Music She Wrote: Songs By and About Women
Sunday, May 9, 2021 at 3:00pm
On Mother’s Day, May 9th at 3pm Milton Community Concerts will present a live-stream benefit concert, “Music She Wrote: Songs By and About Women”. This one-hour program will feature a diverse and prestigious group of composers and performers in a multicultural program to benefit Rosie’s Place Women’s Shelter in Boston. This concert will also feature a talk by opera creator and Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Cerise Jacobs. Tickets can be purchased on the Sparrow Live concert platform (sparrowlive.com/miltoncommunityconcerts) for a $10 donation, and the concert will be streamed for a full month, until June 9th.
Eleven outstanding singers will perform music of many genres, including songs by female composers from their particular country of origin. The songs cover a wide range of topics, including the Women’s Suffrage movement, the Boston Women’s Memorial statues, social distancing during the pandemic, and several songs about mothers. Ensemble Lyrae, a celebrated women’s ensemble, will be performing, as will Broadway/film/TV star Kerry O’Malley, who will sing a song of hope from the musical THE SECRET GARDEN. The pianist for this program will be Timothy Steele.
Special guest Cerise Jacobs will be giving a talk during this event. She is the founder of White Snake Projects, an activist opera company based in Boston. Under her leadership White Snake Projects has produced opera committed to both high production values and social activism: PERMADEATH (a video-game opera); I AM A DREAMER WHO NO LONGER DREAMS (a wrenching immigrant story); and ALICE IN THE PANDEMIC (a digital opera with live singing). Currently she is producing a digital opera called DEATH TO LIFE which explores systemic racism and long-term incarceration.
All net proceeds from this live-stream concert will go to support Rosie’s Place Women’s Shelter, the first women’s shelter in the United States. It has served as a sanctuary for poor and homeless women in Boston’s South End since 1974.
Generous grants from the Milton Cultural Council and from Celebrate Milton! are assisting in the production of this concert.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the Rosie's Place (in addition to your ticket purchase), please click the "Donate" button below. You can donate using PayPal, or with a credit/debit card. 100% of your donation will go to Rosie's Place; it will initially be collected in a Milton Community Concert/First Parish of Milton PayPal account. Thank you for your generosity!
Please note: Donations made through May 8th will go to the Neponset Neighbors Together Fund. Beginning May 9th donations will go to Rosie's Place Women's Shelter.
Inspired by the natural beauty and brilliance of the constellation Lyra, Ensemble Lyrae brings together five uniquely and highly talented musicians. While each shines as a soloist, together, these women form deep connections in performing duets, trios, and quartets. The pianist and four vocalists of Ensemble Lyrae seek to illuminate musical works often unknown or under-played. They also premiere cutting-edge pieces written specifically for the Ensemble and their remarkable sound.
Whether performing in a spacious concert hall or a more intimate salon-style setting at home, these captivating Boston-based musicians enliven the audience's senses, engage their imaginations, and invite them to live in a world of timeless beautiful sound. Ensemble Lyrae has performed on the Music at Norway Pond Concert Series and Music at Whitehead Series and have been invited to perform at Boston Public Library's 'Concert in the Courtyard' summer series in the summer of 2020. They are the recent recipients of a 2019 Medford Arts Council Grant and Mass Cultural Council Grant, which allowed them to bring their program "Nevertheless, She Persisted" to a private audience at the Medford Council on Aging in June 2019.
Flourishing mezzo-soprano Grace Allendorf is known for her “creamy timbre, evenness of color and coloratura agility”. A consummate musician, she is dedicated to performing opera, oratorio, art song, musical theatre, and new music. Grace made her debut with Opera 51 as a member of the chorus in their production of Faust and she performed the role of Dew Fairy in Hansel and Gretel with Longwood Opera. She has shared the stage as a soloist with Concord Community Chorus, Coro Allegro, Andover Choral Society, Metropolitan Wind Symphony, Freisinger Chamber Orchestra, and Spectrum Singers. She was honored to premiere the role of Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty by Francine Trester as a second-year apprentice in the Nahant Music Festival in 2014. Other premieres include works by Charles Tarver, Josh Hummel, and Dominick DiOrio.
Grace holds the position of Associate Director of Community Performances and Partnerships at New England Conservatory, a community service based program designed to connect students with the community. Her role there has reinvigorated her passion for giving back to the community through music. She has performed solo recitals at a number of senior care facilities including Fuller Village, Needham Council on Aging, Chestnut Hill Benevolent Association, Café Emmanuel, and Hale House.
Grace currently serves as a section leader and soloist at First Parish in Milton and as a cantor at St. Richard's Parish in Danvers. She holds a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance from Longy School of Music and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music with a minor in Theatre Arts from Brandeis University. She is a student of Jayne West and has participated in master classes with Ryan Turner, Sharon Daniels, James Maddalena, David Kravitz, Martin Katz, Sondra Kelly, and Sheri Greenawald.
Grace belongs to Beyond Artists, a coalition of artists that pledge a portion of their concert fees to organizations they care about and therefore publicize the nonprofit’s work. With every performance she supports Still Kickin, an organization that builds empathy, encouragement, and economic relief for people in need, or Norwood Circle of Hope, established to support Norwood residents who need assistance due to a catastrophic medical occurrence.
Soprano Rachael Chagat is known for her “clear and pure tone which ranges from soaring to sweet.” Dedicated to both art song and vocal chamber music, Ms. Chagat has performed in venues across the U.S. and in Europe. Recent performances include Nova Cantatae Ensemble and the Magdalene Ensemble. Rachael is a founding member of Ensemble Lyrae, a Boston-based chamber ensemble.
Also a teacher, Rachael is a Teaching Artist with the Handel and Haydn Society and has served on faculty for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Days in the Arts at Tanglewood program. She is currently Director of the Choral Program at the New School of Music in Cambridge, MA. Rachael graduated with Distinction from the Longy School of Music in Cambridge with both a Masters and Graduate Performance Diploma in Vocal Performance. While at Longy she was a 2005 Honors Competition winner and a finalist in the 2007 Concerto Competition. Ms. Chagat earned her Bachelor’s degree at Capital University in Music Education and a certificate from the Zoltán Kodály Pedagogical Institute of Music in Kecskemét, Hungary.
Bree Cockerell, soprano, is happy to be guest singing with Ensemble Lyrae on this occasion. Bree is a graduate of Longy School of Music where she first met and became besties with the ladies of Ensemble Lyrae! After the completion of her MM and GPD in vocal performance, she moved back to TX where she has been an active voice teacher, performer and music director. "How wonderful that we learned to sing together in school and can continue to do so!
Admired for her versatility as singer and actress, Mezzo-Soprano Michelle Deluise enthralls audiences with her magnetic presence and rich, captivating voice. Comfortable in any range of roles, Michelle is a sought-after stage performer, liturgical minister, recording artist and all-around entertainer. Michelle has performed with Boston Opera Collaborative, MetroWest Opera, American Classics and The Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Comfortable in front of or on the podium, Michelle was Director of Music and Cantor at St. John the Evangelist Parish in North Cambridge for ten years, devotedly serving this beloved community. She has had the great privilege of teaching all ages voice, guitar and general music. Her most recent position was at St. Charles of Borromeo School in Woburn, where she taught General Music to three to fourteen year olds. In both the classroom and the private studio, Michelle delights in the process of helping her students discover their own voice and their love of music.
Emily Murphy is known for her sensitivity as a collaborative pianist. She holds a Master's degree in Musicology from the University of Washington and a Graduate Performance Diploma from the Longy School of Music. An avid music educator, she was awarded a teaching fellowship at the University of Washington and was the recipient of the Artsbridge Award for facilitating the creation and production of original operas in Salt Lake City public schools. Ms. Murphy was appointed Music Director for Studio East and Youth Theater Northwest in Seattle from 2004-2006. In 2008, she was awarded a Stern Fellowship to attend Songfest in Malibu, CA, and in 2009, received a scholarship to participate in the Collaborative Piano Program of the Vancouver International Song Institute. She was a featured pianist in the 2014 Music at Eden's Edge Chamber Series of New England, and was presented the Steinway & Sons Top Teacher award in both 2017 and 2018. She is currently on the music faculty at Boston College.
Praised for having “the voice of an angel,” mezzo-soprano Carrie Cheron is in high demand as a classical soloist, ensemble singer, and multi-genre contemporary vocalist and educator. She has performed as a soloist with and as an ensemble member of such esteemed groups as Skylark Vocal Ensemble, Boston Baroque, Emmanuel Music, Handel + Haydn Society, The American Classical Orchestra, Lorelei Ensemble, Peregrine Consort, Arcadia Players, Newton Baroque, Exsultemus, Floyd's Row, and Yale Choral Artists, among others.
A regular soloist with world-renowned Boston-area music ensemble Emmanuel Music, Ms. Cheron recently presented “A Charm of Lullabies” with pianist Judith Gordon at Emmanuel Music’s Chamber Music Festival; Vivaldi's Stabat Mater; and performed as a soloist in countless Bach cantatas and numerous oratorios. She also recently joined Boston Baroque in their presentation of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, in which she performed the roles of Amore and Valletto; and she performed the title role in Juditha Triumphans with chamber orchestra Eudaimonia. Recent seasons have included solo performances in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Magnificat; Wolf’s Spanisches Liederbuch; an international solo debut with Skylark Ensemble at the Holy Week Festival at St. John’s, Smith Square, in London, and on the program “In Tune” with BBC Radio 3; Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass; Mozart’s Requiem and Vesperae solennes de Dominica; Handel’s Israel in Egypt and Messiah; Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus; and Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil. Ms. Cheron can also be heard as a soloist on both of Skylark Ensemble's recent Grammy-nominated albums.
A champion of contemporary classical composition, Ms. Cheron recently starred as Doctor/Loki in Guerilla Opera’s presentation of Per Bloland’s opera Pedr Solis, and joined New Gallery Concert Series (NGCS) in Boston for the world premiere of weavery by composer Marti Epstein, written specifically for Ms. Cheron’s voice. She also recently recorded the song cycle “Alice,” by Thomas Oboe Lee, for Departed Feathers Music, and performed song cycles by Boston composers Francine Trester and Christopher Montgomery. She is honored to have presented a newly composed work by Francine Trester at the Boston Women's Memorial, to celebrate Women's History Month.
Ms. Cheron is particularly proud to be a founding and core member of Eudaimonia, a conductorless period orchestra that uses musical performance to support the social and humanitarian work of partner organizations; and Shelter Music Boston, which presents classical chamber music concerts of the highest artistic standards, in homeless shelters and other sheltering environments in and around the Boston area.
Following the cancelation of countless events due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms. Cheron anticipates upcoming seasons that will include Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle, Mozart's Requiem, Bach cantatas with Emmanuel Music at Bachfest Leipzig in Leipzig, Germany, a premiere of Paul John Rudoi's Our Transcendental Passion, and more! She will also be offering a recital of contemporary folk music this June on Skylark+, Skylark Ensemble's streaming platform, created this year during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition to an active classical career, Ms. Cheron is a nationally recognized performing singer/songwriter. Her original compositions and singing have been celebrated by the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, NEMO Music Makers Competition, Great Waters Folk Festival, Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, and the Connecticut Folk Festival Songwriting Contest. She has shared the stage with such acclaimed artists as Sweet Honey In The Rock, The Barra MacNeils, Northern Lights, David Jacobs-Strain, Anais Mitchell, and Edie Carey. Ms. Cheron is on the voice faculty at Berklee College of Music. Please visit www.carriecheron.com.
Helen Zhibing Huang is a Chinese-born soprano with a wide range of musical interests, spanning from baroque to the present day.
In the 2020-2021 season, Miss Huang was set to reprise her role as Singa Loh in I Am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams with Resonance Works. She and her duo partner, Esme Wong were invited to the Carnegie Hall SongStudio program under the leadership of soprano Renée Fleming. This summer, Miss Huang will join Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as a Richard Gaddes Festival Artist, and she returns to The Glimmerglass Festival as Pamina in The Magic Flute.
In the 2019-2020 season, Miss Huang created the character of Singa Loh in Jorge Sosa’s I Am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams with White Snake Projects, a “challenging role” that Opera News declared she performed “brilliantly.” She also made concert and operatic debuts in Europe at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and in Australia. As a Nashville Opera Mary Ragland Emerging Artist, she performed the role of Flora in The Turn of the Screw and was slated to perform Countess Ceprano and the Page, and cover Gilda in Rigoletto before that spring 2020 production was canceled due to COVID-19. In the Summer of 2020, Miss Huang was set to debut with Opera Parallèle as Henrietta Wong in the now postponed Harvey Milk. She was also scheduled to appear at the Glimmerglass Festival as a Young Artist singing the role of Almirena in Handel’s Rinaldo. Due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the festival was canceled, but she remained a Young Artist via virtual sessions.
Miss Huang’s other operatic credits include Baby Doe in The Ballad of Baby Doe, Clorinda in Rossini’s La cenerentola, Amor in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, Serpetta in Mozart’s La finta giardiniera, La fée in Massenet’s Cendrillon, Poppea in Handel’s Agrippina, Carolina in Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto, and Flora in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw. A strong advocate for new music, she has participated in workshops for operas including Paola Prestini’s Gilgamesh, Julian Wachner’s REV. 23, and Leanna Kirchoff’s Friday After Friday. Her concert credits include Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Symphony No. 4, and Earl Kim’s Where Grief Slumbers.
Miss Huang has earned recognition from competitions such as the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (2018 Oregon District Encouragement Award, 2017 Upper Midwest Region Finalist, 2016 Nebraska District Winner), Jensen Foundation Competition (2019 Finalist), McCammon Voice Competition (2018 Finalist), Orpheus Vocal Competition (Handel Award 2020), and the National Opera Association Vocal Competition (2015 Second Place). She has fulfilled young artist residencies at Portland Opera, Central City Opera, Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, and Songfest.
Miss Huang holds degrees from the New England Conservatory, Bard Vocal Arts Program, the Eastman School of Music, and the University of Rochester (B.A. Economics). She is a founder Wear Yellow Proudly, an initiative that aims to bring awareness to Asian culture and strengthen the ties within the global community through music, poetry and culture. In her spare time, Miss Huang enjoys cooking and eating traditional Chinese dishes.
Carla López-Speziale is a mezzo-soprano with experience in opera, oratorio, as well as symphonic and chamber repertoire.
She has been recognized for her “beautiful, warm voice with a secure and soft top and a powerful low register” by the Basler Landschaftszeitung in Switzerland.
Some of her most notable roles are Carmen in Bizet’s Carmen--a role she has performed in the United States, Mexico and China-, Dalila (Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah), Azucena (Verdi’s Il trovatore), the Old Lady (Bernstein’s Candide), Bloody Mary (Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific) and Baba the Turk (Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress) among many others.
Her symphonic performances include Mahler’s Second, Third and Eighth symphonies as well as Kindertotenlieder, Rückert Lieder and Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, St. John and St. Matthew Passions and Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder to name a few.
She made her Boston debut singing the role of Rosa in Jacobs/Sosa’s I Am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams in 2019 with White Snake Projects to critical acclaim.
During the pandemic last year, she was featured as the Alto Solo in Mahler’s Second Symphony with the Orchestra for the Earth and the Self-Isolation Choir (UK) in a virtual performance presented by the Mahler Foundation and Marina Mahler.
She has been a winner of competitions such as the Vincenzo Bellini in Italy, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in New York and the Carlo Morelli competition in her native Mexico, among others. Ms. López-Speziale holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from the National Conservatory in Mexico and as a Fulbright fellow, received Master and Doctor in Musical Arts Degrees from the Manhattan School of Music.
Nyah Macklin (they/them/theirs) is a software engineer, absolitionist and technical founder of Afros In A.I. - a mobile app development and website development company based in Cambridge, MA that centers bringing technical skills and digital protection to community organizers, activists, other community members. Nyah sings mostly for fun these days and has always loved setting up in a cafe in the boston area, and providing some of the music to people's evenings. Nyah has been singing for years, most notably at the Apollo Theatre (2013), Brandeis University's Commencement (2016) and the Patriots vs. Texans kickoff game (2017). Nyah is so proud to lend her voice to this Mother's Day Concert in support of one of the most incredible organizations: Rosie's Place.
If you'd like to stay in contact: follow Nyah's journey on Twitter @NyahMacklinDev, Linkedin.com/in/nyahmacklin or visit afrosinai.com.
Vanessa Naghdi is a young Persian-American soprano originally from the Washington, D.C. area. Ms. Naghdi recently completed an 8-month residency with Opera Colorado as an Artist in Residence. While there, she reprised her role of Nannetta in Falstaff under the baton of Maestro Ari Pelto. She created the role of Mrs. Soep and covered Ina Soep in the world premiere of the opera Steal a Pencil for Me, with music by Gerald Cohen and libretto by Deborah Brevoort. Ms. Naghdi also performed the roles of Adina in The Elixir of Love and Clorinda in Cinderella (touring productions) and covered the role of Musetta in La bohème with the company.
Performances this season include participating in Fort Worth Opera's Virtual Audition Intensive with Jennifer Rowley, performing regularly with NEMPAC Opera Project for their Opera from the Balcony series, recording new works with Christman Opera Company as a part of Voices Raising Voices, performing in the DictionBuddy Concert Series as an audition winner, and stepping in for her signature role of Nannetta in Falstaff with Social Distance Opera. Recently, Ms. Naghdi returned to Arizona Opera and performed the roles of Pamina and 1st Lady in the touring production of The Mini-Magic Flute. Last season, she debuted the role of Tormentilla in a concert version of The Poisoned Kiss (Vaughan Williams) with Passion Project: Opera!. Canceled engagements due to Covid-19 include performing as the Soprano Soloist in excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem.
Past seasons have seen Ms. Naghdi perform the title role in Rusalka: The Littlest Mermaid (touring) with Arizona Opera. She made her debut as Amy March in Little Women with Nightingale Opera Theatre. Ms. Naghdi created the title role in the world premiere of the chamber opera Mignon by William Clay with Arizona Chamber Opera. Additionally with Arizona Opera, she performed a concert version of Brundibár as Sparrow and Baker. Ms. Naghdi has also portrayed Suor Genovieffa in Suor Angelica and Solo Angel in Die Jungfrau von Orléans with the Mittelsächsisches Theater and Philharmonic. She has also performed the title character in Amelia al ballo, Belinda in Dido and Aeneas, and Dew Fairy in Hänsel und Gretel, among others.
An avid performer of musical theater, Ms. Naghdi performed the role of Liat with Annapolis Opera in their production of South Pacific. She also created the role of Diane Slawyer in the premiere of the new musical Endangered! at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As an experienced concert artist, Ms. Naghdi was the Soprano Soloist in excerpts from Messiah as well as the Soprano Soloist in Rutter's Magnificat with the Valley Presbyterian Church Concert Series. She performed as a soloist with the Washington Women’s Chorus Concert Series at the Strathmore Music Center.
Ms. Naghdi is an award recipient from Boston Singer’s Resource, theatre Washington, the Musicians Foundation, DictionBuddy, and the Dorothy Lincoln Smith Voice Competition. She has also received the Recording Academy’s MusiCares award and the City of Boston’s Opportunity Fund. Ms. Naghdi holds a Master of Music in Opera Performance from Arizona State University and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Kerry O'Malley was raised in Nashua, NH. She was educated at Duke University and the American Repertory Theater Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University. She is one of four children.
Her television credits include the upcoming second season of Marc Cherry’s Why Women Kill for Paramount Plus, and her recent role as First Class passenger Lilah Folger on TNT's Snowpiercer. Her series regular roles include Dr. Mia Vogel, forensic pathologist, on A&E's production of Glen Morgan's Those Who Kill, based on the Danish series Den Som Draeber, Trish on the Fox sitcom Costello, and Kerry on NBC’s The Mike O’Malley Show. Recurring roles include Mabel Byrne on CBS All Access’ Strange Angel; Kate, the bartender of the Alibi Room, on Showtime's Shameless; Mary-Kate, sister to the titular brothers of Showtime's acclaimed Brotherhood, created by Blake Masters; Savannah Couronis on Starz' Survivor's Remorse; Darla on Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later; Edwina Shearer on HBO's Boardwalk Empire; Beverly Mayfair on the CW's Hart of Dixie, and Paula Portis on the upcoming Heels for STARZ. . She has made numerous guest star appearances on such shows as Goliath, The Orville, Modern Family, Chicago Med, Backstrom, Masters of Sex, Rizzoli & Isles, The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, Detroit 187, Without a Trace, Cold Case, Law & Order, Law & Order: LA, Law & Order: SVU, NYPD Blue, Harry's Law, 666 Park Ave, and many more.
Her film credits include Terminator Genisys with Emilia Clarke and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Annabelle, Annabelle: Creation, the Disney feature Earth to Echo, Case 39 with Renee Zellweger, The Happening with Mark Wahlberg, Rounders with Matt Damon, and many others.
Her New York theatre credits include roles on Broadway (and the First National Tour) as Betty Haynes (the Rosemary Clooney role) in Irving Berlin's White Christmas, directed by Walter Bobbie; The Baker's Wife in the 2002 revival of Into the Woods, directed by James Lapine, for which she received Outer Critics and Drama Desk nominations; Dr. Sharone Stein in Michael Mayer’s revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever; Dolly Tate (and understudy to Reba McEntire) in Annie Get Your Gun, directed by Graciela Daniele; Billy's Mum in Billy Elliot, directed by Stephen Daldry. Off-Broadway she played Fran Kubelik opposite Martin Short in the acclaimed Encores! revival of Promises, Promises directed by Rob Marshall; Sharon in the Irish Repertory Theatre's production of Finian's Rainbow; and Mary in the Atlantic Theatre Company's Dublin Carol, directed by the author Conor McPherson.
She is a huge Boston sports fan and has sung the national anthem for many professional sports team including the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Boston Celtic at TD Garden, the Minnesota Wild at XCel Energy Center and the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, photographer Karl Sonnenberg. She is the sister of actor and writer/producer Mike O’Malley.
Soprano Brianna J. Robinson sings with Boston Lyric Opera as a Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist, having covered roles in BLO’s The Handmaid’s Tale and performed the role of Lucy in Spears’ Fellow Travelers. She served as a Rising Artist with Pegasus Early Opera, performing in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Ms. Robinson also sang the title role in Caccini’s La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall’Isola d’Alcina with the Baroque performance ensemble, Collegium Musicum. Her most recent work includes singing the role of Florence Price in Florence Comes Home by Francine Trester with Shelter Music Boston and as a soloist with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra. Brianna has also participated in international programs such as the Berlin Opera Academy, Opernfest Prague and will make her international debut in Ruse, Bulgaria as Ophelia in Joseph Summer’s Hamlet in 2021. In January 2020 she was awarded 1st prize at the 6th ‘Getting to Carnegie’ Competition, at Carnegie Hall, New York City. She was featured in Milton Community Concerts’ recent livestream event, “Still Dreaming: A Musical Tribute to MLK”.
Praised for her “patrician ease and polished vocal refinement" by the Boston Music Intelligencer, soprano Jennifer Sgroe has performed across the US and at festivals in Finland, England and Austria in opera, recitals and on the concert stage at venues such as Jordan Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, The Society for Ethical Culture and the United Nations. She specializes in contemporary American opera and repertoire of the Baroque and Classical eras and is a proponent of new works by women composers.
Most recently during the pandemic, Jennifer has continued to develop artistic projects and connect with her performing and teaching communities. In 2019, she initiated the PROJECT 2020: A View of 21st C. Women Composers Recital Series, along with pianist, Eric Sedgwick. A recital series representing contemporary women’s viewpoints, PROJECT 2020 features the songs of 20 composers over two seasons in two unique recital programs with works written within the past 20 years, and an accompanying Commission Initiative. While the May 2020 premiere of Program One was cancelled due to COVID, in June of 2020, Jennifer and Eric presented a special virtual debut of selected songs from Program One of Project 2020 for the National Association of Teachers of Singing National Conference. Most recently, Jennifer commissioned composer Nailah Nombeko as part of the PROJECT 2020 Commission Initiative. Nailah will compose two songs for the project, and the first song draft is already completed! The song Jennifer sings on this program, “Friends” by Shruthi Rajasekar, was selected for the PROJECT 2020 program and is performed here by Jennifer for the first time!
She has also turned to practice as a tool to remain focused, bolster courage and wellbeing and remain connected to music. You can view all 100 days of her #100daysofpractice challenge on Instagram @jennifersgroe. As a result of the challenge, she developed the “A Passion for Practice” Masterclass Series which defines and re-defines the purpose and intention of practice. It also offers tools and inspiration to empower other singers in their own practice. The first masterclass was offered this past February 2021 for New England Conservatory’s School of Continuing Education and future offerings are being planned.
Other representative concert performances include Soprano Soloist for Barber Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (Boston Chamber Symphony), Mozart Requiem (University of Massachusetts Lowell), Poulenc Gloria (NEC – Jordan Hall), Handel Messiah (various), Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem (Dartington Festival - UK). She recently made her Jordan Hall solo recital debut with Timothy Steele at the piano, sang the premiere of Susanna in Laura Schwendinger’s Artemisia with Center for Contemporary Opera (New York), was Soprano Soloist with Back Bay Chorale, Cambridge Symphony and made her Jordan Hall artist debut and recording on Navona records with The Shakespeare Concerts which included World Premieres of works by Summer and Pesetsky. Additionally, in the past few years, she has performed the US premiere and multiple performances of Jessica Rudman’s Trigger, a one woman opera about domestic assault, with Hartford Opera Theater, Women Composers Forum, Milton Community Concerts and other venues.
She also works regularly as an professional actress in film and commercials, and teaches voice privately and for New England Conservatory Preparatory School and School of Continuing Education. She is also currently working with the voice teaching and voice care community in Boston to spearhead and develop the Respiration & Recovery Initiative: Post-Covid Aftercare Through Singing program. http://www.jennifersgroe.com/post-covid-rr-initiative. Jennifer holds the Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Kentucky, the Master of Music in Opera from The Boston Conservatory and the Doctorate of Musical Arts, also from the University of Kentucky. For more info visit: www.jennifersgroe.com
Esther Yi-An Tien, soprano, was born and raised in Tainan City, Taiwan. Ms. Tien is a performer and educator based in the Greater Boston Area. Ms. Tien has performed solo all over the world including the St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican, Jordan Hall in Boston, and the National Concert Hall in Taiwan, where she set the record as the youngest singer to ever perform at the concert hall solo. She is also an active performer in opera and theater productions.
Esther was given the Mayoral Award of Excellence in Arts by the Taiwanese Government, and she has been a finalist in the Japan Classical Music Competition. In the summer of 2019, she was one of 13 singers selected from all over the world to attend Sumi Jo’s two-week-long Masterclass in Salzburg, Austria.
Last May, she received a MM from New England Conservatory of Music under the instruction of Dr. Ian Howell, where she was a recipient of the Dean's Scholarship. She earned her BM with Ah Young Hong at The Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University, and graduated with the George Woodhead Prize in Voice. She is excited to start pursuing a Doctorate in Music at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music this fall with Graduate Tuition Award and Artistic Excellence Award.
Esther has sung many roles including Papagena and Second Lady from The Magic Flute, Edka from Out of Darkness, Satirino from La Calisto, and Grandma from Little Red Riding Hood. She has also appeared in scene performances as Susanna from Le Nozze di Figaro, Ormindo from L’ormindo, and Zulma from L’italiana in Algeri. This past season, Esther performed Linfea and Il Destino from Cavalli’s La Calisto with the NEC Opera.
Esther Tien also loves to explore new music repertoire. In her undergraduate years, she performed Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians with 17 other faculty members and guest artists. She was also one of 8 women to perform Scott Ordway's ”North Wood- eight women’s voices.” Esther has also been active as a soloist in choirs- selected repertoire includes Schubert's Mass in G major, Vivaldi's Gloria, and Mozart's Vesperaesolennes de confessore K.339.
Ms. Tien has a voice studio based in the Greater Boston Area, and her passion for teaching has brought together a diverse group of students whose progress always brings her so much joy.
Soprano Yoonjeong Yoo is a native of Incheon, South Korea, and is an alumna of New England Conservatory in Boston, and Mannes School of Music in New York, where she currently resides. While at NEC, she studied with Lisa Saffer and currently studies with Amy Burton. At Mannes, she performed regularly with the Mannes Baroque Ensemble, and sang regularly with Mannes Opera where, among others, she sang the role of Amore in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. At NEC, she played Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and Ruth in John Musto’s Later the Same Evening. She also sang the roles of Lauretta in Bizet’s Doctor Miracle and the Sandman in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel for NEC touring outreach. She was the winner of the 2020 Orpheus Competition Bel Canto Award, a finalist in the 2018 Classical Singer Competition, and was an Apprentice Artist at the 2019 Nahant Music Festival. She also participated in the 2019 Martina Arroyo Prelude program in New York. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Sookmyung Women's University, Master of Music degree in Opera from New England Conservatory, and a Professional Studies Diploma in Opera from Mannes School of Music.
Timothy Steele is an active vocal coach, collaborative pianist, and conductor, and has taught for twenty-nine years on the opera faculty at New England Conservatory. He has conducted for outreach tours with the Boston Lyric Opera and is a former music director for Opera Providence. He has served as assistant conductor/pianist for over 190 productions with twenty-five opera companies, including Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, Wolf Trap Opera, Central City Opera, and Opera Maine. He assisted with the Pulitzer Prize winning opera MADAME WHITE SNAKE for productions in Boston and Taiwan and the OUROBOROS TRILOGY in 2016, and for three years collaborated with WaterFire-Providence on a unique and popular series of opera evenings. In Boston he has performed with Emmanuel Music, the Handel and Haydn Society, and the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, among others.
Cerise Lim Jacobs forges new American opera from her past in multicultural Singapore, her sojourns around the world, and her acute awareness of the social issues of our time, creating original libretti that range from the mythological to the topical. With her husband Charles, she conceived of and wrote the libretti for her first large-scale project, Ouroboros Trilogy, comprising Scott Wheeler’s Naga, Paola Prestini’s Gilgamesh, and Zhou Long’s Madame White Snake, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Music. The complete Ouroboros Trilogy premiered in Boston in September 2016.
After the success of Ouroboros Trilogy, Jacobs transformed the fundraising entity Friends of Madame White Snake into the “activist opera company” White Snake Projects, which commissions, develops and produces original opera committed both to the highest production values and social activism. Over the next several seasons, her astonishing output of an opera a year saw premieres of her REV. 23, a satirical take on life after the prophesied Apocalypse, composed by Julian Wachner; PermaDeath, one of the world’s first video game operas, composed by Dan Visconti; and I Am a Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams, a wrenching immigrant story composed by Jorge Sosa.
With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacobs and White Snake Projects nimbly pivoted to online production, investing in industry-transforming new technology and taking risks that a larger company could not have tolerated. Their first digital opera, Alice in the Pandemic, again composed by Sosa, was called “wildly imaginative, musically powerful and technically courageous” by Opera News, while the Boston Musical Intelligencer found that it set “a new standard that is undeniably contemporary, accessible, immersive, and relevant.” The digital opera Death By Life, premiering in May of 2021, explores systemic racism and long-term incarceration using texts by incarcerated writers and their families.
Born into a traditional Chinese family in Singapore while it was under British rule, Jacobs grew up absorbing the disparate influences of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western cultures. Following studies at University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Law School, her two-decade law career included serving as a trial partner at one of the largest law firms in New England and spending five years as a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston. Since retiring from law, she has returned to her creative voice in opera, music, art, and food. She is the President of the Charles and Cerise Jacobs Charitable Foundation and has endowed the Charles M. Jacobs Fund for Equal Rights and Social Engagement at the University of Chicago Law School and College. She is a co-founder, with her son Pirate Epstein, of the mobile gaming company SqueePlay; and a founding member of Evidox, an e-discovery company.
Jacobs was named a 2017 Mover & Shaper by Musical America, and one of Boston’s 100 Most Influential People of Color in 2018.
Violinist Julia Cash holds degrees from New England Conservatory of Music, the Staatliche Hochschule fur Musik in Germany and the Royal Conservatory of the Netherlands. Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Ms. Cash came to Boston to work with violinist James Buswell and pursue an already promising musical future. Winner of the National Music Club Prize as a Tanglewood fellow, and a two-time Outstanding Performer award winner at the Academia Chigiana in Siena, Italy, Ms. Cash has performed all over the United States and Europe as a chamber musician and recitalist. In Boston, she performs with the Boston Ballet, Boston Pops, and has served as concertmaster for many prominent Boston musical groups such as Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra and Coro Allegro. She also served as assistant concertmaster and principal second of Opera Boston. In addition to James Buswell, other notable musical mentors include Pamela Frank, Vera Beths and Federico Agostini.
Ms. Cash is also an avid teacher and music educator. Along with her private studio, she has taught at schools and festivals throughout the US. She is currently on faculty at New England Conservatory Preparatory School and School of Continuing Education, Boston Latin School and the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras. During the summer, Ms. Cash teaches at Point CounterPoint Chamber Music Camp in Vermont, where she has served as Music Director of the Prelude Program since its inception in 2010.