Concert #1

Church of St. Mathew and St. Timothy, New York, NY


Songs for Voices and Cello: A Concert of World Premières

Gilda Lyons, soprano | Elaine Valby, mezzo-soprano | Robert La Rue, cello

Sappho Songs — Daron Hagen

10 of 10,000 — Paula M. Kimper

Incantations — Gilda Lyons

Program Notes


I have wanted for years to set some Sappho for Elaine, Rob, and Gilda to perform together. I finally got the chance last fall during a residency in Italy. First I asked Rob to choose a handful of Sappho poems and to arrange them into an emotionally and psychologically satisfying sequence. Then I adapted the poetry (in the process superimposing six of them in order to form dialogues and inserting a reprise of one of them) as I would the words of a living librettist. The cycle is thirty-two minutes long and is dedicated to the performers.  — Daron Hagen 

10 of 10,000 (2005)

As R. H. Blyth would say, poetry is the everyday life of a poet.  A poet is one who lives in the mind of poetry, who can see in the most insignificant occurrence the path to enlightenment, and who then takes on the daily labor of writing these observations down in words, from out of the invisible mind into the material world.  Elaine is such a poet and I am honored to receive such gifts.  These haiku are brief and private; they have nothing to do with the marketplace, or with an identity in public life.  This set of ten is an indicative glimpse into that inner world.  Thanks to Daron, Gilda, Rob, and Elaine for dreaming this concert into existence.  — Paula M. Kimper 

Incantations (2005)

The earliest poems must have been incantations — summoning charms, prayers of healing, offerings for good harvests, songs to coax spirits into life after death — a strange combination of the deeply spiritual and the entirely functional. As I assembled text for Incantations, I thought there might be no force more perfect for summoning than an ensemble of two voices and cello. Very near the completion of this cycle, my mother — a dynamic, powerful woman whose life force seems unstoppable — fell ill and was rushed in for emergency surgery. Steeped in the prayers and charms collected here, I found great strength in the ancient words of those who had gone before; the human condition seemed to have changed very little since the ancient Egyptians inscribed prayer on the walls of their great pyramids, or the Incan’s sang to their Sun. The cycle as a whole is dedicated with respect, admiration and love to the performers for whom it was written, Elaine Valby and Robert La Rue. Still, the last song, a “Nahua Hymn at a Fast”, is dedicated to my mother, Gilda Alemán Lyons (who has since healed to full strength!) – a song written in praise of her tremendous life force and boundless generosity of spirit.  — Gilda Lyons