Join us as we celebrate the vibrant "City of Angels!" Explore the unique soundscape created by the diverse communities of Los Angeles and enjoy music in English, Spanish, Hebrew, and Farsi, honoring the eclectic populations of the city. Featuring two new works by LA-based composers Zanaida Stewart Robles and Saunder Choi, plus a collaboration with GMCLA a cappella group Aftershock!
For an easy to print pdf document of the program notes, texts, and translations, please click HERE.
It is with great pride and joy that we welcome you to VOX’s 26th season! As with many arts organizations, VOX had its share of pandemic challenges, but we have emerged stronger than ever, in large part because of all of you – our patrons, donors and volunteers. We thank you for your generous support. We continue to grow our organization, produce memorable concerts, and bring extraordinary offerings to you. This season, our concert series includes newly commissioned works by Andrea Clearfield, Zanaida Robles and Saunder Choi, composers of note whose music resonates with VOX’s mission. We are proud to deepen our community outreach efforts this season. We have been invited to perform with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (Beethoven Symphony #9), Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (I’m With Her) and Pasadena Playhouse (Celebrate Sondheim). We continue to provide community concerts and make guest appearances throughout greater Los Angeles. During the holiday season, we offered video recordings of our “Holiday Grams,” and this spring we will feature individual singers in our annual Cabaret. We look forward to sharing our music with you in person and online! This season VOX launches a new music education program called the Justice Choir – a 12-week program centered around a songbook of easy-to-sing social justice pieces that are designed to bring communities together. Supported by a generous grant from Chorus America, the Justice Choir cultivates creativity through singing, body percussion, student-led discussions, group creation, and exploration of music through poetry and history. VOX is also excited to introduce its first annual High School Choir Festival, offering high school treble choirs an opportunity to perform for and receive feedback from a panel of adjudicators. VOX’s commitment to giving women voice and singing for justice is more important than ever. Thank you for being with us – for supporting us with your heartfelt applause, your volunteerism and generous financial contributions. We hope you enjoy this season’s concerts! We love singing for you….
Founding Artistic Director
Made in L.A.: Identity and Belonging in the City of Angels is a musical celebration of some of the voices and communities of Los Angeles. Music-making is an active way of telling history, of expressing histories and experiences of people to keep those perspectives and memories current and alive. In this way, the act of making music is a statement of solidarity and justice. The songs in this concert address concepts of identity, healing, community, and joy. The selection of pieces tonight reflects the diversity of the people of Los Angeles, drawing on a variety of musical traditions, perspectives, and languages as a witness to our diverse soundscape. Several of the composers featured in this concert are connected to Los Angeles: Roger Bourland taught music composition at UCLA, Sara Bareilles is a UCLA alum, Reena Esmail is the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s Swan Family Artist in Residence, and Saunder Choi and Zanaida Stewart Robles call Los Angeles home. This concert’s celebration of Los Angeles’ musical community is rounded out with a collaboration with Aftershock, the a capella group from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. Abby Gostein, “Da L’cha - Know This:” Composer Abby Gostein set this Hebrew text with English translation for an occasion of personal and communal significance; the subtitle of this piece reads: “A Parents’ blessing to Daniel Eli Gostein on the occasion of his becoming a Bar Mitzvah, August 11, 2012.” The pastoral imagery in the words by Reb Nachman of Bratzlav sing of the beauty and significance of everything in our world, that we all have our own song to sing and when we hear one another, we find the wisdom borne from community. Gostein illustrates this concept by layering voices in a constantly shifting musical texture – solo, duet, trio introducing the melody, which reaches fulfillment in a communal statement by all the voices in the choir. Abbie Betinis, “From Behind the Caravan: Songs of Hâfez” This multimovement work sets the Farsi poems of 14th century poet Hâfez. Composer Abbie Betinis writes: “Khwâja Hâfez-e Shirazi was a 14th century mystic poet from Shiraz, Persia (Iran). He wrote over 400 lyric poems, called ghazals, and his mastery of that form remains celebrated today. His writing is based on Sufism, a mystical tradition of Islam which focuses on the personal journey of becoming nearer the Beloved through love, beauty, and ridding one’s heart of material desires. Sufism is associated with many currents of Islam, including both the Sunni and Shi’a sects, and has been practiced since the ninth century, and perhaps much earlier. Rumi (13th c.) is another well-known Sufi mystic poet. I was particularly drawn to these four poems because of the elegant way they depict longing…longing for Truth, longing for Reason, longing for Kindness, Love, and – always – longing for the Beloved. I also found that many of Hâfez’s poems seem to have in common beautiful metaphors of transience: fire, breath, breeze. In setting these historic and culturally-iconic texts, I have desperately tried to remain true to the intonation of the language, and to Hâfez’s poetic instinct. Each poem unfortunately had to be shortened to create a concert piece, but I encourage singers to seek out the original poems to read in their entirety. I owe special thanks to my friend Behrooz Alavi for sharing with me his insights into Hâfez’s poetry, pronunciation, and rich performance practice. The music is not meant to be Persian, but is my own interpretation of an assortment of influences, including my recent love affair with Persian poetic meter and form, Middle Eastern musical systems and modes, but perhaps also distant memories of dancing barefoot at four years old, joyfully and tirelessly, with my Greek relatives to music that whirled feverishly around us, and – even with my arms held up to clutch their hands on either side – feeling completely free.” Roger Bourland, Alarcón Madrigals, “In a Neighborhood in Los Angeles” The Alarcón Madrigals are musical settings of texts by poet Francisco X. Alarcón by composer Roger Bourland. Alarcón was born in Los Angeles, and as a child he lived in both Mexico and the United States. Alarcón’s grandmother, who helped care for him and his six siblings as his parents worked in a cannery, sang songs to him that he later tried to transcribe, and when he would forget lines he would make up his own – setting him on his path to becoming a poet. “In a Neighborhood in Los Angeles” makes mention of his grandmother and her loving wisdom and comforting humor, and how she represents both family and national heritage. Bourland’s settings of these poems highlight the crisp imagery of the lines, dwelling on the themes of closeness and community. Reena Esmail, “TāReKiṬa” Los Angeles-based Composer Reena Esmail creates works that reflect her personal investment in connecting traditions from both Indian and Western classical music, and her mission of creating equitable musical communities. This piece is written in conventional Western choral format, and uses the melodic framework of a rāga of Indian classical music, the Jog. The syllables you hear are onomatopoeic sounds that imitate the sound of the Indian drum, the tabla. The effect is rhythmic, energetic, and joyful. Saunder Choi, “Our Streets, A Symphony Again” Composer Saunder Choi shares these notes on the composition and contemporary resonance of this piece: “Our Streets, a Symphony Again is a setting of the playful poem Too early to celebrate? by current West Hollywood poet laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace. The piece was commissioned by VOX Femina Los Angeles for their March 2023 concert – Made in LA: Identity and Belonging in the City of Angels – a concert that celebrates the city’s diversity. The poem was commissioned by West Hollywood as it began to reopen from COVID restrictions. It was written as a collaborative work that includes words and memories of its diverse residents answering the questions: What does “reopening” mean? What’s the same/different? How does history fit at that particular time and space? The text’s ability to capture the city’s history of harboring the LGBTQ+ community spoke to me as a gay immigrant who has found home in Los Angeles – a place where I am fully able to celebrate my different intersectionalities. Moreover, as someone who was holed up in LA for the entirety of the lockdown, the poem perfectly encapsulates the post-pandemic anticipation, excitement, and uncertainty that we all experienced.” Ivette Herryman, “Sigue” Contemporary Cuban composer Ivette Herryman sets a text by Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén (1902-1989) from his 1930 collection Motivos de Son, a collection of poetry inspired by the Afro-Cuban song form, the Son. The poems are playful and teasing, mostly telling stories about relationships between men and women. In “Sigue”, the poet warns a traveler not to tarry at the house of a “bad” woman. Herryman creates the scene and atmosphere with the piano; as she writes: “…the piano part unfolds a bass line that presents a steady rhythm throughout the piece. This pattern is a walking bass that develops characteristic Cuban rhythms of the Cuban genre: Son. The “bad” woman is portrayed by a gesture composed out of triplets that tends to stop the regular movement of the bass. After the triplets – the woman’s attempt to stop the traveler – the bass restarts the pace of its line, and the piece continues to move forward.” Zanaida Stewart Robles, “Intersectionality” For this multimovement work, commissioned by VOX Femina Los Angeles for the March 2023 concert, composer Zanaida Stewart Robles wrote the lyrics for the Prologue and Epilogue, and turned to the voices of three more women for “Bilingual” (Rhina P. Espaillat), “Lion” (Tina Chang), and “Ripe” (Amy Fogerson). The creators of this multimovement piece share these words on its significance and meaning: “This work employs the poetry of American women from different cultural backgrounds to tell a story of pain, power, and revelation often experienced by persons for whom the intersectionality of multiple socio-cultural identities is a life-long journey. Whether it’s race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, economic status, or sexual orientation, the struggle to confidently express one’s multiple socio-cultural identities without being damaged or diluted by society is ongoing. It’s about finding commonality, connection, and empathy from our similarities and differences. And it's about self-love.” Joan Szymko, “Quite Regularly Gay” In 1923, Gertrude Stein published her short essay “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene” in Vanity Fair – marking one of the first times that the word “gay” was used in publication to refer to same-sex relationships. Stein used the word gay over 100 times in the 2000-word work – deliberately working with a limited palette of words to highlight their change in meaning as the story goes on! Stein was influenced by fellow artists who regularly attended her salon: Ethel Mars and Maud Hunt Squire, who were in a relationship. Joan Szymko highlights the humor of the repetition – being regularly gay - with strictly repetitive lines, voices in imitation of each other, in a patter song reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan. Robert Seeley, “I Come From Good People” This song comes from Naked Man, a cantata by Robert Seeley and Philip Littell that was commissioned by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in 1996. While writing the libretto, Littell interviewed members of the Chorus about their life experiences, resulting in a personal and urgent work. “I Come From Good People” is about the importance of chosen family. Some come from “good people” but have traveled far; others have found their families in a new place, and this song is a call to those seeking a new family: “If you do not come from good people, come to us!” Sara Bareilles, “Brave” Singer-songwriters Sara Bareilles and Jack Antonoff wrote “Brave” for a friend who was in the process of coming out as gay. The anthemic chorus celebrates the courage of the individual - “Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out, honestly, I wanna see you be brave” – while the verses suggest that one person being brave empowers others to do the same.
Holley Replogle-Wong is a teacher, scholar, and musician. She teaches courses on film music, popular music, American musical theater, and western music history in the Department of Musicology at UCLA, and is the Program Director of the UCLA Center for Musical Humanities. She sings with various Los Angeles-based vocal ensembles, and for the occasional film soundtrack.
Made in LA:
Identity & Belonging in the City of Angels
March 11, 2023 – 7 PM concert
First Congregational Church of Los Angeles
Lisa Edwards, pianist
Da L'Cha - Know This:
From Behind the Caravan: Songs of Hâfez
I. we have come
II. suffer no grief
III. closer to the fire
V. we have come (reprise)
Lesili Beard, Angelica Rowell, soloists
Sumana Cooppan Wolf, Mika, Jain, Sonia Ohan, Desiree Balfour
Bethany Encina, Cynthia Glass, soloists
Ana Maria Maldanado, cello
Sidney Hopson, percussion
In a Neighborhood in Los Angeles
(from Alarcón Madrigals Book 1)
Our Streets, A Symphony Again
Poetry by Brian Sonia-Wallace
Ivette Herryman Rodriguez
Lesili Beard, Mika Jain, Sonia Ohan
Classical Indian Ghungroo Bells
Commissioned by VOX Femina Los Angeles
Quite Regularly Gay
I Come from Good People
Zanaida Stewart Robles
arr. Audrey Snyder
Lyrics by Rhina P. Espaillat, Tina Chang,
Amy Fogerson, and Zanaida Stewart Robles
Ana Maria Maldanado, cello
Sidney Hopson, percussion
Commissioned by VOX Femina Los Angeles
Desiree Balfour, solo
August Barringer, solo
VOX and GMCLA
Missy Nieto, Lucio Maramba, soloists
VOX and GMCLA
Da L'cha - Know This:
Know this: that every shepherd has a tune he calls his own. Know this: that each and every blade of grass has its own melody, and from the song of the field, comes the shepherd’s own song. How beautiful, to hear their song to pray among them in joy. How good Know this: that every person has a tune they call their own. Know this: that one gains wisdom as one hears another’s melody and from the song of them all comes the song of the soul. the heart is filed with longing.
From Behind the Caravan: Songs of Hâfez
I. we have come We, to this door, not seeking pride or glory... we have come. For shelter from ill-fortune, here... we have come. Traveling along love's journey, from the borders of nothingness, Now into states of being, all this way... we have come. O ship of grace, where is thy anchor of forbearance? For in this ocean of generosity, immersed in sin... we have come. Hâfez, throw off your woolen kherqe [Sufi cloak], for we, from behind the caravan, with the fire of sighing "ah!"... we have come. II. suffer no grief Forsaken Joseph to Canaan shall return. Suffer no grief. Upon the thorny stalks of family grief, a rose shall bloom. Suffer no grief... If you desire the Way and plant your pilgrim foot in the desert, Then if the mighty Arabian thorn make reproofs, Suffer no grief... Suffer no grief, suffer no grief, O heart. Back to reason, comes this distraught head. Suffer no grief... O heart, despairing heart, O! O! Suffer no grief... There is no road that has no end. III. closer to the fire Last night I saw the angels beat at the door of the tavern, The clay of Adam, they shaped and into the mould, they cast. The churches war among themselves, forgive them; When they could not see the truth, they beat the door of fable. Fire, Fire! Oh! Oh! Thanks be to God, for between me and Him, peace chanced, The dancing Sufis cast the cup of thankfulness! Fire, Fire! Oh! Oh! IV. boatpeople My heart falls from grasp. For God's sake come to my cry, O pious ones; O the pain that Love's hidden mystery should be disclosed! Arise, arise O breeze To ease the pain of the world, live by these words: With friends, give kindness; with enemies, courtesy. We are the shipwrecked. O fair breeze, arise! So that, again, we may behold the face of the Beloved. Behold! V. we have come (reprise) We, to this door, not seeking pride or glory... we have come. For shelter from ill-fortune, here... we have come. Hâfez, throw off your woolen kherqe [Sufi cloak], for we, from behind the caravan, with the fire of sighing "ah!"... We have come.
Walk, traveler, Continue walking; Walk and do not stop, Continue walking. When you pass by her house Do not tell her That you saw me, Walk traveler, Continue walking. Continue and do not stop, Continue walking. Do not look if she calls out for you, Continue walking. Remember that she is bad, Continue walking.
Our Streets, a Symphony Again
By Saunder Choi
Poetry by Brian Sonia-Wallace
The sunset strip echoes, jacarandas bloom bright after barren months. Our streets symphony again wild beyond gardens, blaze honey disco french horns & orange sherbet glow. You, dear, never stopped being a proud march, a palm frond in ragged wind — yes, you curled up in last winter’s hush. This city threads us lonely a plastic oasis of skin sweaty with starlight. But now it’s time for gogo boots & guitar strings, rooftop pools & history between your lips like a cold margarita while the hot asphalt dances. Each of us a song: equal parts party and protest. Won’t you walk with me? My glam aunts, my ferocious uncles, my frankest friends — my chosen family, look at all we have lost. All that survives. We are a house built on bones. We are dancing. Dancing on bones.
By Zanaida Stewart Robles
1. Prologue By Zanaida Stewart Robles Intersectionality. A framework. Sociocultural identity. Discrimination. Privilege. You tell your story. I find the me in you. 2. Bilingual/Bilingüe By Rhina P Espaillat My father liked them separate, one there, one here (allá y aquí), as if aware that words might cut in two his daughter’s heart (el corazón) and lock the alien part to what he was—his memory, his name (su nombre)—with a key he could not claim. “English outside this door, Spanish inside,” he said, “y basta.” But who can divide the world, the word (mundo y palabra) from any child? I knew how to be dumb and stubborn (testaruda); late, in bed, I hoarded secret syllables I read until my tongue (mi lengua) learned to run where his stumbled. And still the heart was one. I like to think he knew that, even when, proud (orgulloso) of his daughter’s pen, he stood outside mis versos, half in fear of words he loved but did not want to hear. 3. Lion By Tina Chang I chewed into the wreck of the world, into the neckbone of the past that pursued me. All the while, I moved toward extinction, bearing the burden of damage, language of the protector. A great apocalyptic wheeze adorned me with sand. I foraged, first to find light dappling the leaves, then breathed into an infinite power, feminine rust, a coppery taste of salvage, leading me into a canopy of the future. My mother was a mother of mothers, modern before she was ancestral. She was a woman who morphed into feline, back to her human self before I woke each morning. I lived not to sate my appetite but to crush it. On my haunches, I craved what could not be seen. I am desire. I am survival. I sit under the tree waiting for hunger. 4. Ripe By Amy Fogerson I was anxious about turning 40, Depressed about turning 50. But 60 felt like freedom. Finally able to unfasten the label “young.” Expectations of youthful outward beauty relaxed. My gray hair, released from the oppressive necessity of monthly salon visits, growing wild like a mountain meadow, causes young people to stop and ask whether I need help with my groceries or the box I’m carrying. It makes me laugh, knowing I was once where they are, eager to help those I thought were past their prime. I do appreciate their kind impulse. Little do they know just how hale and hearty I feel, how thrilling movement and sensation have become. My wrinkles, a cause for despair just a few years ago, now suggest to me a precious topographical map of my life available for all to view and admire. My colleagues, many of whom are young enough to be my children, work diligently to establish their place in our competitive art form. Released from the constant need to prove my worth, I find pleasure born of experience in every moment with much less concern for the future. Feeling more myself than ever I have, more attentive to each day’s reality instead of fixating on a distant dream. And, the delightful secret surprise: finally giving myself permission to feel more connected to and accepting of the body I inhabit. Youth need not view the older body with disdain. Consider the heirloom tomato, lumpy, irregular, bursting, ruptured. No burnished, even-hued fruit lying atop a pyramid of replicas; it would never win a beauty contest, yet hides ambrosial gifts. Truly, I have never before felt more Complete Succulent Ripe 4. Ripe By Amy Fogerson Feeling myself more than I ever have, more attentive to each day’s reality instead of fixating on a distant dream. And the delightful secret surprise: finally giving myself permission to feel more connected to and accepting of the body I inhabit. Youth need not view the older body with disdain. Truly, I have never before felt more Complete Succulent Ripe 5. Epilogue By Zanaida Stewart Robles You tell your story. I find the me in you.
First Congregational Church of Los Angeles: Rev. Laura Vail Fregin, David Harris, Chester McCurry, and Reneice Edwards.
Live Stream & Audio: David Garcia Saldaña
Graphic Design: Kate Jordan
Proofreader: Laurie Fox
Music Librarian: Michele Mulidor
Intern: Victoria Mitchell
Thank you to all our volunteers this afternoon who are ushering, assisting with Box Office, and making this concert a stellar experience for our audience, and to all the freinds and family members who volunteer their services to support VOX throughout the year.
This concert was supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
VOX's season is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture.