Notorious RBG in Song
A dramatic concert saluting the life and work of legal pioneer Ruth Bader Ginsburg in celebration of her 25 years on the United States Supreme Court.
Soprano Patrice Michaels and pianist Kuang-Hao Huang offer a collection of songs saluting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her completion of 25 years on the high court on Notorious RBG in Song, a new album from Cedille Records.
A longtime crusader for equal rights, Ginsburg has become a pop-culture icon known to her fans as “Notorious RBG,” a wry nod to the late rap artist The Notorious B.I.G.
Notorious RBG in Song 2018, features works by five contemporary American composers celebrating Justice Ginsburg’s family and professional life. These include Michaels’ THE LONG VIEW: A Portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Nine Songs; Lori Laitman’s “Wider than the Sky”; Vivian Fung’s “Pot Roast à La RBG”; Stacy Garrop’s “My Dearest Ruth”; and Derrick Wang’s “You Are Searching in Vain for a Bright-Line Solution.” All but two of the songs — “Anita’s Story,” now incorporated into Michaels’ song cycle, and “Wider than the Sky” — are world-premiere recordings.
Michaels, who conceived the album, studied composition with Dominick Argento and others, but put aside this creative pursuit in favor of a classical singing career — until recently. The album’s centerpiece is her cycle, THE LONG VIEW, which reveals key aspects of Justice Ginsburg’s personal life and career through letters, remembrances, conversations, and even Court opinions. Michaels’ extensive research to construct a concise but detailed narrative was aided by her unique relationship to the subject: she’s married to Justice Ginsburg’s son, James, founder and president of Cedille Records and the album’s producer.
The cycle, which draws on jazz rhythms and harmonies within a contemporary classical context, opens with a song based on a text written when the future jurist (b. 1933) — and second female justice in Supreme Court history — was ten years old. It’s a 1943 letter from Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas to a law school dean that envisions a day when a woman might conceivably qualify as a law clerk at the Court.
Subsequent songs portray Justice Ginsburg’s inspirational mother Celia Amster Bader; life-loving father-inlaw Morris Ginsburg; ever-supportive husband Martin D. Ginsburg; and Anita Escudero, a typist who experienced a political awakening in the course of transcribing trial lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s handwritten notes. Later songs depict telling incidents from the childhoods of Justice Ginsburg’s daughter, Jane Ginsburg, and son, James. The penultimate song highlights key portions of some of the jurist’s most influential dissenting opinions in Supreme Court cases. The final song offers Justice Ginsburg’s philosophy on the role of law in American democracy and candid observations on the job requirements of her position.
Prolific art-song composer Lori Laitman’s setting of the Emily Dickinson poem “Wider than the Sky” wasn’t written for Justice Ginsburg, but it was performed at her 80th birthday celebration along with three works the Ginsburg children commissioned for that celebration: Michaels’ “Anita’s Story” and the songs heard after Laitman’s on the album.
JUNO Award-winning Canadian composer Vivian Fung’s humorous “Pot Roast à la RBG” provides a glimpse into the Ginsburg household evening routine circa 1970, archly related by daughter Jane.
Stacy Garrop has received awards from the Fromm Music Foundation, Barlow Endowment, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and other prestigious organizations. She based the extraordinarily touching “My Dearest Ruth” on the farewell love letter the Justice’s husband, Martin, wrote shortly before his death in 2010.
Composer, lyricist, and librettist Derrick Wang has received awards from musical organizations including ASCAP and BMI. The aria “You Are Searching in Vain for a Bright-Line Solution” comes from his 2015 one-act comic opera, Scalia/Ginsburg. The aria cites Justice Ginsburg’s views on interpreting the U.S. Constitution while traversing varied musical genres: operatic quotations, jazz waltz, and gospel.
Intersection: Jazz Meets Classical Song
Classical Music and Jazz Find Common Ground In Ways That Will Delight Fans of Both Genres
Celebrated recording artist Patrice Michaels presents a stunning concert of familiar and newly-composed blues, ragtime, ballads and art songs by Tibor Harsanyi, Laurie Altman, Chuck Israels, John Musto, Randy Bauer and others. Listeners are treated to a glorious musical conversation in a unique genre linking jazz and classical music, with supporting artists Zach Brock, violin, Nick Photinos, cello and Kuang-Hao Huang, piano.
This stunning concert of familiar tunes and original compositions explores the relationships between classical and jazz forms, harmonies and rhythms.
Patrice writes, "Jazz was my first musical passion, and has remained hugely influential and inspiring for me – a sort of 'silent partner' behind my work as a classical singer. For quite some time I've been collecting pieces that bridge the two genres in a way that feels genuine to me. Working with other musicians who share this cross-pollination, and sharing our results with an audience is an absolutely thrilling opportunity for me. "
Among the unique offerings are a ragtime-style vocalise (song without words) from 1920s Paris by Tibor Harsànyi. Contemporary expat composer Laurie Altman is represented by three radically inventive "re-imaginings" of 18th century Italian songs: "O del mio dolce ardor," "Danza, danza, fanciulla gentile," and "Per la gloria d'adorarvi", and by a set of "Gig Songs" for Patrice with violin, cello and piano. Lee Hoiby, Leslie Adams and John Musto, all masters of the post-romantic American song, are represented in contrasting blues pieces. Chuck Israels, composer/arranger and long-time bassist for Bill Evans, provides gorgeous piano and voice settings of American folk songs "He's Gone Away," "Frankie and Johnnie" and "Balm in Gilead". A new work specially written for the ensemble by Randy Bauer is another of the many delights on the program.
INTERSECTION: Jazz Meets Classical Song engages audiences in a musical experience through the pairing of Patrice's chosen medium of artistic expression, the trained voice, with her first musical love, jazz. Listeners can expect everything from art song to standards, ballads to bel canto. Patrice says, "I'm so excited about how this project has come together. Some of my favorite classical song composers are represented, alongside monster jazz composer/arrangers. This program allows me to share my musical mind and heart more deeply than any before. It nourishes the diversity of both jazz and classical music, and I hope it will be an unforgettable experience for the listener."
Divas of Mozart’s Day
Unique Concert Brings To Life 18th Century Vienna
The program, based on recent research by music historian Dorothea Link (University of Georgia) spotlights the most celebrated divas of late-eighteenth century Vienna through music tailored to their talents by Mozart, Salieri, Cimarosa, Martín y Soler, Vincenzo Righini and Stephen Storace.
The concert features soprano Patrice Michaels and baritone Peter Van De Graaff. Ms. Michaels is acclaimed by New Yorker magazine as "a formidable interpretative talent," by the Chicago Tribune as "a supple voice with the ring of Waterford crystal, and seems able to sing anything effortlessly," and as "nothing short of spectacular" by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Her recordings on Cedille, Amadis, Albany, Music of the Baroque, Gabriella and Phillips labels receive consistent international acclaim. Mr. Van De Graaff's voice is also internationally known both for his singing and as host of the radio program, "Through The Night," syndicated worldwide through the Beethoven Satellite Network.
Divas of Mozart's Day created a sensation upon debut at Northwestern University's Pick Staiger Hall. Record-breaking single program sales and a rave review in the Chicago Tribune were followed by international acclaim for the Cedille Records release of the same name.
Included in the concert are pieces written for five fabled divas: Catarina Cavalieri, the first Constanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio; Nancy Storace, the first Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, Adriana Ferrarese del Bene, the original Fiordiligi in Cosí fan tutte; Luisa Laschi Mombelli, who created the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro; and Louise Villeneuve, the first Dorabella in Cosí fan tutti. Ms. Michaels performs a tour de force nonpareil as she portrays each of the women in turn. Mr. Van De Graaff joins Ms. Michaels for several comic duets, and provides narrative links introducing each of the Divas and sharing some historically informed anecdotes.
The program offers two newly rediscovered Mozart recitatives and six newly rediscovered gems by Salieri, Martín y Soler, Righini and Stephen Storace. The repertoire explores the broad range of musical forms and styles enjoyed by Viennese theatre audiences at the end of the eighteenth century, from the formal two-part rondó style aria to the witty and dance-like song style.
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A Song for Harmonica
a children’s introduction to opera
book by Simon Johnston & Patrice Michaels
original music by Patrice Michaels
Two musician-actors, a fanciful stage setting and myriad costume and stage effects combine to charm and intrigue elementary-aged children and their adults. Harmonica, a 4 foot tall puppet, assists the cranky composer Maestro in his journey through history. Many children are invited to participate onstage, and everyone has a chance to sing along to the original music which frames an exploration of Opera and The Nature Of Inspiration.
Music/theater for elementary-age children
45 minute stage performance
1 singer/actress/puppeteer and 1 pianist/actor
Set, props and piano (if necessary) self-contained
Audience members sing and assist onstage
Available with residencies in music history, composition or performance
Harmonica, Spirit First Class, wants to get her wings and become a Real Guardian Angel. She is assigned (by The Big Boss, whose directives arrive by parachute) to help Maestro, Director of the Celestial Opera Company. Maestro has lost his inspiration, and can no longer conduct nor compose. Together, Maestro and Harmonica visit the significant figures from opera history that The Big Boss has listed for them. The music of Handel, Mozart, Puccini and Offenbach all fail to inspire Maestro. He takes his frustration out on Harmonica, and banishes her from his sight. When he realizes his own selfishness will keep her from achieving her goal, and that, in spite of it, she still believes in him, he is truly moved. He is finally able to express himself through music, and composes his own song, "You Can Be Special". The 45 minute show requires a female singer/puppeteer and a male pianist/actor. Students sing along from the audience for the recurring theme song "There's an Angel Beside You," and are invited to assist on stage in roles such as curtain puller, mechanical-doll-winder-upper, girl caught in a bird catcher's net and naval captain beloved by a Japanese woman.