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New American Song @ Songfest

by Various Artists

Celebrating a 20th anniversary, SongFest releases their first CD, featuring SongFest's unique contribution to American art song with fifteen commissions, world premieres, and featured compositions by the best of contemporary American song composers.
Genre: Classical: Art songs
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Vocalism: Grand Aria, Pt. 1
Kristina Bachrach & Liza Stepanova
3:30 $0.99
2. Vocalism: Grand Aria, Pt. 2
Kristina Bachrach & Liza Stepanova
4:25 $0.99
3. John and Abigail
Devon Guthrie, Theo Hoffman & Kathleen Tagg
12:27 $0.99
4. Gettysburg: July 1, 1863
Samuel Schultz & Pierre-André Doucet
8:10 $0.99
5. Honey
Jessica Rivera, Kelley O'Connor & Raquel Gorgojo
12:34 $0.99
6. House
Michael Anthony McGee & Liza Stepanova
4:52 $0.99
7. Three Love Songs: 1. Before Loving You, My Love
Matthew Patrick Morris & Brent Funderburk
3:18 $0.99
8. Three Love Songs: 2. How Many Roads to Reach a Kiss
Matthew Patrick Morris & Brent Funderburk
3:06 $0.99
9. Three Love Songs: 3. Two Happy Lovers
Matthew Patrick Morris & Brent Funderburk
2:41 $0.99
10. Donal Oge
Anne Jennifer Nash & Nathan Salazar
5:14 $0.99
11. River Songs: 1. Song to the Trees and Streams
Steven Eddy, Edward Arron & Dimitri Dover
2:54 $0.99
12. River Songs: 2. Ask Me
Steven Eddy, Edward Arron & Dimitri Dover
2:24 $0.99
13. River Songs: 3. Quo Vadis
Steven Eddy, Edward Arron & Dimitri Dover
1:36 $0.99
14. River Songs: 4. Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
Steven Eddy, Edward Arron & Dimitri Dover
2:44 $0.99
15. Edna St. Vincent Millay
Laura Strickling & Dimitri Dover
4:14 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
In 1996, when I started SongFest as a small art song program in Southern California with twenty students, four faculty, and a few world premieres of songs written by the winners of the G. Schirmer 1995 Young American’s Art Song Competition (including a setting of Emily Dickinson’s “If you were coming in the Fall” by a then unknown young composer named Jake Heggie), I never dreamed this day would come. Twenty years later, our program has grown to include annually over one hundred singers and pianists from across the globe, more than twenty-five internationally distinguished artist-faculty, and a unique feature of SongFest, residencies every summer of a treasure-trove of the best American song composers living today (including that young composer from 1995, Jake Heggie!).
This is the first CD of the newly minted SongFest Records. When we received the generous recording grant from the Sorel Foundation that made this CD possible, SongFest’s unique position as not only the largest and premier festival dedicated to art song in the United States, but also a magical gathering of living American song composers with eager and talented young students and interpreters, made the CD’s repertoire a no-brainer: new american songs championed, commissioned, and premiered by SongFest over the past twenty years. We hope you enjoy SongFest Records’ first CD, and with us, continue to support the best of today’s American composers writing songs for music lovers of today and future generations to come, whether they be here in America or across the globe.
— Rosemary Hyler Ritter, Founder and Artistic Director

Notes on Composers and Works

John Harbison: Vocalism: Grand Aria

Vocalism is my only setting of Walt Whitman. This "grand aria" (so says the title page) celebrates singing. It is about the power of the voice, as pure sound, to move and change hearers.

The piece pays homage to Songfest, the conclave of singers and pianists that gathers each summer in California, under the direction of Rosemary Hyler. It is dedicated to Marc Stern, Chairman of the Board of the Los Angeles Opera, and his music-loving family, supporters of Songfest and of good singing. I composed Part I in 2004; it was introduced, at Songfest, by Amanda Gozier and Rosemary Hyler. The premiere of Part II (2006) was entrusted to Sarah Davis and Susan Gaeddert.

— John Harbison

by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

1. Vocalism, measure, concentration, determination, and the divine
power to speak words;
Are you full-lung'd and limber-lipp'd from long trial? from vigorous
practice? from physique?
Do you move in these broad lands as broad as they?
Come duly to the divine power to speak words?
For only at last after many years, after chastity, friendship,
procreation, prudence, and nakedness,
After treading ground and breasting river and lake,
After a loosen'd throat, after absorbing eras, temperaments, races,
after knowledge, freedom, crimes,
After complete faith, after clarifyings, elevations, and removing
After these and more, it is just possible there comes to a man,
woman, the divine power to speak words;
Then toward that man or that woman swiftly hasten all--none
refuse, all attend,
Armies, ships, antiquities, libraries, paintings, machines, cities,
hate, despair, amity, pain, theft, murder, aspiration, form in
close ranks,
They debouch as they are wanted to march obediently through the
mouth of that man or that woman.

2. O what is it in me that makes me tremble so at voices?
Surely whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him or her I shall follow,
As the water follows the moon, silently, with fluid steps, anywhere
around the globe.

All waits for the right voices;
Where is the practis'd and perfect organ? where is the develop'd soul?
For I see every word utter'd thence has deeper, sweeter, new sounds,
impossible on less terms.

I see brains and lips closed, tympans and temples unstruck,
Until that comes which has the quality to strike and to unclose,
Until that comes which has the quality to bring forth what lies
slumbering forever ready in all words.

Ben Moore: John and Abigail

“John and Abigail” is based on certain passages which I have adapted from the letters that John and Abigail Adams exchanged from 1774 to early 1776. Through much of this period John was attending the Continental Congress in Philadelphia while Abigail remained at their home in Braintree, Massachusetts caring for their five children. The piece centers around one letter of October 1775 in which Abigail tells John of the death of her mother in an epidemic of dysentery. While the text and chronology of the passages have been modified in certain instances in order to create a satisfying musical and dramatic structure, great effort has been made to retain the spirit of the original words.

I am very grateful that SongFest commissioned this work from me with funding from Marcia Brown, to whom the piece is dedicated.

―Ben Moore

3. John and Abigail
Letters between John Adams (1735-1826) and Abigail Adams (1744-1818)
adapted by Ben Moore

Abigail John

...have pitty...
What shall I say?
o! thou my beloved
[Your two letters
for the Hand of God
I received today]
presseth me soar...
[What] they contain
came upon me by surprise
How can I tell you o my
(bursting Heart) that my Dear
Mother has left me, this day...
[at] 5 oclock. She left this world
for an infinitely better.

After...16 days... Nature fainted
and she fell asleep... Tis a dreadful
time...[in] this whole province.
Sickness and death are in almost
every family... [And the] roar of
cannon [John]... The ships are all
drawn ‘round the Town…
The Events of War are
From pens Hill we have a
view of the largest Fleet ever
seen in America.
We cannot insure Success...
...It is not uncommon for a Train
of Calamities to come together.
Fire, Sword, Pestilence...often keep
company, and visit a Country in a
Flock. At this Distance I can do no
good to you nor yours... But Blessed
be the Father of Mercies, all our...
[children] are...well...
Blessed be the Father

[Forgive me, then, as I
express] how ardently I long
for your return...
Three hundred miles Three hundred miles

your return…
[At such a distance, my dear...]
I know I wound your Heart...
[And] "Yet the Grief...I cannot
speak...[it bids my very heart to]
burst." My pen is always
freer than my tongue.
Three hundred miles
Three hundred miles
[And] Every Day We sit, the more
We are convinced that...[all] Designs
against Us, are hostile and sanguinary...
We have nothing to expect but the
whole Wrath and Force of G. Britain.
[The whole Wrath]
[And if I may,] in the New
Code of laws which...will be
necessary...I desire you would
Remember the Ladies, and be
more...favourable to them than
your ancestors...we...will not
hold ourselves bound by any
Laws in which we have no
voice, or Representation...
[The wrath of Great Britain. The
whole Wrath]
patient submission, [that] is
my duty.
[Fire, Famine, Pestilence]
[my duty]
[And in this war]
Reconciliation...would be...agreeable
[to me]... But I see no...Probability, no Possibility. [This war,
[I know, I know]
This war]

Almighty God restrain the
pestilence which walketh in
Darkness...and which has laid...
[into] the dust one of the Dearest...
parents. [And] May the Life of
the other be lengthend out to...
[your] afflicted children and [to]
your Distressed.

How long o Lord [How long?
shall...[this] whole land... How long?
[be sickened]?... O shew us wherefore thou art
O shew us wherefore... thou art thus contending with us now.]
thus contending with us [now]...

One wound... [may not] be healed [Wounds may not heal]
e’er it is made to Blead affresh.
[And yet it is my mother,
My mother [Dear friend.]
Which most distresses me.]

I want to take a Walk with you in
the Garden - to go over to the Common -
the Plain - the Meadow. I want to take
Charles in one Hand and Tom in the
other, and Walk with you, Nabby on
your Right Hand and John upon my left -
[in the garden, through the common
and the plain,] to view the Corn Fields,
the orchards…
[My dearest friend.]
I...thought of setting off, immediately,
for Braintree... Whom God has joined
together ought put asunder...

You cannot be…
[I want to walk with you
nor do I wish to see you
with Nabby on your right hand and
John upon my left hand.
an inactive Spectator...
dear John upon my left hand
and Tom…

[I] look forward to that Country
our Tom
where there is neither [war] and Charles…
nor rumors of War.
our little John…]
If we separate from Brittain what
code of Laws will be Established,
how shall we be govern'd so as to
retain our Liberties?

For...[this] Country For...[this] Country
is...the First is...the First
and greatest parent.
I hope, yet fear
[Our greatest parent...]

For if... [it] perishes For if [it] perishes
it is as impossible to save it is as impossible to save
an individual, as to preserve an individual, as to preserve
one... [finger] of a Mortified Hand... one... finger of a Mortified Hand...

[This] Country is...[our] First [This] Country is...[our] First
and greatest parent and greatest parent

Thus... do I...acquiesce... [Dear friend

[to this] painfull separation My friend]

from the companion from the companion
of my youth, and the of my youth, and the
Friend of my Heart. Friend of my Heart.

William Bolcom: Gettysburg: July 1, 1863

"Gettysburg: July 1, 1863" is a song by William Bolcom setting the poetry of Jane Kenyon. In the poem, Kenyon imagines the death of a soldier during the Civil War. The song was commissioned by SongFest and underwritten by the Sorel Organization. The mission of The Sorel Organization is to keep musical excellence alive and to help expand the boundaries for women in music. SongFest is grateful for the support of The Sorel Organization.

Rosemary Ritter, SongFest Founder and Artistic Director, wrote of the commission:
"I was first introduced to Jane Kenyon by Tory Browers, a wonderful singer and friend. I was drawn to the warmth and openness I felt in her poems. At the suggestion of John Musto and Lucas Wong, I decided to ask William Bolcom to write a commission for SongFest. I hoped he would agree to set one of Jane Kenyon’s poems and actually had chosen a few of my favorites. Mr. Bolcom graciously accepted and commented that he had been waiting for an opportunity to set 'Gettysburg: July 1, 1863.' We are so fortunate to have such wonderful artists come to SongFest and share their stories and view of the world through words and music.
"I am often asked what it is that we do at SongFest and why. A friend wrote '... this often neglected genre of voice and piano song will provide the singers and pianists with a rich view of this world which will nourish them for their entire lives.'"

4. Gettysburg: July 1, 1863
by Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

The young man, hardly more
than a boy, who fired the shot
had looked at him with an air
not of anger but of concentration,
as if he were surveying a road,
or feeding a length of wood into a saw:
It had to be done just so.
The bullet passed through
his upper chest, below the collarbone.
The pain was not what he might
have feared. Strangely exhilarated
he staggered out of the pasture
and into a grove of trees.
He pressed and pressed
the wound, trying to stanch
the blood, but he could only press
what he could reach, and he could
not reach his back, where the bullet
had exited.
He lay on the earth
smelling the leaves and mosses,
musty and damp and cool
after the blaze of the open afternoon.
How good the earth smelled,
as it had when he was a boy
hiding from his father,
who was intent on strapping him
for doing his chores
late one time too many.
A cowbird razzed from a rail fence.
It isn’t mockery, he thought,
no malice in it … just a noise.
Stray bullets nicked the oaks
overhead. Leaves and splinters fell.
Someone near him groaned.
But it was his own voice he heard.
His fingers and feet tingled,
the roof of his mouth,
and the bridge of his nose….
He became dry, dry, and thought
of Christ, who said, I thirst.
His man-smell, the smell of his hair
and skin, his sweat, the salt smell
of his cock and the little ferny hairs
that two women had known
left him, and a sharp, almost sweet
smell began to rise from his open mouth
in the warm shade of the oaks.
A streak of sun climbed the rough
trunk of a tree, but he did not
see it with his open eye.
"Gettysburg: July 1, 1863" Music by William Bolcom, Text by Jane Kenyon is Copyright (c) 2012 by Edward B. Marks Music Company and Bolcom Music. Poem is reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press.

Gabriela Lena Frank: Honey

Utilizing texts co-written between composer Gabriela Lena Frank and Pulitzer Prize playwright Nilo Cruz, "Honey" (for two singers and piano) pays tribute to one of the oldest and sweetest elixirs known to man. Rather than linger on honey's attributes solely in the kitchen, honey serves as a metaphorical lens through which a mother and daughter view the world. Slightly-barbed affection and tenderness abounds between them, inspired by the real-life friendship between the premiering duo, soprano Jessica Rivera and mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor. A fortuitous introduction made by these two lovely singers to SongFest led to the festival's gracious commissioning of the work.

―Gabriela Lena Frank

5. Honey
by Nilo Cruz and Gabriela Lena Frank
A rainy day of contemplation and recollection between a mother and a daughter over a broken jar of honey.

MOTHER: The daughter.
DAUGHTER: The mother.
MOTHER: It was raining hard.
DAUGHTER: You were aggravated, dear mother.
MOTHER: I remember, dear daughter.
DAUGHTER: The bottle of honey had bro-
MOTHER: … had broken! You had broken it! Oh, you! What a mess!
DAUGHTER: Oh dear.
MOTHER: Oh well.
MOTHER: It’s broke.
DAUGHTER: What a mess.
MOTHER: No use.
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER: Ah! No use crying.
DAUGHTER: Not over spilled milk.
MOTHER: No milk for my tea!
DAUGHTER: Not over spilled dreams.
MOTHER: No dreams for my tea?
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER: But over honey…
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER: From where comes this honey carrying everything that a bee might see? In communion together in our kitchen, what might the honey have us envision?
DAUGHTER: Blue horizons…
MOTHER: Blue latitudes…
DAUGHTER: The wind...
DAUGHTER: Begonias…
MOTHER: Delphiniums...
DAUGHTER: A willow…
MOTHER: Some tea for you?
DAUGHTER: Yes, please.
MOTHER: Cream and sugar, dear daughter?
DAUGHTER: No, dear mother. Honey!
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER :Tasting and savoring the golden nectar, we see all:
DAUGHTER: A man walking his dog…
MOTHER: A woman crossing the street…
DAUGHTER: The traffic lights...
DAUGHTER: And the bees toil…
MOTHER: Bit by bit…
DAUGHTER: Corolla by corolla…
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER: Through forests, fields, and gardens…
DAUGHTER: …our kitchen, to…
MOTHER: …our table, to...
DAUGHTER: …our bread, to…
MOTHER: …our solitude,
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER: comes the world through honey. No mere nectar but the passage to the sun.
DAUGHTER: The mother.
MOTHER: The daughter.
DAUGHTER: You were aggravated, dear mother.
MOTHER: I remember, dear daughter.
DAUGHTER: The bottle of honey had broken.
MOTHER: You had broken it.
DAUGHTER: Spilled honey! Spilled honey!
MOTHER: But no spilled dreams.
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER: A fallen jar, a rainy day, a handful of tea leaves to discover thus, in wonder: A sun’s sweet melting.

Tom Cipullo: House, baritone solo from “Insomnia”

Insomnia is a ten-movement, thirty-minute piece for four voices (soprano, mezzo, tenor, baritone) and piano, based on texts from diverse authors including Keats, Whitman, Lisel Mueller, Howard Moss, Cornelius Eady, Juliet Wilson, and Dana Gioia. The four solos, two duets, and four quartets that make up the work are, at turns, humorous, somber, resigned, and optimistic. The original idea for a piece on the subject of insomnia came from the conductor Mark Shapiro, and when Rosemary Hyler Ritter approached me in 2009 to compose something for the Stern Fellows of Songfest, it seemed like the right time to realize the concept. Though Insomnia is tremendously demanding for all the singers and the pianist, the Stern fellows that premiered the work gave a performance that I recall with wonder, respect, and tremendous joy. Clearly, Songfest attracts some of the finest young artists to be found anywhere. Insomnia is dedicated to Rosemary Hyler Ritter.

―Tom Cipullo, October 2015

6. House
by Dana Gioia (b. 1950)

Now you hear what the house has to say.
Pipes clanking, water running in the dark,
the mortgaged walls shifting in discomfort,
and voices mounting in an endless drone
of small complaints like the sounds of a family
that year by year you’ve learned how to ignore.

But now you must listen to the things you own,
all that you’ve worked for these past years,
the murmur of property, of things in disrepair,
the moving parts about to come undone,
and twisting in the sheets remember all
the faces you could not bring yourself to love.

How many voices have escaped you until now,
the venting furnace, the floorboards underfoot,
the steady accusations of the clock
numbering the minutes no one will mark.
The terrible clarity this moment brings,
the useless insight, the unbroken dark.

Dana Gioia, “Insomnia” from Daily Horoscope. Copyright © 1986 by Dana Gioia. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,

Libby Larsen: Three Love Poems

Commissioned by SongFest and Rosemary Hyler Ritter, with funds provided by the Elizabeth & Michel Sorel Charitable Organization. Dedicated to Marcia J. Brown and Janet A. Loranger with love and deep appreciation for all the lives you have touched. Premiered June 19, 2011 by David McFerrin, baritone, and Liza Stepanova, piano at Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA.

When Rosemary Ritter asked if I would be interested in composing a work for baritone David McFerrin and pianist Liza Stepanova, I was thrilled – both with the opportunity to live with the sound of these two wonderful artists in my musical brain while I composed a work worthy of their talent and with the chance to work with poetry of Pablo Neruda, a poet I revere. I felt that the combination of Neruda’s poems with David’s and Liza’s artistry, could be extraordinary. Reading Neruda’s work is, for me, a multi-sensual, erotic, visceral experience. There is nothing like it. I set out to compose music that reflects this feeling, if such a thing is possible. The result was my work “Three Love Songs” a setting of three of Neruda’s 100 Love Sonnets.

―Libby Larsen

7. Before Loving You, My Love
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), Soneto II from from Cien Sonetos de Amor
Translated by Gustavo Escobedo

Before loving you, my love, nothing was mine.
I wandered about street to street, one thing to the next.
Nothing mattered. Nothing had a name.
The world was made up of hopeful air.
I knew ashen rooms,
tunnels where lived the moon,
cruel-hearted hangars tossing me out,
questions whose insistence was sand.
All was empty, all dead and mute,
fallen, abandoned, and decayed.
All was inalienably odd,
all given over to others, to no one . . .
until your beauty and your poverty
filled the autumn with gifts.

8. Love, How Many Roads To Reach A Kiss
Pablo Neruda, Soneto XXV from Cien Sonetos de Amor
Translated by Terence Clarke

Love, how many roads to reach a kiss,
what wandering solitude until your company!
The lonely trains go on rolling with the rain.
In Taltal spring has not dawned yet.
But you and I, my love, are together,
together from our clothes to our roots,
together through fall, through water, through hips,
until it is only you, only me together.
To think it took so many stones carried in the river,
the mouth of the water of Boroa,
to think that separated by trains and nations
you and I had simply to love each other,
with all in confusion, with men and women,
with the earth that brings forth and teaches the carnations.

9. Two Happy Lovers
Pablo Neruda, Soneto XLVIII from Cien Sonetos de Amor
Translated by Stephen Tapscott

Two happy lovers make one bread,
a single moon drop in the grass.
Walking, they cast two shadows that flow together;
waking, they leave one sun empty in their bed.
Of all the possible truths, they choose the day;
they held it, not with ropes but with an aroma.
They did not shred the peace; they did not shatter words;
their happiness is a transparent tower.
The air and wine accompany the lovers.
The night delights them with its joyous petals.
They have a right to all the carnations.
Two happy lovers, without an ending, with no death,
they are born, they die, many times while they live:
they have the eternal life of the Natural.

From 100 LOVE SONNETS: CIEN SONETOS DE AMOR by Pablo Neruda, translated
by Stephen Tapscott, Copyright © Pablo Neruda 1959 and Fundacion Pablo Neruda,
Copyright © 1986 by the University of Texas Press. By permission of the University of Texas Press.

Libby Larsen: Donal Oge

Commissioned by SongFest and Rosemary Hyler Ritter, with funds provided by the Elizabeth & Michel Sorel Charitable Organization. Dedicated to Marcia J. Brown and Janet A. Loranger with love and deep appreciation for all the lives you have touched. Premiered June 19, 2011 by Anne Jennifer Nash, soprano, and Justin Snyder, piano at Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA

“Donal Oge” is, to my mind, an aria in search of an opera. Based on the anonymous 8th century Gaelic poem “Donal Oge: Grief of a Girl’s Heart”, the text is an anguished lament of an abandoned lover who, crying out in torment, fears that in being cast aside, everything has been taken away, leaving mortal fear that even God has been taken away. I discovered “Donal Oge: Grief of a Girl’s Heart”, when I was in graduate school and was learning Anglo Saxon as a language. The poem, in English translation by Lady Augusta Gregory, struck me as so direct and powerful that I filo-faxed it and put it in my folder of “texts to set sometime in the future” where it remained for thirty years until 2010. When Rosemary Ritter commissioned me to compose a work for soprano Jennifer Nash to premier at Songfest, 2011, I knew that Donal Oge was the text we wanted to sing. Thank you, Rosemary! Thank you, Jennifer!

―Libby Larsen

10. Donal Oge
Anonymous, 18th century
Published in Kiltartan Poetry Book
Translated from the Irish by Lady Augusta Gregory, 1919

O Donal Oge, if you go across the sea,
Bring myself with you and do not forget it;
And you will have a sweetheart for fair days and market days,
And the daughter of the King of Greece beside you at night.
It was late last night the dog was speaking of you;
The snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
It is you are the lonely bird through the woods;
And that you may be without a mate until you find me.
You promised me, and you said a lie to me,
That you would be before me where the sheep are flocked;
I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you
And I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.
You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
A ship of gold under a silver mast;
Twelve towns with a market in all of them
And a fine white court by the side of the sea.
You promised me a thing that is not possible
That you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
That you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird;
And a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.
O Donal Oge, it is I would be better to you
Than a high, proud, spendthrift lady:
I would milk the cow; I would bring help to you;
And if you were hard pressed, I would strike a blow for you.
You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me,
You have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
You have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me,
And my fear is great that you have taken God from me!

John Musto: River Songs

River Songs, on poetry from the Pawnee tribe, William Stafford, and Walt Whitman, was written for cellist Yehuda Hanani’s Close Encounters with Music series. The motivation behind his commissioning of this piece was a movement to halt the building of the St. Lawrence Cement plant on the Hudson river. Rather than write a protest piece, we decided that a work celebrating rivers would ultimately have broader appeal. The second song, Ask Me, references Schubert’s Auf dem Flusse, also a poem about what might be going on under the ice.
This recording marks SongFest’s first commercial release, and its 20th year. I congratulate its superb staff and faculty, and especially Rosemary Ritter for creating it and keeping it so vitally alive through the years. I can think of no other program like it.

―John Musto

11. Songs to the Trees and Streams
Pawnee Ceremonial Song Text

Dark against the sky yonder distant line
Lies before us. Trees we see, long the line of trees,
Bending, swaying in the breeze.

Bright with flashing light yonder distant line
Runs before us, swiftly runs, swift the river runs,
Winding, flowing, flowing o’er the land.

A sound, yonder distant sound
Comes to greet us, singing comes, soft the river’s song,
Rippling gently beneath the trees.

12. Ask Me
by William Stafford (1914-1993)

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

13. Quo Vadis
by William Stafford (1914-1993)

Sometimes I choose a cloud and let it
cross the sky floating me away.
Or a bird unravels its song and carries me
as it flies deeper and deeper into the woods.

Is there a way to be gone and still
belong? Travel that takes you home?

Is that life? – to stand by a river and go.

William Stafford, “Ask Me” and “Quo Vadis” from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems.
Copyright © 1977, 2008 by William Stafford and the Estate of William Stafford. Reprinted
with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press,
Minneapolis, Minnesota,

14. Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Ah, what can be more stately to me than mast-hemmed Manhattan?
River and sunset and scallop-edg’d waves of floodtide?
Gorgeous clouds of the sunset! Drench with your splendor me!
Stand up, tall masts of Manahatta! Stand up! Beautiful hills of Brooklyn!
Flow on, river! Flow with the flood tide, and ebb with the ebb-tide!
Fly on, sea birds! Fly sideways, or wheel in large circles high in the air!
Receive the summer sky, you water,
and faithfully hold it till all downcast eyes have time to take it from you!
We fathom you not – we love you. You furnish your parts toward eternity,
Great and small, you furnish your parts toward the soul.

Jake Heggie: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Long a champion of poets, I have had the great privilege of setting many of the greats to music, from Emily Dickinson to Raymond Carver, AE Housman to Mary Oliver. Three of Edna St Vincent Millay's poems are featured in my song cycle Songs and Sonnets To Ophelia and this caught the attention of the gifted poet Lucy Miller Murray. She sent me her marvelous, tormented, passionate and hilarious poem "Would That I Were Edna St Vincent Millay" and it practically set itself. I had a ball composing it. Here it is performed by soprano Laura Strickling and pianist Dmitri Dover, both of whom I met at the outstanding SongFest program in Los Angeles. It's been an honor and pleasure to be a guest artist at this unique art song program for the past 15 years - and I look forward to many years of continued collaboration.

—Jake Heggie

15. Would That I Were Edna St. Vincent Millay
by Lucy Miller Murray
Inspired by Nancy Mitford’s biography, Savage Beauty

Would that I were―no I must not be
Edna St. Vincent Millay,
For sonnets do not suit me
Nor ancient words like thee and thine.

Yet I long to speak of love
In all her ardent ways,
To claim justice for the damned,
Right the wronged, and sleep freely
With those who meet my fancy.

No, I dare not be
Enda St. Vincent Millay
And live alone without man or child
Yet use them as subjects for my verses.

No, I dare not be―but would that I were
Edna St. Vincent Millay
To question April’s purpose
And take my knights to bed.

No, I dare not be she
Who speaks so easily of Tristan and Iseult
And Helen born of Leda and the mighty Swan;
No shudder in the loins would frighten her
As it would me who dares not be
Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

Composer Biographies

William Bolcom (b. 1938), winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Music with his Twelve New Etudes for piano, has composed in virtually every instrumental and vocal genre from solo piano and songs to symphony and opera. A voracious eclectic, he has contributed substantially to the musical theater, cabaret, and modern ragtime repertoire, and, with his wife mezzo-soprano Joan Morris, been a performer-advocate of American popular song. He is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts, several Grammy Awards, honorary doctorates, and Guggenheim fellowships, was named Musical America's Composer of the Year, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has been commissioned by, among many others, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, MET Orchestra, Marilyn Horne, Isaac Stern, Placido Domingo, Yo-Yo Ma, and James Galway. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he taught at the University of Michigan for 35 years until his retirement in 2008.

Tom Cipullo (b. 1956). Hailed by the American Academy of Art & Letters for music that displays “inexhaustible imagination, wit, expressive range and originality,” composer Tom Cipullo’s works are performed regularly throughout the United States and with increasing frequency internationally. The winner of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2013 Sylvia Goldstein Award from Copland House, and the 2013 Arts & Letters Award from the American Academy, Cipullo’s music has been recorded on the Albany, CRI, PGM, MSR Classics, GPR, Centaur, and Capstone labels and is published by Oxford University Press and Classical Vocal Reprints. Cipullo’s recent opera, After Life, will be released on Naxos in 2016, and the Fort Worth Opera recording of his Glory Denied, (Albany Records) was voted by Opera News as among the best of 2014. The New York Times has called his music “intriguing and unconventional,” and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has called him “an expert in writing for the voice.”

Gabriela Lena Frank (b. 1972). Winner of a Latin Grammy and nominated for Grammys as both composer and pianist, Peruvian-American Gabriela Lena Frank’s work has been described as “crafted with unself-conscious mastery” (Washington Post), and “brilliantly effective” (New York Times). Published exclusively by G. Schirmer, Gabriela is commissioned by luminaries such as cellist Yo Yo Ma, soprano Dawn Upshaw, the King’s Singers, and the Kronos Quartet, as well as commissioned/performed by all of the major orchestras of the United States. With Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, she will create a large-scale opera, The Last Dream of Frida, for a consortium comprised of Arizona Opera, Fort Worth Opera, and San Diego Opera. Gabriela’s music is featured in multiple scholarly books including the W.W. Norton Anthology: The Musics of Latin America. She is also the subject of several PBS documentaries including “Compadre Huashayo” regarding her work in Ecuador composing for the Orquestra de Instrumentos Andinos comprised of native highland instruments.

John Harbison (b. 1938). Citing his most important influences as the Bach Cantatas, Stravinsky (whom he met in Santa Fe in 1963) and jazz, John Harbison's music is distinguished by its exceptional invention and deeply expressive range. He has written for every conceivable type of concert genre, ranging from the grand opera to the most intimate; pieces that embrace jazz along with the classical forms. His prolific, personal and greatly admired music written for the voice encompasses a catalogue of over 70 works including opera, choral, voice with orchestra and chamber/solo works.

Jake Heggie (b. 1961). Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Moby-Dick, Great Scott, Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, To Hell and Back, The End of the Affair, Out of Darkness, and the choral opera, The Radio Hour. He has also composed more than 250 songs, as well as chamber, choral and orchestral works. The operas – most created with writers Terrence McNally and Gene Scheer – have been produced to great acclaim on five continents. A Guggenheim Fellow, Heggie has served as a mentor for the Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative, and is a frequent guest artist at universities, conservatories and festivals throughout the USA and Canada, including SongFest at the Colburn School. "Arguably the world's most popular 21st-century opera and art song composer" (The Wall Street Journal).

Libby Larsen (b. 1950) is one of America’s most performed living composers, having created a catalogue of over 500 works spanning virtually every genre from the very intimate to those of massive scale. Grammy Award winning and widely recorded, including over fifty CDs of her work, she is constantly sought after for commissions by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras worldwide, and established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory. Her career has been recognized with several awards including MIT’s McDermott award, the Peabody Award, the American Academy’s Arts and Letters Award, and the Library of Congress’s Papamarkou Chair.

Ben Moore (b. 1960) is a composer of art song, musical theatre, cabaret, chamber music, choral music and opera. His work has been called “brilliant” and “gorgeously lyrical” by the New York Times while
Opera News has praised the “easy tunefulness” and “romantic sweep” of his songs. Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham and Nathan Gunn have recorded his songs on the EMI, SonyBMG and Warner Classics labels. In 2014 Delos released a CD of his song cycles entitled Dear Theo. 2015 saw the premiere of the operas Enemies, a Love Story (libretto by Nahma Sandrow) at Palm Beach Opera and Odyssey (libretto by Kelley Rourke) at the Glimmerglass Festival. Fred Plotkin of WQXR called Enemies “an important new work that will nd its place among those works that audiences will be moved by...” Other singers who have performed his work include Frederica von Stade, Lawrence Brownlee, Robert White, Isabel Leonard and Audra McDonald. Please visit

John Musto (b. 1954). Composer and pianist John Musto is regarded as one of the most versatile musicians before the public today. His activities encompass virtually every genre: orchestral and operatic, solo, chamber and vocal music, concerti, and music for film and television. His music embraces many strains of contemporary American concert music, enriched by sophisticated inspirations from jazz, ragtime and the blues. These qualities lend a strong profile to his vocal music, which ranges from a series of operas – Volpone, Later the Same Evening, Bastianello and The Inspector – to a catalogue of art songs that is among the finest of any living American composer. Mr. Musto was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his orchestral song cycle Dove Sta Amore, and is a recipient of two Emmy awards, two CINE Awards, a Rockefeller Fellowship at Bellagio, an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, and a Distinguished Alumnus award from the Manhattan School of Music. He is currently on the faculty of the Graduate Center at CUNY.


Performer Biographies

Cellist Edward Arron made his New York recital debut in 2000 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and has since appeared in recital, as a soloist with major orchestras, and as a chamber musician throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Mr. Arron is the artistic director and resident performer of the Musical Masterworks concert series in Old Lyme, Connecticut, as well as the Festival Series in Beaufort, South Carolina and Chamber Music on Main at the Columbia Museum in Columbia, SC. Additionally, he enjoys ongoing performing residencies at both the Caramoor International Music Festival and the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. A graduate of the Juilliard School, Mr. Arron has served on the faculty of New York University since 2009.

Kristina Bachrach was the Grand Prize winner for the inaugural Ziering-Conlon Recovered Voices Art Song Competition in 2015. She has concertized around the country with such groups as the Joy in Singing Foundation, Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago, the Banff Centre, Brooklyn Art Song Society, and the Cecilia Chorus at Carnegie Hall. Operatic debuts include Lucy in The Telephone with Opera Naples, Musetta in La Bohème with the Lyric Opera of Virginia, Clorinda in La Cenerentola with Nashville Opera, and Lucinda the world premiere of Nico Muhly's Dark Sisters with Gotham Chamber Opera and Opera Philadelphia. She has completed residencies with Nashville Opera, Tanglewood Music Center, Lake George Music Festival, and was thrice a Stern Fellow with SongFest at Pepperdine and Colburn.

Hailed for “the emotion of his playing and his impeccable control” (Audiophilia), Acadian pianist Pierre-André Doucet was also named by CBC Radio 2 as being one of the best Canadian classical musicians under 30. He has performed extensively across Canada, as well as in Austria, France, Germany, Spain, South Africa and the United States. Winner of the prestigious Knigge Music Competition, Mr. Doucet has also been awarded top prizes for his performances of contemporary works, namely at the Prix d’Europe and the Ibiza International Piano Competition. He is also an accomplished writer, and has been Co-Artistic Director of Barachois Summer Music since 2012.

Pianist Dimitri Dover has recently appeared at New York's Alice Tully Hall, Weill Recital Hall,
Merkin Hall, and Symphony Space, as well as at venues throughout the USA, Canada, and Austria. He has performed for their composers the works of George Crumb, Jake Heggie, Libby Larsen, John Musto and André Previn, among many others. Mr. Dover has held a C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellowship at The Juilliard School and summer fellowships at Tanglewood, Aspen, and SongFest, where he returned as staff pianist and coach in 2014. Mr. Dover is currently a member of The Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

Praised for his “sterling musical and physical work,” baritone Steven Eddy has earned a reputation as a versatile artist in the realms of opera, oratorio and art song. His opera credits include such roles as Sid (Albert Herring), Ponchel (Silent Night), Schaunard (La bohème), Nick Shadow (The Rake’s Progress), and Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), among others. A frequent concert artist and recitalist, he has appeared as a soloist and collaborator with such ensembles as Seraphic Fire, Brooklyn Art Song Society, The New York Virtuoso Singers, The American Classical Orchestra, Ensemble VIII, and the Handel Choir of Baltimore. He has also earned awards and recognition in several competitions, including The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, The Joy in Singing Music Debut Artist Awards, and the Oratorio Society of New York competition. For more information, please visit

Praised by the New York Times as an “excellent pianist,” Brent Funderburk has partnered world-class singers and instrumentalists in concert and on recording and maintains an active schedule as recitalist and vocal coach in New York City. Recent concert appearances include a U.S. tour with The Metropolitan Opera Rising Stars Concert Series and performances at Carnegie Hall, as part of the Marilyn Horne Song Celebration and The Song Continues. Brent’s work has been broadcast on New York’s WQXR, Chicago’s WFMT and Minnesota Public Radio. He has also contributed to recordings for Albany Records and Acis Productions.

After finishing her BM in Madrid, Raquel Gorgojo goes on to continue her piano studies at the Jacobs School of Music (IU), the Conservatorium van Amsterdam (Holland) and Boston University, where she had Menahem Pressler, Mila Baslawskaja and Gila Goldstein as her principal mentors. Raquel holds a PD and a MM from IU, and since last September she is a DMA from Boston University. Chamber music and vocal accompaniment are two of her greatest passions and she nurtures them regularly, either with her siblings, Jaime, violin, and Blanca, cello, or with other colleagues. She has had the fortune to work with musicians such as Miriam Fried, Leonard Hokanson, Mauricio Fuks, Janos Starker and Graham Johnson among others.
She has been invited to participate in festivals such as Salzburg Sommerakademie, SongFest (LA), Middlebury College (VT) and Banff Summer Festival (Canada) to name a few. Raquel has been a grantee of Fulbright, Caja Madrid, Spanish Ministery of Culture and Fundación Mutua Madrileña. Since October 2013 she is back in Spain, where she teaches at the Superior Conservatory in Salamanca and continues her musical endeavours.

Soprano Devon Guthrie, a Juilliard graduate, is enjoying an international operatic career that began with a debut at English National Opera. Ms. Guthrie is also a passionate champion of contemporary classical music and is a frequent collaborator with living composers. Songfest was a profound influence in her early musical training as an interpreter of song. She is thrilled to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this remarkable program by participating in this musical collaboration.

Theo Hoffman is equally in demand as a stage animal and a recitalist. At Juilliard, he performed Le Directeur (Les mamelles de Tirésias), Papageno (Die Zauberflöte), Conte Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Bob (The Old Maid and the Thief), and covered Tarquinius (The Rape of Lucretia) as well as the title role in Der Kaiser von Atlantis. He is a regular with New York Festival of Song, and performed Juilliard's 2015 Honors Recital in Alice Tully Hall among many other New York recital appearances. Mr. Hoffman made his professional debut with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2013 covering Major General (Pirates of Penzance) and Tomeš (The Kiss), and returned to cover Papageno. Concert work includes performances with Cecilia Chorus of New York, Portland Symphony Orchestra, and Arizona Musicfest. This season, he debuted with the Atlanta Opera as Schaunard (La bohème) and will return to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis to perform a lead role in an American premier in 2017.

Michael Anthony McGee has sung leading roles throughout the United States, Europe and Asia including the title roles in Verdi's Falstaff, Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, "Winston Smith" in Lorin Maazel's 1984, "Marcello" in Puccini's La Bohéme, Baritone Soloist in Orff's Carmina Burana, Britten's War Requiem and Mahler's Kindertotenlieder and Rückert Lieder. He has been presented in recital at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, The New York Public Library for Performing Arts, The Trinity Church on Wall Street, The Philips Collection in Washington DC, The Tanglewood Music Festival and Nordstrom Hall in Seattle.

Matthew Patrick Morris West End: Candide (King Charles, Inquisitor). Bouffes du Nord, Piccolo Teatro, & International Tour: Peter Brook’s Une Flûte Enchantée (Papageno, Molière Award Best Musical). Off-Broadway: La Périchole, New York City Opera. National Tour: Scrooge the Musical (Young Scrooge). Regional: Crossing by Matt Aucoin directed by Diane Paulus, A.R.T.; Les Misérables (Marius), Amarillo Opera. Film: The Producers! TV: “Law & Order SVU”. Soloist: American, Boston, London, Memphis, and MDR Leipzig Symphony Orchestras. Young Artist Programs: Santa Fe, Tanglewood, SongFest Stern Fellow. Winner: Vocal Arts DC Young Artist Competition. BM The Juilliard School; MM Bard College Conservatory.

Anne Jennifer Nash is a light-lyric soprano with an “uncommon beauty of expression and musicianship.” –Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times. Leading roles with Opera Philadelphia, Florentine Opera, Opera New Jersey, Opera Saratoga, Bard SummerScape, Pine Mountain Music Festival, Interlochen Arts Festival, National Opera Company, among others. An avid recitalist and collaborator with living composers, in 2011 Ms. Nash premiered Libby Larsen’s “Donal Oge” at Pepperdine University, commissioned by SongFest/Sorel Foundation. In 2016 she will premier and record Allen McCullough’s song cycle “The Blue Symphony”, a Lotte Lehmann foundation commission. A graduate of Dickinson College, Peabody Conservatory, and the University of Michigan (DMA), Ms. Nash teaches at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN.

Possessing a voice of uncommon allure, musical sophistication far beyond her years, and intuitive and innate dramatic artistry, the Grammy® Award-winning mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor has emerged as one of the most compelling performers of her generation. She appears with many of the world’s foremost orchestras and has created meaningful artistic relationships with such eminent conductors and directors as Gustavo Dudamel, Iván Fischer, Louis Langrée, Donald Runnicles, Peter Sellars, Robert Spano, and Franz Welser-Möst. Her discography includes Golijov’s Ainadamar and Lieberson’s Neruda Songs with Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony as well as Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra.

Possessing a voice praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for its “effortless precision and tonal luster,” Grammy® Award-winning soprano Jessica Rivera is established as one of the most creatively inspired vocal artists before the public today. The intelligence, dimension, and spirituality with which she infuses her performances on the great international concert and opera stages has garnered Ms. Rivera unique artistic collaborations with many of today’s most celebrated composers, including John Adams, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Osvaldo Golijov, and has brought her together in collaboration with such esteemed conductors as Bernard Haitink, Sir Simon Rattle, Robert Spano, and Gustavo Dudamel.

Nathan Salazar holds a Masters degree in Collaborative Piano from the University of Michigan where he studied with Martin Katz. His musical travels have taken him to England, Scotland, Italy, and Russia, as well as all over the United States where he has been featured at The Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. He performed in the International Festival of Spanish and Latin American Music where he worked with Teresa Berganza. He received a fellowship to Songfest in 2013, where he worked with pianists Margo Garrett, Graham Johnson, Martin Katz, and composers Jake Heggie, John Musto, and Libby Larsen. In 2014, he performed in Marilyn Horne’s 80th birthday celebration through the series “The Song Continues” at Carnegie Hall, where he worked with Ms. Horne, Martin Katz, and the legendary Christa Ludwig.

Samuel Schultz has appeared with Houston Grand Opera as Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus, Mr. Lindquist in A Little Night Music, Morales in Carmen, Perückenmacher in Ariadne auf Naxos, and The Businessman in The Little Prince. He made his Houston Symphony Orchestra debut singing Ravel’s Don Quichotte and Ramiro in L’Heure Espagnole. He covered the role of Howie in the world premiere of Champion at Opera Theatre of St. Louis and sang Berio's rarely-performed Coro, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, at the Lucerne Festival. Samuel is an alumnus of the United States Senate Page Program.

Praised by The New York Times for her “thoughtful musicality” and “fleet-fingered panache,” Liza Stepanova has performed as a soloist with the Juilliard Orchestra and Southwest German Philharmonic with conductors James DePreist and Nicholas McGegan; in venues including the Berlin Philharmonie, Weill and Zankel Recital Halls at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Kennedy Center, Krannert and Mondavi Performing Arts Centers; and live on WQXR New York, WFMT Chicago, and WETA Washington. As a member of the Lysander Piano Trio, winner of the 2012 Concert Artists Guild Competition, Ms. Stepanova continues to tour nationwide, has released a debut CD and commissioned multiple new works. Deeply invested in the art song repertoire, she directs the Piano Program and is Associate Artistic Director at SongFest at The Colburn School in Los Angeles. Stepanova holds a DMA from The Juilliard School and has been on the faculty at Juilliard, Smith College, and the University of Georgia.

Laura Strickling was praised by The New York Times for her, “ exible voice, crystalline diction, and warm presence.” A 2011 and 2012 Stern Fellowship recipient at Songfest, she has performed at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Wigmore Hall, Ravinia Music Festival, Tanglewood, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, and Liederfest in Suzhou, China. A devoted recitalist, she has appeared with the Brooklyn Art Song Society, Trinity Concerts at One, Joy in Singing, SongFusion, and the American Liszt Society. Her competition honors include the Rochester Oratorio Society Competition, the Liszt-Garrison International Competition, the Positively Poulenc! Competition, the Schubert Club Competition, and the Liederkranz Song Competition. For further information, visit

Kathleen Tagg is a South African pianist, composer and producer based in New York. A 2014 South African Music Awards nominee for best classical album, she has performed on four continents and had her work released on NAXOS, Universal, Table Pounding Records, Ossia and Gallo Africa. Her NAXOS recording of Jake Heggie songs with American soprano Regina Zona was released in 2014, and she is currently recording her electro-acoustic project, Breath and Hammer, with Grammy-nominated clarinetist David Krakauer. Kathleen has premiered countless works and holds the Helen Cohn Award as outstanding doctoral graduate of the Manhattan School of Music where she also taught for four years, as well as degrees from Mannes and University of Cape Town. Her recordings and arrangements have been featured in film and television. She was a fellow of the Dramatist Guild and her musical, Erika’s Wall, co-written with Sophie Jaff, was produced by The Music Theater Company of Chicago.



SongFest wishes to express its sincere gratitude to The Sorel Organization and Judy Cope, Executive Director, for the generous support which not only made this recording possible but also provided the funds for the commissions of works by William Bolcom (poem by Jane Kenyon), Gabriela Lena Frank, and Libby Larsen featured on this CD. Thank you for all you do to expand opportunities for women in music!

A special thank-you to Yamaha Artists Services: Bonnie Barrett, Director, and Hilary Jansen, Artist and Media Relations Manager, for providing the exceptional Yamaha CFX piano and the excellent recording space at the Yamaha Salon in New York City. Art song performance is about intimate musical collaboration between singer and pianist, and the outstanding quality of the piano has made a major difference for the artistic quality of this recording. Thank you for your support of artists, art song, and the music of our time!

Engineer and producer: Adam Abeshouse
Recorded at Yamaha Artists Services, New York on September 15-21, 2014
Piano: Yamaha CFX
Artwork and design: Nick Stone



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