Music for the Soul Program

March 26, 2022 •  Cynthia Powell, Artistic Director • Eric Sedgwick, Pianist

with Deanna Witkowski, jazz pianist and her trio Tony DePaolis, double bass, Diego Voglino, drums

 

Welcome to Music for the Soul!

 

Welcome to the second concert of the Stonewall Chorale's 45th season, Mary Lou Williams: Music for the Soul. Our program tonight features compositions by Williams and by Margaret Bonds, as we celebrate Black female composers whose works deserve greater exposure on our concert stages. Here we sing in a jazz idiom that stretches us past our usual traditional choral music, and we are delighted to perform works by our guest artist, the celebrated pianist, composer, and Mary Lou Williams scholar Deanna Witkowski. Deanna and her trio will also accompany us in Mary Lou’s Mass for the Lenten Season, which tonight receives its first concert performance in the U.S. 

 

We continue to deal with the realities of choral concert production in the time of this pandemic. Negotiating our safety and yours as infection levels drop results in our continued masking at this time, and those unmasked on our concert stage have been tested immediately prior to this performance. 

 

We were heartened by our audience's return at our sold-out December 2021 concert, the first of this season and our return to in-person performance since December 2019, and we are happy to see all of you here tonight, safely masked but present nonetheless. Our March 2020 concert was canceled the week before as the pervasive breadth of  the pandemic was becoming apparent, and last December's concert was one of the last locally before the upswing in infections caused performances to shut down temporarily again. Throughout these uncertainties, the Stonewall Chorale has continued to function with the valued assistance of our Covid Committee, which keeps us operating within the best epidemiological practice. We appreciate your presence here and value your safety as well as our own in our breath-borne medium.  

 

We hope you enjoy tonight's foray into jazz repertoire. We look forward to seeing you again on June 9 for the rousing finale of our 45th season, Curtain Up: Showstopper Choruses from Opera to Broadway

 

Michael Conwill, Board President

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Texts & Translations

The Negro Speaks of Rivers (Langston Hughes) | Margaret Bonds

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

 

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

 

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

—Langston Hughes, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" from The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Copyright © 2002 by Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates, Inc.

 

​Where the Mind is Without Fear (Rabindranath Tagore) | Deanna Witkowski

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

—© by owner. Provided at no charge for educational purposes

Mass for the Lenten Season (U.S. concert premiere) | Mary Lou Williams

​Entrance Song: “Clean My Heart” 

Truth is what you love in a man’s heart

In the secret of my heart, teach me wisdom.

Do not drive me out of your sight,

Do not take away from me your holy spirit.

 

Clean my heart, O Lord, make it over,

Give me a new spirit, a strong spirit.

 

Rescue me, O God, my helper;

And my tongue will sing about your goodness.

Open my lips and free me,

And my mouth shall declare your praise.

 

Clean my heart, O Lord …

 

Kyrie: “Lord, Have Mercy”

For our lack of hope

Lord, have mercy,

For our lack of faith,

Lord, have mercy,

For our failure to care, 

Lord, have mercy.

 

For letting ourselves be paralyzed with fear;

Christ, have mercy.

For our divisions,

Christ, have mercy.

For our jealousies,

Christ, have mercy. 

 

For our hatred,

Lord, have mercy,

For not being peacemakers,

Lord, have mercy,

For our lies,

Lord, have mercy on my soul.

 

Gradual: The Lord is My Light

Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fear.

Though war break out against me, even then will I trust.

 

The Lord is my light and my helper, why should I be afraid?

 

Do not leave me all alone Lord, o my God, be my helper;

Though father and mother abandon me, the Lord will receive me.

 

The Lord is my light….

 

I am sure that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living,

Hope in him, hold firm and take heart, hope in the Lord. 

 

The Lord is my light….

 

Turn Aside/Sanctus

Turn aside from evil and do good; seek and strive after peace.

 

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, 

Heaven and earth are filled with your glory,

Hosanna in the highest.

 

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;

Hosanna in the highest.

 

The Anamnesis

Dying, you destroyed our death, rising, you restored our life;

We will sing of you til you are seen by all the world.

 

Amen 

Glory to God, through Jesus Christ. Amen

 

Lamb of God

Lamb of God, who take away the sin of the world.

Have mercy on us.

 

Lamb of God, who take away the sin of the world.

Grant us peace. 

 

Communion Song

Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here my brother would not have died; even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will grant you.”  Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again. I am the resurrection and the life and he who believes in me will never die.”

 

Jesus saw Mary and her companions weeping; he was greatly moved. “Where have you laid him?” he asked, and they replied, “Come and see.” And Jesus wept.

“I am the resurrection and the life and he who believes in me will never die.”

 

Tell Him Not to Talk Too Long (arr: Carmen Lundy) | Mary Lou Williams

If you’re around when I meet my day…don’t want a long funeral, and if somebody delivers the eulogy, tell ‘em not to talk too long.

 

Just say I tried to feed the hungry, tried to love somebody, If you’re around when I meet my day…tell ‘em not to talk too long.

 

Put my casket on an old wagon drawn by two fine mules. Bury me in my hometown, Atlanta, Georgia -  tell ‘em not to talk too long. 

—from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘Drum Major’ Sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, on February 4, 1968

I Have a Dream (arr: Carmen Lundy) | Mary Lou Williams

I have a dream, yes, a dream.

Listen, O Lord, when I pray, my people shall be free!

Here will be love, from North to South, from mountain top! Let freedom ring!

We shall be free!

—Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963

 
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Program Notes

 

The Negro Speaks of Rivers | Notes by Deb Reiner, adapted from William O'Hara and Penelope Peters

Words by Langston Hughes (1902-1967) | Music by Margaret Bonds (1913-1972)

 

Margaret Bonds was an African-American 20th-century composer from Chicago, Illinois. She attended Northwestern University, where she earned both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Music before studying Composition at Juilliard. Some of her most famous works were interpretations of poems by Langston Hughes. Bonds discovered Hughes’ poetry while she was an undergraduate at the deeply segregated Northwestern, and felt a powerful connection to it; the two met in 1936, and they developed a lifelong friendship and collaborative relationship.

 

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” was Hughes' first published poem; written in the first-person, it chronicles the history and migration of black people across the globe, from the River Euphrates ca. 3000 B.C.E. to the Mississippi River early in the 20th century. Bonds' setting makes use of a single motif, shifting from major to minor tonalities based on the nature of the memory; the overall image is that of a common river flowing through different geographic regions as well as eras in time. 

 

In the opening section, the piano introduces the melody, and accompanies the vocalists without a change of intensity; after a break from the motif, it then returns in a modified form. The line about the Euphrates contains the highest note in the piece on the word “dawns” - this is immediately contrasted in the next line, which depicts how the Congo “lulled me to sleep” by resting on the tonic and fading to complete silence at the end of the line. After a short pause, the piano accompaniment returns to the initial motif; when the vocals resume, the chorus is in unison, holding the same note on each word. This tension is broken when the singers move to the tonic on the word "Nile," then modulate into harmony for the phrase "raised the Pyramids." The next sequence has a jazzy, ragtime feel, evoking an antebellum cakewalk for the Mississippi with a reference to Abe Lincoln and New Orleans. The piece concludes by returning to the original melody, both contemplative and world-weary. 

 

Bonds' composition reflects both Hughes’ pride in the African diaspora and his deep reflection on its extraordinary but dark past. Their artistic partnership remains a shining example of Black excellence in the arts.

PROGRAM NOTES by Deanna Witkowski

Jazz pianist-composer Mary Lou Williams (1910-81) was born in Atlanta and grew up in Pittsburgh. From the age of fourteen, she began traveling as a professional musician, eventually becoming the star arranger and pianist of Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy, a Kansas City-based early swing band. After twelve years with Kirk, Williams made her mark as a soloist in her own right, leading trios and quartets in her new home of New York City. One of her most important pieces and recordings from this period, the Zodiac Suite, was inducted into the 2019 Grammy Hall of Fame. After living in Europe from 1952-54, Williams returned to New York where she converted her Harlem apartment into a halfway house for musicians who struggled with drug addiction. In 1957, Williams converted to Catholicism after a three-year, self-imposed hiatus from public performance, during which time she began a spiritual search in earnest. Composing sacred music in the 1960s and 1970s, Williams’s original compositions include three jazz Masses. From 1977-1981, Williams taught history of jazz classes as an artist-in-residence at Duke University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Throughout her music, she lived out her passionate mantra that “jazz is healing to the soul.”

 

Mary Lou Williams’s three jazz Masses

Williams’s first of three Masses, an untitled work known as the Pittsburgh Mass, was premiered on July 26, 1967 in a public liturgy at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Sponsored by the Catholic Youth Organizations’s Summer School of Christian Apostolate with Bishop John J. Wright as the celebrant, Mary premiered the work with a choir of thirteen girls from Elizabeth Seton High School in Pittsburgh’s Brookline neighborhood, where she had been working as a guest teacher. In a Pittsburgh Catholic preview, Mary explained that she tried to capture in the Mass “the way I feel when I’m praying.”[1]
 

Williams’ second Mass, Mass for the Lenten Season, was written in 1968 for Saint Thomas the Apostle Church in Harlem. The work was sung weekly over the course of six Sundays in Lent. Three nights before Mary’s final liturgy on Palm Sunday, every television and radio in the country broadcast the shocking news that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated. Mary responded immediately to Dr. King’s death by writing two pieces that she taught to the St. Thomas youth choir, “Tell Him Not to Talk Too Long” and “I Have a Dream." She performed her Lenten Mass in Rome in 1969 with a choir of seminarians at the Pontifical Latin American College.

 

While in Rome, Mary received a commission from the newly formed Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace to compose a votive Mass for peace and justice. This Mass, originally titled Mass for Peace (1970), was rechristened as Mary Lou’s Mass by Alvin Ailey on the collaboration of the two artists in 1971. On February 18, 1975, Williams performed Mary Lou’s Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York for an overflow assembly of 3000 people.

 

Mary Lou’s Mass is well-known—but Williams’s earlier two Masses remain in relative obscurity. Here is an excerpt from my biography, Mary Lou Williams: Music for the Soul that gives the history of Williams’s second Mass, Mass for the Lenten Season.

Adapted from Chapter 8: “Eternal and Everyday (1967-69),” pages 93-98
In October 1967, Mary received a letter from Fr. Robert Ledogar, a Maryknoll priest in upstate New York. Ledogar was a new appointee to the Music Advisory Board, a national committee that sought to provide resources for parish musicians in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). With the Mass now being celebrated in English, rather than in Latin, local church music directors needed new music that would allow for the full participation of their congregations.

 

Working with a group of Harlem Catholic parishes to commission a series of seasonal Masses by local African American composers, Fr. Ledogar approached Mary about writing a Mass setting for Lent. The Masses were to be a part of a series of “experiments in Sunday worship of a more contemporary style”[2] to take place at St. Thomas the Apostle Church on West 118th Street.

 

Excited by the prospect of writing a new Mass to be sung for all six Sundays of Lent, Mary readily agreed to write the second Mass in the series. After meeting in person, Fr. Ledogar sent Scripture text for Mary to consider as a starting point, writing, “I hope you take them as ideas to work with, not as something that can’t be changed . . . The most important thing is to have parts that the people can all sing, that can be taught to them in a few minutes without their having to read music.”[3] Ledogar contributed his own text to the Kyrie, adding, “For our lack of hope/for our failure to care/for letting ourselves be paralyzed with fear…”[4] Mary wrote an easy-to-teach setting, with the youth choir singing the new text and the assembly joining in on “Lord, have mercy.”

 

To augment St. Thomas’s youth choir, Mary recruited children from the community center where she taught during the week. She also formed an instrumental sextet including saxophone, flute, guitar, bass, and drums with herself at the organ. Honi Gordon, the vocalist who had sung Mary’s “Our Father” at the 1967 Carnegie Hall concert, Praise the Lord in Many Voices, led the congregation as cantor. 

 

On March 3, 1968, Mass for the Lenten Season premiered at St. Thomas the Apostle with Mary at the organ and Eddie Bonnemère conducting. As evidenced on a homemade recording,  the Psalm 27 setting of “The Lord is my light and my helper/of whom shall I be afraid?” comforts and encourages in a melody that stays in one’s ear and the “Kyrie” with Ledogar’s new text enlivens the assembly cries for God’s mercy. Perhaps most dramatically, Mary’s use of solo voice and acoustic bass on the “Anamnesis" (“dying, you destroyed our death/rising, you restored our life”) with the entire assembly joining in singing the final phrase (“we will sing of you...to all the world”) feels like a resurrection in body, spirit, and community.

 

Three nights before Mary’s final liturgy on Palm Sunday, every television and radio in the country broadcast the shocking news that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day wrote in the Worker’s weekly newspaper of her experience on receiving the news, describing how music—and Mary’s in particular—had helped her: “Always, I think, I will weep when I hear the song, ‘We Shall Overcome,’ and when I read the words, ‘Free at last, great God, free at last.’ But the healing of grief is in those words that I had been hearing sung every Sunday at the Church of the St. Thomas the Apostle, in the Mass composed by Mary Lou Williams, herself a Black composer and jazz musician, herself internationally famous. ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall never die but have life everlasting.’”[5]

 

Mary responded immediately to Dr. King’s death by writing two pieces that she taught to the St. Thomas youth choir. “Tell Him Not to Talk Too Long” sets a portion of King’s February 4, 1968, sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Mary’s birthplace of Atlanta. Mary only slightly paraphrases King’s original speech in the first verse: “If you’re around when I meet my day/don’t want a long funeral/and if somebody delivers the eulogy/tell him not to talk too long. Just say I tried to feed the hungry/tried to love somebody/If you’re around when I meet my day/tell him not to talk too long.”[6] The blues-inflected song contrasts with the jazz waltz feel of “I Have a Dream,” based on a portion of King’s famous speech from the 1963 March on Washington. Day invited Mary to share her musical tribute the following July at the annual Pax conference held at the Catholic Worker Farm in Tivoli, New York.

 

Two days after Easter Sunday, Mary wrote to Day from Pittsburgh, saying that she was taking “a breathing spell.”[7] But Mary never rested for long. She now expressed her desire to do a concert for the Pope. She had been trying to find a way to get her Lenten Mass performed in Rome, writing to her close friend, Br. Mario Hancock for assistance. A Franciscan Friar of the Atonement, Br. Mario was one of the first Black male religious that Mary had met on a visit to Greymoor in Garrison, New York. Br. Mario had recently been transferred to Rome, where he worked with seminarians at the North American College. While he assured Mary that he could form a choir of seminarians to sing the Mass, Br. Mario explained that an audience with the Pope would probably be impossible. But with her typical determination, Mary worked on lining up gigs in Copenhagen, figuring that if she could get herself to Denmark it would only be a short matter of time before she could travel to Rome and have her Mass performed there.

           

Adapted from Chapter 9: “A Musical Contemplative (1968-74),” pages 104-105

Mary’s tenacity paid off: in October 1967, she performed an extended engagement at Baron Timme Rosenkrantz’s new club in Copenhagen. After remaining in Copenhagen for several months, Mary boarded a train to Rome, where Br. Mario introduced her to the abbot general of the Benedictines, Fr. Rembert Weakland, OSB, a Juilliard-trained pianist who was one of the key players in the implementation of liturgical music reform after Vatican II. Fr. Weakland shared another connection with Mary: he was from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, just forty miles east of Pittsburgh. He was also a colleague of Fr. Bob Ledogar: both were on the Music Advisory Board, the committee that had drafted the Place of Music in Eucharistic Celebrations in 1968.

 

Weakland organized a tribute Mass for Martin Luther King Jr. to feature Mary performing her Mass for the Lenten Season at the Pontifical Latin American College. The event was publicized heavily, and over fifty television and newspaper reporters came to cover the liturgy. But the evening before the service, Weakland informed Mary that she would have to perform the music as a post-Mass concert. The sudden change had occurred after a conversation between Weakland and Cardinal Angelo Dell’Acqua, vicar general for Rome. Dell’Acqua was opposed to the use of drums and canceled the jazz Mass. The irony is that Mary had planned to use bongos, a hand percussion instrument with much less sound than a standard drum kit, and was not asked if she would consider omitting the instrument for this particular liturgy.

 

Just prior to the Mass, Weakland announced to the assembly of mostly Americans that “unexpected interest from the scores of newsmen who filled the modern circular chapel . . . made it necessary to have the music played after the Mass was complete.” He also said that it had been his decision to have the music performed separately “as an examination of conscience to know whether we have really come here to hear Mass or hear a jazz concert.”[8] But anyone who had followed Weakland’s work knew of his strong support for experimenting with different musical styles in the liturgy. The sudden change was a blow to Mary, though she shrugged off the press in her usual manner, replying to inquiries from reporters that she was not hurt by the decision. But she was. Several months later when Mary read an article saying that Cardinal Dell’Acqua was pro jazz Masses, she complained that “everything is jazz now—and everybody receives recognition ‘cept us.”[9]

 

Even with the last minute setback, Mary’s concert was an overwhelming success. Along with a student guitarist, bassist, and bongo player, Mary accompanied a choir of thirty seminarians from the colleges of North American, Propaganda Fide, and St. Anselm. Titled “Jazz for the Soul,” the performance featured the full Mass for the Lenten Season as well as “Tell Him Not to Talk Too Long,” Mary’s Martin Luther King Jr. tribute. The following day newspapers worldwide reported on Mary’s blues-informed setting of Dr. King’s words as well as Weakland’s reaction: “Weakland was smiling broadly and repeated several times, ‘I am very pleased.’ . . . When asked if he would consider doing the same thing in the future, he laughed and said: ‘If we do, we won’t let anybody know about it.’”[10] And Mary said, “I would have liked to play my music at the Mass but I understand the way it is.”[11]

 

Two days later, Mary visited the Vatican in a semi-private audience with Pope Paul VI, who gave her a blessing and a rosary. Seizing her chance, Mary “blurted out that I’d like to do a concert for him. He almost blushed and smiled like a little boy, but nothing said.”[12] While a concert for the pope never occurred, Mary performed twice on Vatican Radio, playing her two Martin Luther King Jr. tribute pieces with the North American seminarians in February, and giving a solo interview/performance in April just prior to leaving Rome.

 

Excerpts from Mary Lou Williams: Music for the Soul included by permission of the author. © 2021 Deanna Witkowski. Published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Where the Mind is Without Fear

Finalist, 2018 18th Street Singers Choral Composition Competition

 

One of India’s most quoted poems, “Where the Mind is Without Fear” was originally written in Bengali under the title “Prarthana” (“prayer”) as part of Rabindranath Tagore’s 1901 volume, Naibedya (Offering). Tagore subsequently translated the poem into English and included it as poem 35 in his 1913 Nobel Prize-winning poetry collection, Gitanjali (Song Offerings).

 

The poem speaks of a “heaven of freedom” where truth and knowledge govern one’s thoughts, words, and actions. In our own time where fear, division, and not knowing what is true permeate our society, Tagore’s plea for his country’s awakening can become our own.

 

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action;

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

—From Gitanjali (1913). In the public domain.

 

[1] “SSCA Mass Will Feature Subtle New Jazz Music,” Pittsburgh Catholic, Vol. 115, no. 20 (July 20, 1967): 9.

[2] Mary Lou Williams Collection (IJS 0119), MC 60, Fr. Bob Ledogar, Subseries 3D: Correspondence with Religious, Box 20, Folder 8, Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ.

[3] Williams Collection, Fr. Ledogar.

[4] Mary Lou Williams and Fr. Robert Ledogar, “Kyrie,” from Mass for the Lenten Season, 1968.

[5] Dorothy Day, “On Pilgrimage,” Catholic Worker (April 1968): 1.

[6] Mary Lou Williams, “Tell Him Not to Talk Too Long,” as recorded on Mary Lou’s Mass, Mary Records, 1975; re-released on Smithsonian Folkways, 2005.

[7] Letter from Williams to Day, April 16, 1968, Dorothy Day-Catholic Worker Collections, Series D-1, Folder 6, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI.

[8] Louis Panarale, “TV Cameras Upset Plans for Jazz Mass,” NC News Service (foreign) issued by the Press Department, U.S. Catholic Conference (February 3, 1969): 15.

[9] Williams Collection, Br. Hancock.

[10] Panarale, “TV Cameras Upset Plans for Jazz Mass,”15/

[11] Panarale, 15.

[12] Mary Lou Williams, quoted in Linda Dahl, Morning Glory: A Biography of Mary Lou Williams (New York: Pantheon Books, 1999), 306. Used by permission of Linda Dahl.

 
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The Stonewall Chorale

Soprano: Suzanne Cohen*, Jeanne Fahrenbach, Julia Feikens, Larissa Flint**+, Kaila Galinat*, Joan Gardner*, Rachel Oladimeji, Deb Reiner, Sarah Rhoads*, Lyndsey Richardson, Ann Sweeney, Isabel Taswell*, Joyce Weinstein, Deb Woolridge

 

Alto: Alva Bostick, Erin Clancy, Nicola d'Alessandro*, Stephanie Heintzeler, Frank Hightower*, Siobahn Hotaling, Grace Lazos, Elana Leifer, Shay Li*, Cecelia Martin*, Emily McSpadden+, Marina Mulé, Lisa Reeves, Maya Sariahmed, Katherine Silva, Gwendolyn Stegall+, Susan Strickler, Jan Thompson, Janet Zaleon**, Ellen Zimmerli

 

Tenor: Jose Cuevas, David Fanger**, Tae Hassoun, Donald Johnston, John Kennedy, Samuel Lerma*, Debbie Mincer+, Bernie Mulvaney*, Scott Munson, Manuel Ovando*, Christina Richards, Gilbert Robinson, John Swedenburg, Taronté Venable+

 

Bass: John Barrow, Michael Conwill**+, Marsh Dredge, Eric Goldsborough*, John-Charles Kelly, Eric Manlapig, Kyle O'Connor*, Max Rodriguez++, Steve Vasta

* 21-22 season member is on leave for this concert

** Section Leader

+ Board Member

++ Guest artist from Lavender Light

 

 
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Artist Bios

CYNTHIA POWELLConductor and Artistic Director, celebrates her 19th season with the Stonewall Chorale.  A graduate of Westminster Choir College, she has worked with many musical groups in the NY metropolitan area and has conducted major works for chorus and orchestra. She has served on the guest faculty at Sarah Lawrence College, led the St. George's Choral Society in NYC, and was a guest conductor at the International Choral Festival in Havana, Cuba. She is also the Artistic Director of Melodia Women’s Choir, and currently serves as Organist/Choirmaster of Temple Sinai in Tenafly, NJ. Her passion for music and commitment to the choral art is coupled with a desire to generate awareness and funds for timely causes, and she has produced recitals, oratorios and concerts to benefit Bailey House, a homeless residence for people with AIDS, for Doctors Without Borders, the Pastors for Peace Cuba Caravan, and Water is Life, Kenya. 

ERIC SEDGWICK, Pianist, has performed with many of music’s top talents including Leona Mitchell, Sanford Sylvan and Marni Nixon, Broadway leading ladies Sarah Rice, Carole Demas and Debra Monk, and English hornist Thomas Stacy of the New York Philharmonic. A frequent performer and collaborator in the NYC area, he is also a vocal coach at the Manhattan School of Music and the faculty collaborative pianist for the Tanglewood Music Center. He has served as rehearsal pianist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, under the batons of Michael Tilson Thomas, Bramwell Tovey, John Williams and Andris Nelsons. He is a regular pianist for events with the Metropolitan Opera Guild, and has worked for Carnegie Hall’s Music Education Workshops with Joyce DiDonato, as well as for the International Vocal Arts Institutes in New York and Montreal, and for Beth Morrison Projects. For ten years he was the music director for the Junior Opera Theater scenes program at Manhattan School of Music, directed by Catherine Malfitano. On the west coast, he has been a longtime coach and music director for the OperaWorks training program in Los Angeles.

DEANNA WITKOWSKI's new book, Mary Lou Williams: Music for the Soul is a 2022 Jazz Journalists Association Awards nominee for best biography!

Known for her adventurous, engaging music that heals the soul, pianist-composer-vocalist Deanna Witkowski moves with remarkable ease between Brazilian, jazz, classical, and sacred music. The award-winning bandleader releases her seventh recording, Force of Nature (MCG Jazz) in January 2022, a companion piece to her biography, Mary Lou Williams: Music For The Soul (Liturgical Press), published in September 2021. The two projects cap a twenty-year deep dive into the ground-breaking impact of Williams’ life and music, making Witkowski one of the few living authorities on the iconic pianist. As a sought after Williams expert, she has presented at the Kennedy Center, Duke University, Fordham University, and performed Williams’ compositions as a featured guest with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

In concert and on recordings, Witkowski’s explosive performances combine virtuosity and heart, telling stories that reveal her innate curiosity of the human condition. Her albums range from powerhouse arrangements of Cole Porter standards (Wide Open Window; Length of Days) to sparkling trio re-imaginings of traditional hymns (Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns) to solo piano that blurs the lines between Brazilian, jazz, and classical (Raindrop: Improvisations with Chopin). Witkowski has recorded with Grammy nominees John Patitucci, Kate McGarry, and Donny McCaslin, and has performed and toured with renowned vocalists Lizz Wright, Nnenna Freelon, Erin Bode, Filó Machado, and Vanessa Rubin.

Dedicated to bringing communities together through jazz, Witkowski has worked as a guest music leader in over one hundred churches across the United States. Her weekly video series, “Off the Page: Sacred Jazz,” shares practical resources for church musicians  and her jazz hymn arrangements have been purchased by over 500 churches.

A prolific choral composer, Witkowski has won multiple competitions for her concert and sacred works. Commissions and new compositions have been funded by organizations including the New York State Council on the Arts (for her Afro-Brazilian project, the Nossa Senhora Suite) and the Choral Arts Initiative PREMIERE|Project Festival.

Following in the steps of her chosen soul companion and lifelong mentor, Witkowski relocated to Mary Lou Williams’ hometown of Pittsburgh in 2020. She is a second-year doctoral student in jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

TONY DePAOLIS has been playing the bass professionally for more than twenty years. Over the course of his career, he has received wide acclaim for his playing, arrangements, and unique compositional voice. He has shared the stage with Sean Jones, the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, the Boilermaker Jazz Band, Jimmy Ponder, Poogie Bell, Roger Humphries, Eric Kloss, Curtis Fuller, and many others. While he has appeared as a sideman on many recordings, in 2009 he released his debut solo CD, The Contemporary Dynamic, featuring a diverse cross section of the Pittsburgh jazz community. In addition to festival performances in the US, Canada, and Europe, Tony has been involved in several educational outreach programs as a presenter at the Pitt Jazz Seminar, Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University, and West Virginia Wesleyan College. 

 

A drummer and singer based out of Brooklyn since 1999, DIEGO VOGLINO has worked with a wide variety of artists. A partial list of his credits include performing, recording, and/or touring with among many others: Bruce Springsteen, Marshall Crenshaw, Norah Jones, Miley Cyrus, Betty Buckley, Ed Cherry, Seamus Blake, Ben Monder, Natalie Merchant, Don Sebesky, Chris Cheek, David Hidalgo, Scott Sharrard, Kevin Hays, Bruce Barth, and James Hunter.

 
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Sponsorships & Dedications

 

Debbie Mincer, I Have a Dream

That tyranny and hate will be defeated, here and abroad.

Deb Reiner, We Walk in Love

For all those who march for justice.

 
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Donors
 

Charles Abbott & John-Charles Kelly, Marianne Ardito, Susan Bargman, John Barrow, Alyson Ben-David, Jeanne Betancourt, Donald Bickford, Tom Bogdan, the Brode family, Angela Bucknell, Samphas Chhea, Alan Cohn, Aaron Comins, John Cunningham, Stephen and Nola Deutsch, Diane Duckler, Fidelity Charitable, Louis Fifer, MacKenzie Fillow, John Fischer, Marshall Foster, Verene Grigoletto, Louis Harrison, Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP, Stephanie Heintzeler, Roger Hirsch, John Kennedy, Pamela Knight, Beth Knobel, Aaron Koffman, Robin Krause, Becky Kurtz, Jennie LaCovey, Robert Lewis, Virginia Lowery, Tondra and Jeff Lynford, Pamela McAllister, Marjorie McCoy, Arthur McLean, Barbara Merjan, Deborah Mincer, Carolyn Mincer, Debra Monk, Elizabeth Neill, Andrea Newman, William Nye, Manuel Ovando, Alan Pasternack, Geoffrey Proulx, Joyce Pyle, RBC Capital Markets, Deb Reiner, Ellen Reiner, Michael Richardson & Ruthann Richardson, Verdery Roosevelt, Bruce Sandys, Serra Schlanger, Sara Sloan, Ann Sweeney, Twitter, Susan Ullman, Valerie Wald, Lee Warshavsky, Joyce Weinstein, Eric Weis, Jeffrey Whiting, Brooke Wiese, Janet Zaleon, Marilyn Zaleon, Ruthie Zaleon

 
Special Thanks

Deb Reiner, Program Proofreading and Program Notes

Ann Sweeney, Logistics and Contract Support

Michael Ottley, Holy Apostles

Intersections International, Grant Support

Jade Cantwell-Sweeney, Videographer

Colin Taber, Sound Production

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Music for the Soul is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature and administered by LMCC. LMCC serves, connects, and makes space for artists and community.