7 to 8 pm ET
Stephanie Griffin. (Image: Roey Yohai Studios)
Stephanie Griffin: Beautiful You Are
We premiere a new vocal chamber piece by the Canadian composer, commissioned by Americas Society.
On February 28, we will host this event in person, and tickets are free. Please register online to reserve your seat.
Video of the concert will be released at a later date. Remember to follow us to watch this and other exciting performances.
Garota de Itaparica (2019) for solo piano
Beautiful you are: A song cycle for voice, clarinet, viola, and piano (2022) WORLD PREMIERE.
- "To His Coy Mistress," voice, viola, clarinet, and piano
Poem by Andrew Marvell
- "Quam pulchra es," voice and viola
Text from The Song of Solomon, abridged by John Dunstable
- "Beautiful you are," voice, viola, and piano
Poem by Kenneth Patchen
- "The Leopard," voice, clarinet, and piano
Poem by Lorenzo Thomas
- "Coy Mistress," voice and clarinet
Poem by Annie Finch
- "An Answer to Another Persuading a Lady to Marriage," voice, clarinet, viola, and piano
Poem by Katherine Philips
For Sameena (2023) for 2 oboes, clarinet, and viola WORLD PREMIERE
Choreography by Sameena Mitta
Performed by MeenMoves (Chelsea Hecht, Raechelle Manalo, Réka Echerer, Karma Chuki, Paulina Meneses, Madison Elliott)
Costumes by Sarah Timberlake
Sharon Harms, soprano
Ben Fingland, clarinet
Christopher Oldfather, piano
Kathy Halvorson, oboe
Keve Wilson, oboe
Stephanie Griffin, viola
Garota de Itaparica (2019)
A Canadian in Brazil. Stephanie Griffin wrote this solo piano piece in the summer of 2019, while in residence at the idyllic Instituto Sacatar on the island of Itaparica in Bahia, Brazil. The piece emerged in an attempt to understand a rhythm she was trying to learn from a local Candomblé drummer (which turned out to be two rhythms!). The piece was premiered on Americas Society's online "En Casa" video series by its dedicatee, the composer/pianist Gordon Beeferman.
Beautiful you are (2022)
Commissioned by Americas Society
Canadian composer Stephanie Griffin's new song cycle for soprano, clarinet, viola, and piano explores varying approaches to male poets’ appreciation of female beauty and reactions from their female counterparts. It takes its title from a poem by Kenneth Patchen, itself a modern-day English-language paraphrase of the oft-set “Quam pulchra es” from the Biblical love poem “The Song of Solomon.” Griffin sets both texts, along with another pair of poems: the famously controversial “To His Coy Mistress” by English Enlightenment poet Andrew Marvell (1621–1678) and its feminist response “Coy Mistress” by American poet Annie Finch (b. 1956). From the feminist perspective, the cycle concludes with "An Answer to Another Persuading a Lady to Marriage" by Marvell's contemporary, Katherine Philips (1631 - 1664). Stephanie was inspired to create this cycle to find a home for her existing song "The Leopard" (2019) for voice, clarinet, and piano, a setting of a poem of the same name by Afro-Panamanian poet Lorenzo Thomas (1944 - 2005), which is not really about a leopard.
The composer writes about the piece:
After composing “The Leopard,” for soprano Sharon Harms, pianist Christopher Oldfather and clarinetist Benjamin Fingland, all three musicians showed interest in me creating a song cycle for these forces, made famous by Schubert’s “Shepherd on the Rock.” Since there is also a body of repertoire for voice, viola and piano and clarinet, viola and piano, I decided to add viola to the mix so that the new piece could be part of an interesting mixed recital. Being a violist myself, and having performed alongside all three musicians, I plan to be the violist for the world premiere. The song cycle is designed to be modular; one can perform all six songs as a set, in this order, or perform just the three songs including just clarinet and piano, or the three songs with just viola and piano as smaller sets of three songs. Of course, I would also be happy if a singer were to program just one song on a recital as well.
In today’s public discourse, there is much discussion of what is deemed appropriate male communication with women. Yet the male expression of appreciation for female beauty plays such an important role in the history of our poetry and music that I decided to approach this topic with warmth and humor, juxtaposing the sublime with the absurd. My song cycle will contrast genuine expressions of female beauty from widely different eras: the nomadic Biblical metaphors from the Song of Solomon, such as: “your hair is like a flock of goats” with Kenneth Patchen’s: “O beautiful you are/my own land of holiness, unblemished grace,” pitting these both against English Enlightenment poet Andrew Marvell’s ironic, self-serving, and scandalous overtures to his “Coy Mistress.” From a feminist perspective, I seek to contrast Annie Finch’s scathing response to Andrew Marvell: “You've praised my eyes, forehead, breast: you've all our lives to praise the rest,” with a noble paean to the power and independence of women by Marvell's contemporary, Katherine Philips.
Stylistically, the work mirrors the extreme variety of the texts with different combinations of the instruments and widly contrasting modes of musical expression, from a modal, almost Medieval feeling in "Quam pulchra es" to a free-wheeling, modern cabaret aesthetic in "To His Coy Mistress," and just about everything in between.
For Sameena (2023)
This piece is a collaborative work with the Canadian choreographer Sameena Mitta for her company MeenMoves, based in Jersey City, New Jersey. It is an unusual collaboration, in that the choreography came first. Sameena devised a rhythmic concept for the piece, based on patterns of six beats, and choreographed it, section by section, to a metronome. Stephanie attended a number of rehearsals before the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued working on the music during the lockdown by studying individual videos made by each dancer of the various sections of the piece. The music is completely inspired by the dance. Originally conceived for two sopranos, mezzo-soprano and viola, the collaboration engaged in another unconventional practice: the music preceded the text. With no actual text in mind, Stephanie decided to re-score the piece for two oboes, clarinet and viola. Using instruments opened up a number of new possibilities, turning this into a vastly different composition, completed in January 2023. This music and Sameena’s choreography will be part of a full evening-length work-in-progress, Come September, to be premiered in the 2025-26 performance season.
Stephanie Griffin is an innovative composer and violist with an eclectic musical vision. Born in Canada and based in New York City, her musical adventures have taken her to Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, England, Ireland, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and Mongolia. Stephanie founded the Momenta Quartet in 2004, and is a member of the Argento Chamber Ensemble and Continuum; principal violist of the Princeton Symphony; and viola faculty at Brooklyn and Hunter Colleges. She was a 2019 Composition Fellow at the Instituto Sacatar in Brazil, and has received prestigious composition fellowships and commissions from the Jerome Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Bronx Council on the Arts. As an improviser she has performed with Henry Threadgill, Wadada Leo Smith, Butch Morris and Adam Rudolph, among others, and was a 2014 Fellow and 2021 Alumna in Residence at Music Omi. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from The Juilliard School where she studied with Samuel Rhodes, and has recorded for Tzadik, Innova, Naxos, Aeon, New World and Albany records. Since August 2020, she has served as the Executive Director of ACMP, a nonprofit organization providing grants and services for amateur chamber music worldwide.
Sameena Mitta is artistic director of dance-theater company MeenMoves and its outreach program MadHops. Mitta’s evening-length works include W(h)ine Pairings Al Fresco at Little Island NYC and alternative (f)Acts at the Martha Graham Theatre. Mitta was a NJPAC Choreography Fellow 2019-2022, and has presented works at 92NY, NJPAC, BAM Fisher, Judson Church and many other venues around NYC and around the world. Mitta recently completed an intergenerational dance film Bilateral Quadrennium and continues work on a 10-year site-specific dance film project Struwwelpeter. Mitta earned with distinction the Cecchetti Society’s Diploma and a MA in Dance Creation from Université du Québec à Montréal focusing on Movement Intervention for South Asian survivors of domestic violence. Under Mitta’s artistic direction, MeenMoves explores questions of identity, focusing on the unique perspectives of those who check “none-of-the-above,” to create socially relevant, quirky, highly technical dance-theater works for stage and film. Mitta advocates for diversity in dance and has sat on multiple dance juries for granting agencies in Canada and the U.S. Mitta is a 2022/23 Artist in Residence at 92NY Harkness Dance Center, a mentor to the Recanati-Kaplan scholars in dance, and is on faculty at the Limón Institute and 92NY.
The MetLife Foundation Music of the Americas concert series is made possible by the generous support of Presenting Sponsor MetLife Foundation.
The Spring 2023 Music program is also supported, in part, by by the Howard Gilman Foundation, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.
Additional support comes from New Music USA’s Organizational Development Fund in 2022-23, the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and The Amphion Foundation, Inc.
The commission of Beautiful You Are is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.