Liederabend LIV: Ten Premiere Performances

Tonight, singers and pianists from NEC’s Song Lab give performance premieres of songs by ten NEC student composers. This project was directed by Tanya Blaich, Cameron Stowe, Michael Gandolfi, and Lisa Saffer; the performers coached by Tanya Blaich and Cameron Stowe.

The Liederabend—literally, "evening of song"—dates back to the 1800s, when musicians and lovers of music would gather at someone's home, and one or more singers and a pianist would perform the songs of composers of the day. In the field of classical music, these songs are referred to as "art songs," and the German art songs are called "Lieder." In Germany, the great age of song came in the 19th century. German and Austrian composers had written music for voice with keyboard before this time, but it was with the flowering of German literature in the Classical and Romantic eras that composers found high inspiration in great poetry, sparking the genre known as the "Lied."

The tradition of the art song composition continues today, with composers from all corners of the world setting poetry in many languages, scored for voice and piano. The NEC Liederabend series presents songs in a variety of languages—not only German—dating from the 19th century up to the present day.

About Song Lab:

This Liederabend performance is connected to NEC's Song Lab, a new model of training for singers and pianists based around the performance and study of art song. This spring, Song Lab focuses on American art song repertoire, including the history and culture surrounding it, and this Liederabend is performed as an extension of this area of study.


  1. Aria Shi | I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain


    I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

    I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
    And Mourners to and fro

    Kept treading - treading - till it seemed
    That Sense was breaking through -

    And when they all were seated,
    A Service, like a Drum -
    Kept beating - beating - till I thought
    My mind was going numb -

    And then I heard them lift a Box
    And creak across my Soul
    With those same Boots of Lead, again,
    Then Space - began to toll,

    As all the Heavens were a Bell,
    And Being, but an Ear,
    And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
    Wrecked, solitary, here -

    And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
    And I dropped down, and down -
    And hit a World, at every plunge,
    And Finished knowing - then -

    Emily Dickinson

    • Emma Robertson, soprano
    • Kyunga Lee, piano
  2. Jiaqi Wang | The Rose in the Deeps of His Heart


    The Rose in the Deeps of His Heart

    All things uncomely and broken,

    all things worn-out and old,
    The cry of a child by the roadway,
    the creak of a lumbering cart,

    The heavy steps of the ploughman,
    splashing the wintry mould,
    Are wronging your image that blossoms
    a rose in the deeps of my heart.

    The wrong of unshapely things
    is a wrong too great to be told;
    I hunger to build them anew
    and sit on a green knoll apart,

    With the earth and the sky and the water,
    remade, like a casket of gold
    For my dreams of your image that blossoms
    a rose in the deeps of my heart.

    William Butler Yeats

    • Philippe L'Esperance, tenor
    • Ga-Young Park, piano
  3. Brooks Clarke | The Tell-Tale Heart

    True! Nervous...
    It is impossible...


    True! --nervous —…. dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? ….. Hearken! and observe how…... calmly I can tell you the whole story.

    It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none…...I loved the old man……. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye!  He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so…..I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

    Edgar Allan Poe

    • Michaela Kelly, soprano
    • Hanzheng Li, piano
  4. Alexander Matheson | The New Colossus/Hermes of the Way


    The New Colossus/Hermes of the Way

    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles.

    Emma Lazarus, from The New Colossus

    The hard sand breaks,
    And the grains of it
    Are clear as wine.
    Far off over the leagues of it,
    The wind...

    ...more than the many-foamed ways
    Of the sea,
    I know him
    Of the triple path-ways,
    Who awaiteth.

    …..Welcoming wayfarers,
    He whom the sea-orchard
    Shelters from the west,

    H.D., from Hermes of the Ways

    • Samuel Rosner, tenor
    • Cynthia Tseng, piano
  5. Ian Wiese | Sleeping with the Dead


    Sleeping with the Dead

    They come into our dreams
    as though they have the right to move
    again the arms we know are ash
    buried, scattered, kept
    in polished urns on old pianos
    draped with tapestry fringe.
    They laugh at us, or say
    You never knew my eyes were blue,
    or smooth our hair with ivory combs
    plucked from fairy tales.
    We turn, and mutter, and turn
    again, trying not to see
    the way their faces catch the sun
    and offer us thin rainbows.
    So sure they are of our heat's welcome,
    so sure they are we live for them,
    they light their pipes, kick off tight shoes,
    ask for coffee - sugar, no cream-
    and never let on they've forgotten our names
    as they sip and sip at fragrant steam.

    Katharyn Howd-Machan 

    • Yeon Jae Cho, soprano
    • Marie-Elise Boyer, piano
  6. Caleb J. Abner | The Masque of Anarchy


    The brackets indicate where the composer has given the performer options to replace Shelley’s original text.

    The Masque of Anarchy

    Clothed with a Bible
    He tossed them human hearts to chew

    Clothed in arms like blood and flame
    Each waving a bloody sword
    Tearing up and trampling down
    Till they came to [______]
    ‘Thou art King, and God, and Lord,
    to thee we bow, [_______]
    Tearing up and trampling down
    Till they came to [______]
    And then ____, the [_____]
    Bowed and grinned to everyone,
    As well as if his [____]
    Had cost [______] to the nation
    They are dying whilst I speak

    In unvanquishable number—
    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you—
    Ye are many, they are few
    [____] ye for them are made to work
    And have such pay as just keeps life
    From day to day
    Your will bent for their nourishment,
    To be all that [___] made of ye,
    Savage men or wild beasts
    Would endure not as ye do—
    But such ills they never knew.
    For gold thy righteous laws are sold.
    ‘Ye who suffer woes untold,
    Or to feel, or to behold,
    Your lost country bought and sold
    With a price of blood and gold’

    Rise like lions out of slumber
    In unvanquishable number—
    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you—
    Ye are many, they are few


    Adapted from Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Masque of Anarchy

    • Anthony León, tenor
    • Marie-Elise Boyer, piano
  7. Flora Sun | Naniwazuni





    In Naniwa Bay,
    now the flowers are blossoming.
    After lying dormant all winter,
    now the spring has come and the flowers are blossoming.

    • Allyson Bennett, soprano
    • Cynthia Tseng, piano
  8. Yunqi Li | Space


    Will it never be possible
    to separate you from your greyness?
    Must you be always sinking backward
    into your grey-brown landscapes—and trees
    always in the distance, always against a grey sky?

                              Must I be always
    moving counter to you? Is there no place
    where we can be at peace together
    and the motion of our drawing apart
    be altogether taken up?
                                     I see myself
    standing upon your shoulders touching 
    a grey, broken sky—
    but you, weighted down with me,
    yet gripping my ankles,—move
                              laboriously on,
    where it is level and undisturbed by colors.

    William Carlos Williams, A portrait in greys

    • Andrew Stack, baritone
    • Hanzheng Li, piano
  9. Marie Carroll | tiñendo con tu amor


    tiñendo con tu amor

    Para que tú me oigas

    mis palabras
    se adelgazan a veces
    como las huellas de las gaviotas en las playas.

    Collar, cascabel ebrio
    para tus manos suaves como las uvas.

    Y las miro lejanas mis palabras.
    Más que mías son tuyas.

    Todo lo llenas tú, todo lo llenas.

    Antes que tú poblaron la soledad que ocupas.

    Ahora quiero que digan lo que quiero decirte
    para que tú las oigas como quiero que me oigas.

    Escuchas otras voces en mi voz dolorida.

    Pero se van tiñendo con tu amor mis palabras.
    Todo lo ocupas tú.

    Voy haciendo de todas un collar infinito
    para tus blancas manos, suaves como las uvas.

    Pablo Neruda, fragments from Para que tú me oigas

    stained with your love

    So that you will hear me

    My words
    Sometimes grow thin
    Like the tracks of the gulls on the beaches.

    Necklace, drunken bell
    For your hands, smooth like grapes.

    And I watch my words from afar.
    More than mine, they are yours.

    You fill everything, you fill everything.

    Before you they populated the solitude that you occupy.

    Now I want them to say what I want to say to  you
    To make you hear them as I want you to hear them.

    You listen to other voices in my painful voice.

    But my words become stained with your love.
    You occupy everything. 

    I am making of all of them an infinite necklace
    for your white hands, smooth as grapes.

    Translation by Angela Yam

    • Angela Yam, soprano
    • Ga-Young Park, piano
  10. Da-Yu Liu | Since There Is No Escape


    Since there is no escape

    Since there is no escape, since at the end

    My body will be utterly destroyed,
    This hand I love as I have loved a friend,
    This body I tended, wept with and enjoyed;
    Since there is no escape even for me
    Who love life with a love too sharp to bear:
    The scent of orchards in the rain, the sea
    And hours alone too still and sure for prayer—
    Since darkness waits for me, then all the more
    Let me go down as waves sweep to the shore
    In pride, and let me sing with my last breath;
    In these few hours of light I lift my head;
    Life is my lover—I shall leave the dead
    If there is any way to baffle death.

    Sara Teasdale

    • Lucas Ludwig Coura, countertenor
    • Kyunga Lee, piano