Works by Melissa Dunphy, Henry Mollicone, Jenni Brandon, Stephen Paulus and others.
Sunday, May 19, 2024
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Saint Mary’s College
Melissa Dunphy – Composer
Henry Mollicone – Composer
Jenni Brandon – Composer
Stephen Paulus – Composer
This concert of choral works on the subject of Immigration will feature 2 major works. The first, by Australian-American composer Melissa Dunphy, was composed for the well-known male voice ensemble Cantus, who performed it last year to great acclaim. Melissa has created a mixed chorus version for us which we will premiere on this concert. The work is entitled “N-400 Erasure Songs.” The form N-400 is a U.S. application for naturalization. Dunphy asked two poets to black out text on the form, the remaining words forming poetry that the composer set to music. Each of the three movements is powerful, the first haunting and mournful, while the second pulses with the anxious spirit of one sinking in the quicksand of bureaucracy. But reassurance arrived in the piece’s finale, a beautifully moving embrace upon arrival for which Dunphy created both music and text.
The second major work is American composer Henry Mollicone’s “Misa de los Inmigrantes,” (Mass for the Immigrants) for soprano solo, female narrator, chorus, and instrumental ensemble. The work was written as a tribute to all immigrants in the hope of raising injustices in our present immigration system. Its narrative depicts the true story of Guadalupe and her family, and their difficult journey from Mexico to the United States in search of a decent life. Her experiences are not unique; they are, in fact, similar to those of so many others who are forced by poverty and violence to leave their homes and seek a better life for themselves and their families. The Mass itself follows the traditional Mass Ordinary, in Spanish. The narrations, in English, link each movement. The program will contain several shorter works as well, including our newly commissioned piece from American composer Joseph Gregorio that we premiered in December.
Born in Australia and raised in an immigrant family, Melissa Dunphy herself immigrated to the United States in 2003 and has since become an award-winning and acclaimed composer specializing in vocal, political, and theatrical music. She first came to national attention when her large-scale work the Gonzales Cantata was featured in The The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, National Review, and on Fox News and The Rachel Maddow Show, where host Rachel Maddow described it as “the coolest thing you’ve ever seen on this show.”. Other notable works include the song cycle Tesla’s Pigeon, which won first place in the NATS Art Song Composition Award, and choral work What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach? which won the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers Competition and has been performed nationally by ensembles including Chanticleer and Cantus.
Dunphy is the recipient of a 2020 Opera America Discovery Grant for Alice Tierney, an opera commissioned by Oberlin Conservatory which premiered in 2023 at Oberlin and Opera Columbus. She has been composer-in-residence for the Immaculata Symphony Orchestra, Volti, and the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, and her commissions include works for the BBC Singers, VOCES8, Mendelssohn Chorus, and the Kennett Symphony. Dunphy is also a Barrymore Award-nominated theater composer and is Director of Music Composition for the O’Neill National Puppetry Conference.
Dunphy has a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.M. from West Chester University and is on faculty at Rutgers University. She is president of the board of directors for Wildflower Composers and serves on the board of Lyric Fest. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Matt; the Dunphys are currently the owners and developers of the Hannah Callowhill Stage, a new performance venue in Old City Philadelphia which they hope to open in 2022, and co-hosts of the popular podcast The Boghouse about their adventures in Philadelphia colonial archaeology.
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From 1985 to the present, as a resident of San Jose California, Mr. Mollicone has worked actively as a free-lance conductor of opera, symphonic, and new music, while holding various university teaching posts. Music composed during this period include the operas HOTEL EDEN (premiered at Opera San Jose, and later produced in New York and Baltimore), and COYOTE TALES (premiering at Lyric Opera of Kansas City with a subsequent production at Oberlin Conservatory), several orchestral works, songs, cantatas, and chamber works, and the music for the Studs Terkel musical LEGACY (with composer Jeff Langley), and lyrics by Ronnie Gilbert (The Weavers). His one-act operas have received several productions during this period, often with the composer as music director/conductor. He has also been a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow from 1997 and has been on various panels and onsight visits for The National Endowment for the Arts. Mr. Mollicone and librettist William Luce completed a new opera, GABRIEL’S DAUGHTER, commissioned by the Central City Opera, premiered in July, 2003. Mr. Mollicone composed BEATITUDE MASS (mass for the homeless), with Latin texts and additional English texts by William Luce, based upon interviews with homeless people in California, for the San Jose Symphonic Choir. More recent commissioned works include three large choral pieces: MISA DE LOS INMIGRANTES (mass for the immigrants) for the S.J. Symphonic Choir, A SONG FOR OUR PLANET (celebrating the earth) for Seattle First Baptist Church and Plymouth Church in Seattle, and ALL GOD’S CHILDREN for Vancouver Singers USA. New piano works include LA CENERENTOLA: FANTASY FOR PIANO, FIVE BAGATELLES, and MISTERIA. The opera CHILDREN OF THE SUN was commissioned by Notre Dame de Namur University (piano and voices) and the University of Texas-San Marcos (small orchestra version). In addition, for the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and Quartet San Francisco, Mr. Mollicone composed FANTASIA NOSTALGICA, and most recently for a benefit concert, a new song cycle, SUENOS DE ESPERANZA, which consists of four songs with texts based upon true stories of four Mexican immigrants and their experiences in crossing the border to California. A feature documentary film was released by NEWPORT CLASSIC LTD in 2013: THE FACE ON THE BARROOM FLOOR: THE POEM, THE PLACE, THE OPERA, largely based upon the 26-minute opera which played each summer in Central City, Co. for 33 consecutive seasons.
Between 1976 and 1985, Mr. Mollicone worked as a free-lance composer, conductor, and pianist while a resident of Los Angeles. He composed the one-act opera THE FACE ON THE BARROOM FLOOR in 1978 for the Central City Opera, and it has been produced there annually from 1978 to the present; the work, which has received numerous productions in America, and productions in The Netherlands, Germany, and at the Edinburgh Festival, is also produced at the Utah Festival Opera (since 1999). Other works composed during this period include the one-act operas STARBIRD (for The Houston Grand Opera’s Texas Opera Theater), EMPEROR NORTON (for San Francisco Opera’s Brown Bag Program), and THE MASK OF EVIL (for the Minnesota Opera). Both STARBIRD and EMPEROR NORTON have received several productions. (The New York premiere of NORTON will occur in November, 2014 at Chelsea Opera in Manhattan.) During this period (1976-1985), Mr. Mollicone also worked as an orchestrator and composer for film and television, as a studio pianist, and as conductor for productions at over a dozen American Opera companies including Baltimore Opera, Portland Opera, Central City Opera, and The Lake George Opera Festival.
As a composer, conductor, and accompanist, Mr. Mollicone has worked with actors Jean Stapleton, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, and Charles Nelson Reilly; writers William Luce and Sheldon Harnick; singers Frederica Von Stade, Erie Mills, Beverly Sills, and Maria Spacagna; and conductors Leonard Bernstein, Joann Falletta, Julius Rudel, William Steinberg, Arthur Fiedler, Newton Wayland, and David Effron.
Teaching experience includes part-time positions at Los Angeles Community College, a full-time position as artist-in-residence (as recipient of the Frank Sinatra Chair ) at Santa Clara University. He is presently an adjunct lecturer at Gavilan College and Notre Dame de Namur University. At Santa Clara University, Mr. Mollicone’s duties included building and conducting the university orchestra, composing music for several plays, conducting productions of musicals, and teaching classes. In addition to music theory, orchestration and conducting, he created several new classes: The Romance of Italian Opera, The History of American Popular Music, The History of Rock Music, The Symphony, and Composition for non-majors. He also served as visiting lecturer at the Eastman School of Music, heading the opera department for a five-week period.
Mr. Mollicone has received additional commissions for new works from several distinguished organizations, including The Central City Opera, The San Francisco Opera (and the Kurt Herbert Adler Award Foundation), The Houston Grand Opera, The Lyric Opera of Kansas City, The San Jose Chamber Orchestra, The Minnesota Opera, The Long Beach Symphony, The Fremont Symphony, and The Santa Cruz Symphony. He has received grants and awards from Opera America, The American Organ Historical Society, The Presser Foundation, The American Composers’Alliance (recording award for the opera THE FACE ON THE BARROOM FLOOR), Meet the Composer, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Leps Foundation, Santa Clara University, and other organizations. Two of his operas are available on compact disc: THE FACE ON THE BARROOM FLOOR (CRI), and COYOTE TALES (Newport Classic), along with four art songs on soprano Erie Mill’s American song album, “Always: It’s Spring”. His music is published by ECS Publishing in Boston (formerly E.C. Schirmer), and CPP Belwin.
As an administrator, Mr. Mollicone is founder and music director of The Winchester Orchestra of San Jose. He has been music director of The South Valley Symphony, associate director of The Ernest Bloch Music Festival, and director of its composers’ symposium, where he has invited and hosted composers Donald Martino, Paul Dresher, Joan Tower, Bernard Rands, and David Del Tredici. He has also devoted time to community service in various capacities, from l969 to the present, and is a member of the Gallup Poll Panel.
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