
60 GOTO 90 
70 PRINT B$;”LD”; 
80 GOTO 110
90 LET B$=”WOR”
100 GOTO 20 
110 END
Hello World.


This was fate.
My destiny is complete.
I die knowing I played my part.
I am thankful that, as my vision fades,
The last thing I will see is
My beloved red shirt,
Torn asunder from my chest,
Ripped to pieces by
A Klingon’s pet Targ.


In my childhood…
I believed in “turtle power,”
A plan always came together,
Raising a sword gave you the power,
Knowing was half the battle,
and there always was more than meets the eye.

Now with a child of my own…
"Turtle power" sadly does not exist,
A plan is hardly foolproof,
Raising a sword will get you arrested,
Knowing is definitely half the battle, if not more,
And while there may be more than meets the eye,
You may not want to know.


Composer Kenneth Froelich, Soprano Ann Moss and Pianist Steven Bailey pose for a quick photo after wrapping up a very successful recording session at Maximus Studios

KENNETH D. FROELICH’s (b. 1977) music has been performed internationally in England, Germany, Italy, France, Slovenia, Finland, Canada, Peru, Argentina, Chile, and China, as well as numerous major cities across the United States. He has been honored with awards from ASCAP, NACUSA, Meet the Composer, the Percussive Arts Society, and the American Composers Forum, and his music has been presented the American Composers Orchestra, Duo46, Earplay, the Empyrean Ensemble, the California E.A.R Unit, the Jolles Duo, the Indianapolis Symphonic Orchestra, Conundrum, the University of New Mexico Percussion Ensemble, the University of Southern California Symphony Orchestra, the Indiana University New Music Ensemble, and the Orpheus Ensemble of Fresno, among others. Kenneth received both his Doctorate of Music and Masters of Music degrees from Indiana University, and received his Bachelors of Music degree summa cum laude from the University of Southern California in 1999. His principal composition teachers include Claude Baker, Don Freund, Sven-David Sandstrőm, Eugene O’Brien, Donald Crocket, Frederick Lesemann, Morten Lauridsen, and Erica Muhl. Kenneth currently resides in Fresno, CA with his wife Jennifer and daughter Katerina, where he is Associate Professor in Music Composition at California State University, Fresno and director of the Fresno New Music Festival.

An Old Poem Made New: Thoughts on “Carpe Luna”

by Lisa DeSiro


I wrote the poem “Carpe Luna” while I was an undergraduate student at Binghamton University, in the southern tier of New York state. The years I spent at Binghamton (1988–1992) were formative, filled with learning and excitement. My major there was Literature & Creative Writing, but I minored in Music and spent a lot of time in the music building. We were fortunate to have excellent facilities, including a few sound-proofed practice rooms (which we called “the microwaves” because of the way the doors sealed shut). One cold winter night I had been in my favorite practice room (the one with the grand piano!) and I lost track of time. When I emerged from the nearly-deserted building, I saw a full moon in the sky and felt a strong reaction that surprised me. This experience inspired me to write “Carpe Luna”; the title derived from the phrase “carpe diem”, which had stuck in my mind after watching the film Dead Poet’s Society (1989).


After practicing
self-perfection —
my mind alone,
my fingers, my arms,
my body
the only sound
in the world
for hours —
I left the room,
scuffed down empty halls
to a door, pushed
myself out
into sudden silence.
And there was the moon,
gleaming, round
as a snowball, frozen
amid shallow drifts of cloud.
I reached up
tall as the night sky,
grabbed that moon
and melted it
with my bare hands.

I eventually submitted “Carpe Luna” to Poetpourri, a literary journal produced by The Comstock Writers’ Group in Syracuse, NY (the journal has since grown to national recognition and is now called The Comstock Review). “Carpe Luna” was published in the 1993 Awards Edition issue of Poetpourri. I also included it in a handmade chapbook that I gave to family members for Christmas 2004. If I remember correctly, it was a copy of this chapbook that I gave to Ann.

The following e-mail excerpts show the initial dialogue between Ann and me about the creation of “Carpe Luna” as a song, and its inclusion in Liam Wade’s song cycle Silver Apples.

May 2008 - “The Proposal”


I’m writing to ask your permission to use one of the poems from the book you sent me in a song cycle. Liam and I are working on an idea for a cycle and your poem “Carpe Luna” would fit the themes we are exploring really well. Liam is already very excited about the imagery in the poem, so I hope you’ll say yes.
The cycle is still in the idea phase. It started with Liam choosing an Edgar Allen Poe poem called “Eldorado.” Liam likes the idea of a quest/adventure/journey theme. I fixed on the moon image immediately as well. In talking, we decided we didn’t want to try to arrange a cycle of all Poe poems because most of them are so long and heavy and dark. So we decided to go sideways and look at other poems with similar themes and imagery. Liam is looking through “Candide” to find excerpts we might be able to use, and my mom is looking through some Buddhist poetry on the subject of quests. I fixed on the fact that Poe was born in Boston and decided to look at poetry from or about Boston. It seems like a larger theme we might be working with is how Liam and I have traveled across the country looking for musical inspiration only to find it was always waiting for us back in our own “Garden” (Longy), just like Candide! I was originally remembering your Public Garden poems, but realized that they’re very long. So I read through your whole book again and landed on “Carpe Luna.” I think it’s especially fun that “Carpe Luna” starts with the quest for self-perfection (which incorporates the east/west idea as well) and ends with melting the moon. It just might be the perfect closing poem for the cycle!


I would be honored to have “Carpe Luna” set to music, and I’m flattered that you considered my poetry for your project. Permission granted!  :-)  I like the Candide idea. Thanks for sharing the Poe poem, too.

January 2009 - “The First Draft”


Here is the current version of Carpe Luna. I had initially read the poem to be about meditation… or something eastern. Liam wants to evoke that moment when one has been inside a Longy practice room all day and then comes out of the building to find the day has turned into night. See what you think of his reading - I like it more and more as I work on it.


I printed the song and played through it tonight, and I was delighted! I actually wrote the first draft of “Carpe Luna” after a re-emerging-from-the-practice-rooms experience during my undergrad days at Binghamton University. Yes, it dates that far back! But definitely still relevant to our more recent experiences at Longy.

I’m pleased by Liam’s interpretation. I think he understood what the poem’s speaker feels: a sense of power/triumph after intense labor, but also a sense of striving to attain what seems unattainable (beauty/perfection). I almost wish he had ended the song on a major chord…  although the minor tonality is effective…

There is one word that I used somewhat inaccurately:  rather than “among shallow drifts of cloud”  I should have said “amid shallow drifts of cloud.” Would you be willing to make that text change?


I’m really glad you like the song. And I see absolutely no reason why we can’t change that word - you’re the poet after all!

My favorite thing about this collaborative model is that things seem generally more flexible and fluid than in the traditional model - wherein I ask for a piece, composer writes the piece, notes and rhythms are etched in stone, piece gets performed once, me and composer go our separate ways.

And thank you for the background on the poem - it will probably be really nice for Liam to know that he was on the right track. I forwarded your reaction to him, and who knows - maybe he’ll rethink the ending chord. He’s honestly one of the most flexible and inclusive composers I’ve ever worked with. It’s an awesome partnership.

I remember some time later, after initial performances of Silver Apples, having an animated phone conversation with Liam about “Carpe Luna” and feeling a kinship with him because he understood the text so well. And he did in fact change the final chord from minor to major!

Ann asked me to perform “Carpe Luna” with her in November 2012 at the kickoff concert for her Currents recording project. That in itself was a pleasure—but I must say it was an even bigger thrill the following year (September 2013) to receive my preview digital download and hear the version of “Carpe Luna” that Ann recorded with pianist Steven Bailey at Skywalker Sound. I’m honored that one of my poems became a part of Liam’s wonderful cycle Silver Apples; and I’m humbled to be among the company of such fine poets, composers, and performers featured on Currents.

Lisa DeSiro is a writer and pianist living in Cambridge, MA. Her poems have appeared in Mezzo Cammin, Sixfold, Poetpourri (now The Comstock Review) and Commonthought Magazine. Her sonnet “The Trick” won second prize in the 2013 Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, and her sonnet “Hawks in Harvard Square” will be published in the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project: 2013 anthology (forthcoming, spring 2014). Along with her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, Lisa has degrees from Binghamton University, The Boston Conservatory, and Longy School of Music.

Winter 2014 Concert Tour - “CURRENTS” CD Release Celebration


Poster Design by Darren Buchanan

Greetings and Happy New Year!

My CMASH colleagues and I are excitedly making ready to hit the road on our first multi-city concert tour of the East Coast. Together with Director of Collaborative Programming Liam Wade, Pianist Steven Bailey, and joined by a host of special guests along the way, we’ll celebrate the release of my debut CD Currents with a series of concerts, masterclasses and informal collaboration meetups. Over the course of two weeks we will visit schools, concert venues and local businesses in the Boston area, Philadelphia and New York City. We hope you’ll join us for one or more of our exciting events!

~ Ann Moss, Artistic Director


CAMBRIDGE MA - Jan 27, 5:30-8:30pm - Collaboration Meetup - PARK Restaurant & Bar
Registration Link

TOPSFIELD MA - Jan 30, 7pm - Concert - Willowdale Estate Signature Series
Ticket Link

CAMBRIDGE MA - Jan 31, 3-5pm - Masterclass - Longy School of Music

LINCOLN MA - Jan 31, 7:30pm - Concert - Bemis Hall
Ticket Link

PHILADELPHIA PA - Feb 3, 5-8pm - Collaboration Meetup - Monk’s Cafe
Registration Link

PHILADELPHIA PA - Feb 4, 7:30pm - Concert - Academy of Vocal Arts
Ticket Link

NEW YORK NY - Feb 6, 7:30pm - Concert - National Opera Center
Ticket Link

NEW YORK NY - Feb 7, 2-4pm - Masterclass - NYU Tisch School For The Arts


Concerts will feature contemporary chamber works for voice and instruments including selections from Ann Moss’s recently released debut album CURRENTS. Music by Vartan Aghababian, Liam Wade, Weslie Brown, Kenneth Froelich and Jake Heggie, plus arrangements of songs by Joni Mitchell and selections from the Great American Songbook. See ticket links for individual concert program information.

Ann Moss - Soprano
Steven Bailey - Piano
Isaac Allen - Violin
Ryan Shannon - Violin
Justin Ouellet - Viola


Topics of discussion will include the collaborative process between composer, pianist and singer from commission to premiere; the recording process - transporting repertoire from the concert hall to the recording studio; techniques for approaching contemporary vocal repertoire; composing for the voice/commissioning a vocal work and ways to initiate a constructive dialogue between singer and composer.


In each city on our upcoming tour, we have arranged fun and informal meetup events in order to gather with composers and performers in a casual, non-academic environment to discuss a range of topics in New Music today. Themes of our discussion may include current events and concerns in your local New Music community, individual struggles or recent accomplishments in the areas of composition and performance, and we’ll exchange ideas about ways to further our creativity and enhance collaboration between composers and performers. Our hope is to learn more about the cities we’re performing in and create opportunities for local musicians to connect on an authentic level, while we consume delicious food and drink and support a fine local business. We hope you will join us!


In keeping with our organization’s mission, we have worked to ensure that the majority of the events of our Winter 2014 Concert Tour are free and accessible for all who wish to come out and enjoy. With CMASH’s new designation of fiscal sponsorship, we are able to offer our patrons tax deductible status for their donations. If you would like to support our Winter 2014 Concert Tour with a monetary contribution, please visit our Indiegogo Campaign at the link below:

There are several donation options available through our campaign. With your gift you may choose to sponsor a single concert or the entire tour. And of course, all donations come with special award perks.

Thank you for supporting our music-making!

CMASH is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.  Contributions for the charitable purposes of CMASH must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

A message from John Grimmett, Managing Director

Right about now, Ann Moss is performing at the Old First Church in San Francisco with Steven Bailey, Karen Rosenak, Jeremias Garcia and the Hausmann Quartet.  This first-rate collective is performing music recorded on Moss’ debut album, Currents (which you should purchase if you have not done so already).

And here I sit, regretful that I cannot be with Ann and the rest of the CMASH company tonight but warm by my computer-side, sending you well-wishes from New York City where November brings colder weather and falling leaves.  It is that time of year when transition is ever apparent, and the many coats, scarves and earmuffs sported by most city dwellers are just some of the many indicators of change as we forge on into winter.

I must admit that change is one thing that all collaborative members of CMASH have embodied in the past months.  During this exciting time, we have been pursuing growth in three major areas of our organization related solely to our mission: to increase presence through national performances and masterclasses; to implement educational initiatives pivotal to promoting our unique collaborative process; and to receive fiscal support from a variety of institutional and individual sources.  We feel these three objectives propel our mission into the spotlight of national prominence as we continue to cultivate the same work that Bay Area audiences have enjoyed for the last six years into starting a serious, national conversation about the progress of new music in America, from process to performance.

And, now, we have some wonderful news: CMASH is officially a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non‐profit arts service organization.  Under the designation of fiscal sponsorship through Fractured Atlas, our audiences are able to donate to our cause while receiving benefits accorded to a 501(c)3 organization—meaning your contributions are tax-deductible!  Additionally, a fiscal sponsorship designation means that foundation funding and corporate sponsorships are now more easily available to our collective.  We hope that, in the next five years, we may secure funding for the projects that will advance our mission of creating a repertory of new music through presenting beyond premieres, building community, implementing vital outreach and educational programming, fostering collaborative good will, and valuing well-being.

The even better news is that we have already started.  Our grant application process (we applied for over $15,000 worth of grants in the latest New Music USA grant cycle) is already underway, and we have already launched the first two episodes of exCHANGE, our official podcast.  We are also planning a 2014 East Coast tour in support of “Currents” at Willowdale Estate Signature Events Series (Topsfield, MA) on January 30, Bemis Hall (Lincoln, MA) on January 31, and the Academy of Vocal Arts Recital Hall (Philadelphia, PA) on February 4.  Master classes focused on new music performance practice and CMASH’s approach to collaboration will be held at the Longy School of Music of Bard College and Westminster Choir College between performances; the tour will culminate at Opera America’s National Opera Center (New York, NY) on February 6.  All public concerts on the tour will have free admission.

So the time has come for you to join the momentum.  You are a necessary part of our collaboration.  Socrates said, “Let him who would move the world first move himself.”  And CMASH is moving itself, faster and faster, member by member, moment by moment, inch by inch, season by season.

Join us.

CMASH Welcomes The Hausmann Quartet to San Francisco

We are thrilled to welcome long-time collaborators The Hausmann Quartet back to San Francisco, where over the next two weeks they will grace their adoring bay area fan-base with two public performances and a chamber music masterclass.

Praised for its “passion and commitment” (San Francisco Classical Voice), and a sound “packed with biting and lyrical substance” (Cleveland Plain Dealer), The Hausmann Quartet was formed in the summer of 2004 at Lyricafest in New Jersey, and has since become known for powerful and dynamic performances. Now into its eighth season, the Quartet has established itself in San Diego California, joining the faculty at San Diego State University as Artists in Residence, as well as founding the Hausmann Chamber Music Program. Recent winners of the Beverly Hills Auditions and recipient of a Chamber Music America Residency Grant, the Hausmann Quartet has enjoyed a busy and varied performance schedule with concerts throughout North America and China.

Later this spring The Hausmann Quartet joins CMASH Artistic Director and soprano Ann Moss at Skywalker Sound to collaborate on her debut album CURRENTS. They will be recording Seven Songs (2003) by Vartan Aghababian, as well as their own arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s Cactus Tree, part of a suite of Mitchell songs created especially for this project.

The Hausmann Quartet is (l-r) Eric Chin, Jeremiah Shaw, Isaac Allen, Angela Choong

SFSU Recital Hour Series

Friday, April 19, 1pm FREE
Creative Arts Building, Knuth Hall

SFSU School of Music and Dance
Anton Webern - Langsamer Satz in E Flat Major for String Quartet
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - String Quartet No. 14 in G major, K.387 "Spring"
Arthur Piazzolla - Four For Tango

La Belle Vie at the Legion Chamber Music Series
Presented by San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music

Sunday, April 21, 12pm FREE
Rodin Gallery, Legion of Honor
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - String Quartet No. 14 in G major, K.387 “Spring”
Henri Dutilleaux - Ainsi La Nuit
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K546
Claude Debussy - String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10

Chamber Forum Masterclass

Friday, April 26, 2:30-4pm FREE
Creative Arts Building, Knuth Hall

SFSU School of Music and Dance

One Art Ensemble Returns to Bay Area for Concerts

CMASH is proud to welcome the return of One Art Ensemble to the Bay Area this week, where they will present a remarkable program of art song and chamber music at venues in Berkeley and San Francisco. Their program, entitled ‘I Shall Possess the Field’ features works from the classical repertoire as well as new works commissioned by and for the trio. One Art Ensemble has been thrilling audiences for years with their exciting and adventuresome programs. They have also been enthusiastic core members of CMASH since 2009. We are proud to support their continued engagement with contemporary vocal chamber music and living composers. Don’t miss the chance to hear these talented artists, performing in historic venues on both sides of the Bay.


One Art Ensemble is (l-r) Alexa Beattie, viola; Hillary Nordwell, piano, Ann Moss, soprano

I Shall Possess The Field

Vartan Aghababian – Two Songs for Soprano, Viola and Piano (2010)
Jake Heggie - At The Statue of Venus (scene for soprano and piano, 2005)
Robert Schumann – Adagio and Allegro Op. 70 (1849)
Benjamin Britten – Lachrymae Op. 48a (1948)
John Woods Duke – Three Sonnets for Voice, Viola and Piano (1959)

The Hillside Club

Selected works from Sunday’s full program
Noontime Concerts

Experience what the SF Examiner declares “the best thing that can happen to unfamiliar new works of music.” With ‘I Shall Possess The Field,’ One Art Ensemble blends the new and unusual with classic favorites from the chamber music literature. Repertoire for trio displays a merging of art song and chamber music genres. In settings of poetry by Elizabeth Bishop and Edna St. Vincent Millay, Massachusetts composers Vartan Aghababian and John Woods Duke employ soprano, viola, and piano as equal partners to fuse text, melody, and emotion. Aghababian’s songs were commissioned by One Art in 2009, while Duke’s Millay settings were discovered posthumously and have enjoyed only one performance since their 1959 premiere. The Ensemble offsets trio repertoire with daring and delightful works for duo instrumentation. In Jake Heggie’s dramatic 2005 scene for soprano and piano, with libretto by Terrence McNally, we take a whirlwind ride through the frantic, comical, and ultimately self-accepting inner monologue of a woman on a blind date. Benjamin Britten’s 1948 Lachrymae for viola and piano explores a different sort of inner turmoil, drawing on the courtly lamentations of Renaissance lutenist John Dowland. And Robert Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro, composed a full century earlier, uplifts and inspires with childlike wonder and joyfulness. Come allow the “captivating sound” (SF Classical Voice) of One Art Ensemble to draw you into this rich and multi-dimensional concert program.

Hailed as “beautiful feminine giants of chamber music,” One Art Ensemble has quickly gained recognition for its inspiring juxtaposition of historic chamber music and art song with new works by living composers. OAE has created innovative concert sets for Noe Valley Chamber Music, Old First Concerts, CMASH New American Chamber Music Series, the Bing Concert Series at Stanford University Hospital, and San Francisco’s Noontime Concerts. OAE has made two concert tours to northern Washington state, appearing on the KONP Radio show Artbeat, and a concert tour to Boston. In 2009, OAE commissioned Boston area composer Vartan Aghababian to set two poems by Elizabeth Bishop, which received their premiere on April 11, 2010 at Noe Valley Chamber Music. Their second commission was for Bay Area composer Liam Wade to set a collection of fantastical poems by Boston area poet Lisa DeSiro, which were premiered in February, 2010. In April, 2010, OAE premiered Candlelight Cafe, a work by LA based composer Weslie Brown arranged specifically for the trio by Liam Wade.  Mame Loshn, a cycle of 5 songs in Yiddish composed for OAE by Miriam Miller with poetry by Sarah Traister Moskovitz, received its premiere performance in Fall of 2010 in Port Townsend, WA. OAE is part of the core membership of CMASH, a new music repertory group committed to establishing and nurturing long-term collaborative relationships between composers and performers. OAE served as the 2010 Ensemble in Residence for the PhD candidates in Composition at UC Davis, a residency which culminated in two public performances of six new chamber works composed for the Ensemble. Through ongoing collaborations with living composers, One Art Ensemble contributes to an expanding repertoire that is carefully crafted to highlight the full range and expressive power of this unique chamber ensemble.

San Antonio Inaugural Concert “A New Beginning”

We are pleased to announce our Inaugural San Antonio Concert taking place this Sunday, April 7 at 4:00PM on the campus of Our Lady of the Lake University. Entitled “A New Beginning” this concert features soprano Jennifer Piazza-Pick and pianist Dr. Cheryl Cellon Lindquist, and includes the world-premiere of HIGH AND LOW, a song cycle composed for the occasion by Liam Wade with texts by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sara Teasdale, and John Grimmett. Liam Wade will be in attendance.



Pennsylvania native Jennifer Piazza-Pick has recently moved to San Antonio after living in Germany.  She was a member of the House Chorus at the Nationaltheater Mannheim in Mannheim, Germany for 5 years, where she performed in over 50 different productions.  She sang several small roles with the theater as well, including Turandot’s handmaiden in Turandot, first Mädchen in Le Nozze di Figaro, and the first soprano solos in Schumann’s Requiem für Mignon.   Active also as a concert singer, she has performed in several concert series’ as a soloist and ensemble singer, including a concert tour of Poland, Belarus, Latvia, and Lithuania with the U.S. Army Europe Band and an annual quartet recital as part of the Hab 8 series at the Nationaltheater. She has been a soloist in such works as Handel’s Messiah, Fauré’s Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Magnificat, Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s St. John’s Passion, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, and performances of Bach’s Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen. Her operatic roles include Nannetta in Falstaff, the First Lady in The Magic Flute, Miss Wordsworth in Albert Herring, and Belinda in Dido and Aeneas.  Ms. Piazza-Pick holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance and Music Education from Ithaca College and a Master of Music degree in Voice Performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. In San Antonio, she is the soprano section leader at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, adjunct faculty at Our Lady of the Lake and Wayland Baptist Universities, and she maintains a private studio.  She has performed with the San Antonio Choral Society, Opera Piccola of San Antonio, and the Composer’s Alliance of San Antonio, as well as on the First Friday Concert series at St. John’s Lutheran Church.  Last fall, she gave a series of Lieder recitals at various local universities. She is also the recipient of the 2012 George Cortes Award for Classical Singing by the Artist Foundation of San Antonio.


Cheryl Cellon Lindquist collaborates with an array of singers, instrumentalists, choirs and chamber ensembles.  With appearances throughout the U. S. and Europe, she has been a featured soloist with several symphony orchestras. She has studied with distinguished artists and professors such as Douglas Fisher, Carolyn Bridger, Timothy Hoekman, Valerie M. Trujillo, Lita Guerra, Jerry Alan Bush and Paul Nitsch, and has worked with notable composers John Harbison, Jake Heggie and Krzysztof Penderecki. Through master classes and festivals, she has enjoyed performance opportunities with Martin Katz, John Wustman and Dalton Baldwin. Dr. Lindquist was invited to serve on the faculty at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria as repetiteur and recital pianist and participated in the Songfest Music Festival at Pepperdine University and at the Acadèmie Internationale d’Été de Nice in Nice, France. Dr. Lindquist earned her DMA in piano performance from Florida State University with an emphasis in chamber music and accompanying. She has served on the faculty at University of Texas-Pan American, University of North Carolina-Pembroke and Northwest Vista College. Dr. Lindquist is currently an adjunct professor of music at Our Lady of the Lake University and organist at Trinity Baptist Church. During her brief time in San Antonio, she has enjoyed performances with the San Antonio Symphony, Opera Piccola and the San Antonio Children’s Chorus. Dr. Lindquist also maintains a private coaching studio and is thrilled to be part of the expansion of CMASH from California to Texas.

Sunday April 7, 2013, 4PM
Our Lady of the Lake University, Fine Arts Room 200 
Admission $10, free for students

CMASH Poet Lisa DeSiro Writes for the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? To mark the occasion this year, CMASH artist Lisa DeSiro has volunteered to participate in something special. Every day during the  month of April, she will be sharing an original poem on the internet, along with 11 other poets, as part of the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project.

Tupelo Press is a small non-profit literary publisher in Massachusetts which produces beautifully-made books. The 30/30 Project is a fundraiser “marathon” during which poets write 30 poems in 30 days, while asking for sponsorship and encouragement. The funds raised go to support the work of Tupelo Press and their on-going publication of new writers.

You can follow Lisa’s daily poem-posts here:


Poet Lisa DeSiro

If you feel compelled to contribute on Lisa’s behalf, click on the “donate” button, then type her name where it says “in honor of” at the bottom of the page. As an extra incentive Lisa is making a special offer: her sponsors may choose to suggest either a title or a topic for a poem! But even if you’re not able to make a donation, we hope you’ll check out the site and read some of the poetry generated by this incredible project. And feel free to send Lisa comments to cheer her on.  

The mission of Tupelo Press is to foster and shepherd great new literature. For more than a decade — twelve years and 100 books — they’ve remained committed to writers who give great gifts to the world. During the past year the Press has added some terrific prose to their growing poetry list (indelible novels, short story collections, and creative nonfiction).

Tupelo Press initiated the 30/30 Project in December 2012, and plans to continue the Project through the year. If you’d like to volunteer for the month of May 2013, please contact with your offer, a brief bio, and three sample poems … and warm up your pen!



We are pleased to announce that CMASH will present our Inaugural San Antonio Concert on Sunday, April 7 at 4:00PM on the campus of Our Lady of the Lake University. The concert will feature soprano Jennifer Piazza-Pick and pianist Dr. Cheryl Cellon Lindquist and composer Liam Wade will be in attendance.

Entitled “A New Beginning” this concert features the music of Aaron Copland, Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, Vartan Aghababian, and the world-premiere of a new song cycle composed for the occasion by Liam Wade.

Composer and Director of Collaborative Programming Liam Wade reflects on this exciting expansion —

"When Ann Moss and I started CMASH six years ago, we sought to find an alternative to the traditional model of composition - the composer working in isolation to perfect every detail before handing a “locked” score to the performer for a dictated, precise execution. I felt that the role of the performer had become less that of a creative collaborator and more of a mercenary. I saw that in other genres, such as Musical Theater, Jazz and Rock and Roll, the talents and ideas of the performer were embraced by the composer and integrated into the music, resulting in new music that comes from a musical experience that is shared by composer and performer. A blending of their role for the greater good of the music.


Composer and Director of Collaborative Programming Liam Wade


My new song cycle, entitled High and Low, is specifically written to pair up on concerts with Jake Heggie’s cycles Songs and Sonnets to Ophelia and Rise and Fall. The cornerstone of this song cycle is the song “distance is crueler than the coldest february”, a setting of a poem by librettist/playwright/composer John Grimmett. Jake Heggie is a mutual friend of John and mine and when I was commissioned to write an opera for the Washington National Opera last year, Jake introduced me to John as a potential librettist. John and I hit it off right away and jumped into what turned out to be one of the most rewarding collaborations and intense writing experiences of my life: composing an opera in just a few months to be premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. In organizing this Inaugural CMASH San Antonio Concert, I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to continue working with John Grimmett, and that it was very befitting that John is a Texas native who hails from Houston.

High and Low owes very much to the open, tailor-made compositional process that has evolved through years of CMASH collaboration. Cheryl and Jennifer have been very much a part of the creative process already, and are continuing to help shape these pieces by contributing their own interpretive and compositional ideas throughout the rehearsal process.

I am so excited to be having this creative exchange with Jennifer and Cheryl who share with me a desire to bring new opera and art song to the San Antonio community. Over the last 30 years, we have seen opera boom across the state of Texas. Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth have blossomed into some of the finest and supportive opera communities in the world, and have shown profound interest and dedication to commissioning New American Opera. I see the vibrant, soulful city of San Antonio as a fertile environment for artistic collaboration and the creation of new opera and art song. San Antonio holds for me the  thrilling promise of a collaboration dedicated to expanding audiences for contemporary American opera in a city that is ready to sing.”

~ Liam Wade



John Grimmett and Liam Wade in Washington DC for the November 2012 premiere of their co-commissioned opera “Part of the Act”

April 7, 2013, 4PM
Our Lady of the Lake University, Fine Arts Room 200 
Admission $10, free for students

"Silver Apples" - The Journey from Concert Hall to Recording Studio

imageCMASH Composer and Director of Collaborative Programming Liam Wade created the enchanting song cycle SILVER APPLES in 2008 for CMASH Artistic Director Ann Moss (soprano) and CMASH co-founder Steve Bailey (piano) for premiere on our second annual New American Chamber Music program. Described as “extremely engaging and humorous” in San Francisco Classical Voice, SILVER APPLES traces the energetic journey of one full cycle of the moon, from the innocence of a new moon through the lunacy and gravity of the waxing and full moon, returning again to the clarity of the new moon. Wade’s eclectic settings incorporate elements of blues, rag-time, Boulanger piano exercises, and even the sound of a cat walking on the keyboard, while his writing for Moss allows her to explore every corner and color of her varied vocal palette, from high-flying coloratura fireworks to Swedish-Chef inspired scat singing to a dog’s mournful howl, and even a hint of Vincent Price style narration.


Photo: Wade and Moss at the premiere of SILVER APPLES at CMASH New American Chamber Music II, San Francisco Conservatory of Music Recital Hall, January 2009


At the outset of their collaboration, Wade and Moss selected the moon-themed poems together, deciding on four texts by Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Butler Yeats, and CMASH poet-in-residence Lisa DeSiro. Bailey and Moss worked closely alongside Wade throughout the compositional process, both performers contributing musical ideas which were incorporated into the score. Wade allowed for a great deal of improvisation as well, and to that end the duo have never performed these magical, whimsical songs the same way twice in concert.


Now Moss and Bailey are making ready to record the cycle as part of Moss’s debut CD CURRENTS, which will be recorded with producer and engineer Leslie Ann Jones at Skywalker Sound for release later this fall. All four collaborators have come together in rehearsals to explore new musical possibilities offered by the studio setting. Moss has composed an extended cadenza for the second movement, Eldorado (Poe), for which Bailey makes his way inside the piano to create a lengthy sound collage of extended techniques to accompany her vocal foray. In other movements Jones and Wade are discussing the incorporation of dialogue, found and incidental sounds, as well as the manipulation of wall panels and mic placement in the recording studio to create an undulating sound environment.


Photo: Moss and Bailey at the 2009 premiere of SILVER APPLES


"I am thrilled to be able to share Liam’s inventive story-telling and natural affinity for the lyric coloratura instrument with a broader audience," says Moss of her choice to include Wade’s work on her upcoming release. “Especially as his budding operatic career is propelled by a recent commission from Washington National Opera. SILVER APPLES has enabled so many new listeners to connect with and find joy in the genre of Art Song in concert; this recording will surely serve to further that good work and hopefully bridge some gaps between the new music and the vocal music communities.”


Moss is actively raising funds in order to complete CURRENTS, which also includes compositions by CMASH members Weslie Brown and Vartan Aghababian, and is a sponsored project of non-profit arts service organization Fractured Atlas. She welcomes contributions at her Fractured Atlas Project Profile as well as through her Indiegogo Campaign, where supporters can receive rewards such as a signed CD or digital download of the album as soon as it becomes available.


LISTEN: Two movements from SILVER APPLES recorded live in performance at San Francisco’s Old First Church, January 2011

*CURRENTS: A Collaborative Recording Project is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the purposes of CURRENTS: A Collaborative Recording Project must be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.


CMASH Composers and Performers Featured on Upcoming CD Release


is a dynamic new recording project that will feature acclaimed soprano and CMASH Artistic Director Ann Moss, performing some of the extraordinary new and recent American vocal/chamber music she has championed over the past decade. She will be recording with a dream team of collaborators from the chamber music, new music, and jazz communities. Repertoire includes two works composed especially for her by CMASH composers Liam Wade and Vartan Aghababian;
a haunting, lyric ballad for soprano and Flamenco guitar by CMASH Composer Weslie Brown; an unpublished song cycle by the late John Thow; and five new arrangements created especially for this recording of songs by one of the most beloved songwriters of all time, Joni Mitchell.

CURRENTS will be recorded in 2013 at Skywalker Sound, produced by Grammy® Award winner Leslie Ann Jones, and features CMASH performers the Hausmann Quartet, pianist Steve Bailey, and bassist Liam Wade.

Other performers on CURRENTS include pianist Karen Rosenak, flamenco guitarist and founder of Solero Flamenco Jeremy Garcia, Grammy® nominated guitarist Richard Savino, jazz pianist Matt Berkeley, and drummer Joe Bagale

Wartime Lyricism - “Seven Songs” by Vartan Aghababian - Part 3

In parts one and two of this thread, I reflected on the initial stages of my rehearsal process with the Hausmann String Quartet as we prepare Seven Songs for recording in 2013. I want to take some time now and share the story behind this work’s composition and the heartrending poetry that inspired it.

Vartan Aghababian

Vartan Aghababian (b. 1964) and I conceived of Seven Songs in the early winter of 2002, while we were students in the Master of Music program at Longy School of Music. 2013 marks the ten-year anniversary of this powerful work for soprano and string quartet on poems by British WWI poet Wilfrid Gibson. In his large-scale song cycle, Aghababian layers sumptuous vocal lines over rich harmonic textures to illustrate Gibson’s profound poetic messages about wartime. Since the premiere in 2003, the work has moved audiences to tears with its lyric expressiveness, as well as its poignant relevance to our country’s involvement in multiple conflicts abroad. With imagery ranging from soldiers in the trenches, to wives and mothers on the home front, to the plight of veterans returning to broken lives, Seven Songs evokes compassion for those who have given their lives or lost loved ones in the past, and challenges us to question our modern military actions and motivations.

Poet Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1878 – 1962) was born in Northumberland, England, to a middle-class family. He began his career writing Tennysonian verse, but gave it up in the early 1900s to join other young writers such as Wilfrid Owen, Rupert Brooke, and John Mansfield, writing in the Georgian style. The Georgians wrote lyric poems which celebrated a timeless English countryside, and which managed to capture the fragile image of Europe on the brink of war. Their idyllic world was soon to be shattered by the invasion of Belgium and the subsequent Great War.

 Wilfrid Gibson

In 1913, Gibson founded a community in north Gloucestershire with Lascelles Abercrombie, Edward Thomas, John Drinkwater, and Eddie Marsh. Together this group published a literary journal called New Numbers, which, along with individual volumes of poetry, was widely circulated throughout Britain and the U.S. The Dymark Poets, named for the village they settled in, gained their popularity with works that reflected everyday life. Gibson was known as “the People’s Poet” for his use of language that reflected the speech of ordinary, country folk. He concerned himself with the themes of common humanity - married life, friends, his cottage, and the farms, fields and forests of the Dymark countryside.

American poet Robert Frost joined the Dymark poets in 1914. He admired Gibson, who was one of the first Englishmen to review Frost’s A Boy’s Will. Gibson’s 1927 poem The Golden Room describes, with nostalgia, an evening which brought all of the poets to his cottage. The poem captures Frost’s intellect and expansiveness, Thomas’s shyness, Brooke’s merriment. The poem also captures the pain that Gibson still felt – more than a decade later – at how the war had ended it all. Just one year after that evening in Gibson’s cottage, Rupert Brooke, sent to Dardanelles as part of the fateful Gallipoli expedition, died of blood poisoning in a field in France. Of Britain’s 16 best-known poets of the day, only ten survived the conflict. Gibson, due to poor eyesight, remained at home. He did not experience the war first-hand until 1918, when he served as a clerk on the Western Front. Still, his poems of this period are primarily concerned with the suffering of those who fought and died, and the sorrow and loss experienced by those who were left behind. He penned The Going to commemorate Brooke’s passing, including it in a small volume entitled Friends, which he also dedicated to Brooke’s memory.

Wilfrid Gibson lived to the age of 84, publishing seven volumes of poetry and several plays. Though he was one of the most famous poets of his day, his popularity waned with the advent of Modernism, and he is barely remembered today.

The Return

He went, and he was gay to go;
And I smiled on him as he went.
My son, ‘twas well he couldn’t know
My darkest dread, nor what it meant —
Just what it meant to smile and smile
And let my son go cheerily —
My son … . and wondering all the while
What stranger would come back to me.

The Going


He’s gone.
I do not understand.
I only know
That as he turned to go
And waved his hand,
In his young eyes a sudden glory shone,
And I was dazzled with a sunset glow,
And he was gone.

23rd April 1915


We ate our breakfast lying on our backs,
Because the shells were screeching overhead.
I bet a rasher to a loaf of bread
That Hull United would beat Halifax
When Jimmy Strainthorpe played full-back instead
Of Billy Bradford. Ginger raised his head
And cursed, and took the bet; and dropt back dead.
We ate our breakfast lying on our backs,
Because the shells were screeching overhead.

All Being Well                                             

All being well, I’ll come to you,                     
Sweetheart, before the year is through;                    
And we shall find so much to do,                  
So much to tell.                                              

I read your letter through and through,                     
And dreamt of all we’d say and do,              
Till in my heart the thought of you              
Rang like a bell.                                                                                                        

Now the bell tolls, my love, for you;
For long before the year is through
You’ve gone where there is naught to do
And naught to tell.

Yet mayn’t I find when life is through
The best is still to say and do,
When I at last may come to you,
All being well?

Long Tom

He talked of Delhi brothels half the night,
Quaking with fever; And then, dragging tight
The frowsy blankets to his chattering chin,
Cursed for an hour because they were so thin

And nothing would keep out the gnawing cold –
Scarce forty years of age, and yet so old,
Haggard and worn with burning eyes set deep –
Until at last he cursed himself asleep.

Before I’d shut my eyes reveille came;
And as I dressed by the one candle-flame
The mellow golden light fell on his face
Still sleeping, touching it to tender grace,

Rounding the features life had scarred so deep,
Till youth came back to him in quiet sleep:
And then what women saw in him I knew
And why they’d loved him all his brief life through.


They asked me where I’ve been,
And what I’ve done and seen,
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn’t I,
But someone just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Killed men in foreign lands…
Though I must bear the blame
Because he bore my name.


We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily upon the sun or feel the rain,
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly, and spent
Their all for us, loved too the sun and rain?

A bird among the rain-wet lilac sings –
But we, how shall we turn to little things,
And listen to the birds and winds and streams
Made holy by their dreams,
Nor feel the heart-break at the heart of things?

"Seven Songs" Part One - Diving In

"Seven Songs" Part Two - Deep Waters

~ Ann Moss

Kurt Erickson Composes for “About Face” at Festival Opera

CMASH composer Kurt Erickson has an exciting new commission from Festival Opera as part of their production "About Face - An Opera Experience" featuring CMASH collaborator Heidi Moss (soprano) with Jorge Garza (tenor) and Eugene Brancoveanu (baritone). Here the composer muses about his lengthy relationship with the works of Giuseppe Verdi.

"Is Giuseppe Verdi my artistic good luck charm? Why is it that his music keeps showing up at important junctures in my life? As a young pianist Liszt’s Concert Paraphrase on Verdi’s Rigoletto was my go to ‘I’m-going-to-impress-you’ piece. About a decade later, Verdi’s music played a key role in my first ballet commission (an arrangement from Othello) included in piece for SF Opera Ballet Master Lawrence Pech and his plucky San Francisco company. Fast forward another ten years to now and here’s Verdi again, making an appearance in my new opera commission with Festival Opera via re-contextualized pieces from La Traviata and Rigoletto.

Gorgeous works, both. I take the material and I run with it. Verdi seen through a self-indulgent, post-modern lens. Verdi playing in a trio with Chet Baker and Claude Debussy on a booze-filled Friday night. Verdi listening closely to the newest Miles Davis album, picking up tricks and turns of phrase.

While Verdi’s music is beautiful and powerful, this wasn’t what I spent long nights studying and pining over. For some reason or other, I clearly connect with his music. It provides inspiration and has become intertwined with some of my most powerful musical memories. It’s a connection that works, but I have no idea why. Why fight it? Better to just go with it.”

~ Kurt Erickson

About Face

Festival Opera’s "About Face - An Opera Experience" premieres on Wednesday, December 5th at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, CA. Click here to purchase tickets.

Deep Waters - “Seven Songs” by Vartan Aghababian - Part 2

As it turns out, “diving in” with the Hausmann Quartet means plunging head-first into the deep end.

I had anticipated a “bash-through” (a term musicians humorously use to refer to the first reading of a new piece), followed by a bit of awkwardness while we got to know each other’s musical languages. Maybe by the second or third meeting we’d be making music. And with four days of rehearsal planned that seemed like enough time to find our way into the details, perhaps start to discover some subtleties in this piece.

Boy was I wrong!

In our very first session on Friday evening I was delighted to find that the quartet had already spent extensive time getting to know Vartan’s piece. And they had so many wonderful ideas! We talked about phrasing, colors, sound worlds, character, story-telling, subtext - all the good stuff you usually have to wait for if you ever even get there.

To begin Isaac, Eric, Angela, Jeremiah and I sat in a ring while I talked through the score movement by movement. I shared my connection with the texts and confessed how they sometimes have the power to undo me emotionally. I warned the quartet that I might come apart at moments during our rehearsal. As I opened up to them, I felt a warm wave of support flowing between us that remained constant through our subsequent meetings. It seemed they were totally on board, not a bit bothered by my apparent vulnerability.

Then the music-making commenced. From the intensity of the first few chords I knew I was in the company of profoundly respectful colleagues. Here they were, playing the music of a composer some of them had never heard of, with a singer two of them had only just met. Yet I witnessed complete musical and personal investment from each player. They chose to rehearse from full scores, despite cumbersome page turns, so as to be more connected to my vocal line and the poetry. (I learned that, in their first rehearsals, violinist Eric had actually sung my part as he played his own. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that!)

Hausmann String QuartetWatching the four members of HQ work together to solve problems is truly inspiring. They are respectful of one another - gentle in their language and tone as they suggest ways to achieve a particular group sound at a particular moment - but without any trace of tiptoeing or apology. This is one of my favorite aspects of working with string players when they really get along. They can reach right into each other’s playing technique, tweak and offer new approaches, and nobody seems to feel intruded upon. We singers have much to learn from this dynamic.

After two blissful days exploring the depths of Seven Songs together, we were joined on Sunday afternoon by our producer Leslie Ann Jones. We met in the SDSU recital hall, opening our inward-facing ring of music stands into a wide arc. Leslie Ann pulled out her score, turned on her recorder, and suddenly it felt like a performance. I noticed our group mode shift from process to presentation, with a wave of jittery energy that, over the years, I have come to associate with the excitement of sharing music with an audience. The first movement surged with a new intensity; everybody seemed to be proving themselves. As I sang my opening lines—

"He went, and he was gay to go;
And I smiled on him as he went,
My son, ‘twas well he couldn’t know
My darkest dread, nor what it meant”

—I felt myself pushing a bit, forcing it just a little. "Relax Ann," I thought to myself, "we’re all partners in this effort. No judging here." But I also knew I wasn’t the only one who had moved into this head space. All five of us seemed to be leaning into the music more earnestly than we had in rehearsal, and it created a weight that was almost too much to sustain.

Luckily we are working with one of the best set of ears in the business. Leslie Ann Jones immediately picked up on our over-eager energy, and her response was gracefully stated and immensely helpful. She explained that, as an outside listener hearing this text for the first time, she wouldn’t necessarily know that the woman’s son was going off to war. “He could be leaving for college - that might be the way some listeners initially connect to this story.” She urged us to let the truth of the scenario, and the musical weight that accompanies that truth, emerge as the poet reveals it. There was no reason for us to start at the emotional finish line. We played through again and the movement had a new sense of elegance, lightness, and much greater contrast. And I felt myself relaxing into a calmer energy, letting go of the jitters that had made me push. Phew!

We continued through the piece, taking it movement by movement, receiving Leslie’s reactions and impressions for each. Sometimes we worked transitions in a very detailed way, focusing on metronome markings and articulations, and sometimes we delved into broader interpretations of story and character. Our performance-style arc once again felt like an inward-facing ring, now with six members instead of five. Within the brief two hours of working together, Leslie Ann had shifted in our perception from audience to collaborator.

~ Ann Moss

"Seven Songs" Part One - Diving In

"Seven Songs" Part Three - Wartime Lyricism


Hausmann Quartet and producer Leslie Ann Jones feeling the post-rehearsal glow