Solo Voice

Ain’t I a Woman

This is a setting of a powerful speech given extemporaniously by Sojourner Truth. I came across it when I was 16 and set it to music. Listen to the moving vocal performance by my friend Linda Jackson.

Linda Jackson, Soprano
Steven Homestead, Piano

Dressed to Kill

A melancholy song from over a decade ago, filled with imagery.

The Wintry Mind

This piece sets the text of Witter Bynner’s subtle and powerful poem. It uses two modes of symbolism to convey the text’s wintry world. For the listener, this comes through the overall sound-symbolism, but for the performers, there is an added element of visual symbolism placed in the score. The piano part is written across three staves instead of the traditional two; this extra layering in the score references the layers of snow in the text. The use of tied whole-notes throughout the piece provides both a still, sound-world and visually represents snow in piles and drifts. The eighth-note and quarter-note activity in the piano’s treble staff represents snowflakes when in the key of C, and leaves when in C-sharp. The sharp signs in the new key area visually represent the dried leaves of late autumn that winter will cover over or sweep away. Different chords serve to symbolize various concepts in the poem: such as warmth, cold, growth, etc. The interval of the second is used to set the word “winter.” This piece also quotes a musical line from the accompaniment of composer Ned Rorem’s setting of the same poem and makes reference to it in the length of the final note.

Josh Elmore, Tenor
Gabriel Stevens, Piano


This final song in a set on the three months of autumn considers that November isn’t all bare trees and chilly air.

Elysia Renee Brewer, Vocalist
Steven Homestead, Pianist


When I was 15, I wrote a set of songs that personified the three months of autumn. In this one, October ruminates on the “Hellos” and “Goodbyes” that are inherent to the season… and to life.

Elysia Renee Brewer, Vocalist
Steven Homestead, Pianist


Here, September is pictured in love, while also transitioning between summer and fall. She has the same romantic feelings that sometimes make people feel off-kilter. These influence the music as it transitions back and forth from 3/4 to 4/4 time.

Elysia Renee Brewer, Vocalist
Steven Homestead, Pianist

Three Songs in Stylistic Quotation

These three songs use German poetry found in famous songs from Romantic Era composers. After studying the German language and its Romantic era poets, I based each song on a musical style of the past. They are similar to Schubert and Beethoven in “Hoffnung,” Wolf in the “Zwielicht,” and Richard Strauss in “Deiner Augen Licht.” My compositional voice influences the pieces as the quote each style. (English translations by Emily Ezust from

III. Deiner Augen Licht | Your Eye’s Light

From “Breit’ über mein Haupt”
by Adolf Friedrich, Graf von Schack (1815-1894)

In the final song of the set, the piano often represents light and stars. The harmonic language is influenced by the late romantic period, especially through mediant key relationships and augmented intervals. These give the piece a sound world intended to invoke a night sky and a sense of passionate yearning.

Breit’ über mein Haupt dein schwarzes Haar,
Neig’ zu mir dein Angesicht,
Da strömt in die Seele so hell und klar
Mir deiner Augen Licht.

Ich will nicht droben der Sonne Pracht,
Noch der Sterne leuchtenden Kranz,
Ich will nur deiner Locken Nacht
Und deiner Blicke Glanz.

Spread over my head your black hair,
And incline to me your face,
Ao that into my soul, so brightly and clearly,
Will stream your eye’s light.

I do not want the splendor of the sun above,
Nor the glittering crown of stars;
I want only the night of your locks
And the radiance of your gaze.

Chelsea Lyons, Mezzo-Soprano
David Bergstedt, Piano

II. Zwielicht | Twilight (From Three Songs in Stylistic Quotation
Text by Josef Karl Benedikt von Eichendorff (1788-1857)

This song begins with a piano passage that is nebulous in its key area, not firmly establishing whether the piece is in major or minor. As the poem’s tone becomes more crazed, the harmonic language becomes more unsettling. When the verse is repeated, the piano accompaniment subverts the vocal line.

Dämmrung will die Flügel spreiten,
Schaurig rühren sich die Bäume,
Wolken ziehn wie schwere Träume –
Was will dieses Grau’n bedeuten?

Dusk prepares to spread its wings,
The trees rustle ominously,
Clouds approach like heavy dreams –
What does this horror mean?

Chelsea Lyons, Mezzo-Soprano
David Bergstedt, Piano

I. Hoffnung | Hope (From Three Songs in Stylistic Quotation

Text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
This setting is hymn-like and the simple melody partners with the tone of Goethe’s poem. The piano plays a traditional supporting role in the first statement of the song, then transcends this to provide a musical layer that represents the future hope of the fruits of labor.

Schaff’, das Tagwerk meiner Hände,
Hohes Glück, daß ich’s vollende!
Laß, o laß mich nicht ermatten!
Nein, es sind nicht leere Träume:
Jetzt nur Stangen, diese Bäume
Geben einst noch Frucht und Schatten.

Grant that the day’s work of my hands,
Lofty Fortune, I may complete!
Grant that they will not exhaust me!
No, these are not empty dreams:
Now but mere poles, these trees
Will one day give fruit and shade.

Chelsea Lyons, Mezzo-Soprano
David Bergstedt, Piano

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