7 to 8 pm ET

Americas Society
680 Park Avenue
New York


Stephanie Griffin: Beautiful You Are

We premiere a new vocal chamber piece by the Canadian composer, commissioned by Americas Society.

7 to 8 pm ET

Americas Society
680 Park Avenue
New York



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


Program Notes

Program Notes

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.


To His Coy Mistress 
By Andrew Marvell (1621 – 1678) 

Had we but world enough and time, 
This coyness, lady, were no crime. 
We would sit down, and think which way 
To walk, and pass our long love’s day. 
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side 
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide 
Of Humber would complain. I would 
Love you ten years before the flood, 
And you should, if you please, refuse 
Till the conversion of the Jews. 
My vegetable love should grow 
Vaster than empires and more slow; 
An hundred years should go to praise 
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze; 
Two hundred to adore each breast, 
But thirty thousand to the rest; 
An age at least to every part, 
And the last age should show your heart. 
For, lady, you deserve this state, 
Nor would I love at lower rate. 
But at my back I always hear 
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near; 
And yonder all before us lie 
Deserts of vast eternity. 
Thy beauty shall no more be found; 
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound 
My echoing song; then worms shall try 
That long-preserved virginity, 
And your quaint honour turn to dust, 
And into ashes all my lust; 
The grave’s a fine and private place, 
But none, I think, do there embrace. 
Now therefore, while the youthful hue 
Sits on thy skin like morning dew, 
And while thy willing soul transpires 
At every pore with instant fires, 
Now let us sport us while we may, 
And now, like amorous birds of prey, 
Rather at once our time devour 
Than languish in his slow-chapped power. 
Let us roll all our strength and all 
Our sweetness up into one ball, 
And tear our pleasures with rough strife 
Through the iron gates of life: 
Thus, though we cannot make our sun 
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Quam pulchra es 
Excerpted and abridged from The Song of Solomon 
Myles Coverdale Bible (1535) 

Latin Text 

Quam pulchra es et quam 
decora carissima in deliciis (tuis) 
Statura tua assimilata est palmæ, et 
ubera tua botris 
Caput tuum ut carmelus. 
Collum tuum sicut turris eburnea. 
Veni dilecte mi; egrediamur in 
Et videamus si flores fructus parturiunt, 
si floruerunt mala punica. 
Ibi dabo tibi ubera mea. 

Beautiful You Are 
By Kenneth Patchen (1911 – 1972) 

Cathedral evening, tinkle of candles 
On the frosted air 
Beautiful you are 
Beautiful your eyes, lips, hair 

Ah still they come 

Evenings like chalices 
Where little roofs and trees drink 
Until a rude hand 
Shatters them, one by one 

O beautiful you are 

My own 
Land of holiness, unblemished grace 
Springtime In this winter place 
O in the candles there 
More beautiful 
Than any legend’s face 

Your eyes, your hair 

By Kenneth Patchen, from Collected Poems of Kenneth Patchen, ©1952 by New Directions Publishing Corp. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. 

The Leopard 
By Lorenzo Thomas (1944 – 2005) 

The eyeballs on her behind are like fire 
Leaping and annoying 
The space they just passed 
Just like fire would do 

The ground have no mouth to complain 
And the girl is not braver herself 

She is beautiful in her spotted 
Leopard ensemble. Heartless so 

To keep her fashionable in New York 
Leopards are dying 

Crude comments flutter around her 
At lunchtime. She sure look good 
She remembers nine banishing speeches 

More powerful than this is the seam 
Of the leotard under her clothing 

Her tail in the leotard is never still 
The seam! 
She feels it too familiar on her leg 
As some crumb says something suggestive 

The leopard embracing around her 
Is too chic to leap and strike 
Her thoughts fall back to last semester’s karate 
Underneath, the leotard crouches up on her thigh 
It is waiting for its terrible moment! 

Lorenzo Thomas, “The Leopard” from Chances are Few. © 1979 by Lorenzo Thomas. Used with permission from Blue Wind Press 

Coy Mistress 
By Annie Finch (b. 1956) 

Sir, I am not a bird of prey: 
a Lady does not seize the day. 
I trust that brief Time will unfold 
our youth, before he makes us old. 
How could we two write lines of rhyme 
were we not fond of numbered Time 
and grateful to the vast and sweet 
trials his days will make us meet? 
The Grave's not just the body's curse; 
no skeleton can pen a verse! 
So while this numbered World we see, 
let's sweeten Time with poetry, 
and Time, in turn, may sweeten Love 
and give us time our love to prove. 
You've praised my eyes, forehead, breast: 
you've all our lives to praise the rest. 

Annie Finch, “Coy Mistress” from EVE (Story Line Press, 1997) © 1997 by Annie Finch. Used with permission from Blue Wind Press 

An Answer to Another Persuading a Lady to Marriage 
By Katherine Philips (1631 – 1664) 

Forbear, bold youth, all’s Heaven here, 
And what you do aver, 
To others, courtship may appear, 
’Tis sacriledge to her. 

She is a publick deity, 
And were’t not very odd 
She should depose her self to be 
A pretty household god? 

First make the sun in private shine, 
And bid the world adieu, 
That so he may his beams confine 
In complement to you. 

But if of that you do despair, 
Think how you did amiss, 
To strive to fix her beams which are 
More bright and large than this.


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.