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Will Liverman, baritone
Myra Huang, piano

Sunday March 24, 2024 at 3:00pm

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Sunday March 24, 2024 at 3:00pm

Hailed as “a voice for this historic moment” by The Washington Post, baritone Will Liverman is one of the most exciting and versatile singers today. Following his “breakout performance” (New York Times) opening the Met’s 2021–22 season in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones (which won the 2023 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording) he returned this Fall to star in Anthony Davis’ X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. Secure yourself a front-row seat to feel the power and beauty of Liverman’s voice in his Caramoor debut recital.  


Michael Ippolito: The Long Year
William Grant Still: Grief
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Selections from Songs of Travel
1. “The Vagabond”
2. “Let Beauty Awake”
3. “The Roadside Fire”
4. “You and Love”
5. “In Dreams”
6. “The Infinite Shining Heavens”
7. “Whither Must I Wander”
8. “Bright is the Ring of Words”
Four Spirituals
Ain’t Got Time to Die (arr. Hall Johnson)
There is a Balm in Gilead (arr. Damien Sneed)
Steal Away (arr. Shawn E. Okpebholo)
He’ll Bring it to Pass (arr. John Joubert)
Gabriel Fauré: Fleur jetée, Op. 39, No. 2
Franz Schubert: An die Leier, D. 737     
Carl Loewe: Erlkönig, Op. 1, No. 3   
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Sud’ba, Op. 21, No. 1  

…one of the most versatile singing artists performing today, being equally skilled in classical repertoire and less mainstream works…

About the Program

The Long Year

Michael Ippolito’s moving song cycle The Long Year is dedicated to Will Liverman and was premiered by him at the Kennedy Center in 2022. A confessed bookworm, Ippolito here chose seven provocative poems by American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry), which describe scenes of nature through the year’s four seasons. 

Though he also writes chamber and orchestral music, Ippolito is particularly attracted to vocal music, in which he can combine his dual loves of literature and music. 

Currently an associate professor of composition at Texas State University, Ippolito is a graduate of the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and holds a Ph.D. in composition from The Juilliard School, where he studied with renowned composer John Corigliano. He has received commissions from numerous organizations, including Carnegie Hall, Chamber Music America, The Florida Orchestra, and Vocal Arts DC.

Here is Ippolito’s note on The Long Year:

The Long Year is a set of seven songs to poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950). On the surface, this set is simply a collection of seasonal nature poems, arranged according to a calendar year (starting with winter, moving through spring, summer, and fall, and ending with winter). But beneath the surface, something seems to be wrong with the state of nature in these poems, or humanity’s relationship to the natural world. While Millay wrote these words in the first part of the twentieth century, I couldn’t help reading our current climate collapse into these texts. Through that lens, these songs express my own longing for a return to a right relationship with the landscape, and other living beings, and with the weather and the progression of the seasons, but also my awareness that this relationship is irretrievably lost. The Long Year resides in this state of longing for something you know is gone forever.

Millay’s poems indeed seem to convey more emotional power in our own time than when she wrote them nearly a century ago. The reality of climate change makes the childlike “Spring Song” about a long-delayed Spring season seem more menacing; the song’s last lines — “We shall hardly notice in a year or two/You can get accustomed to anything” — are painfully true. Also chilling is “If still your orchards bear” in which Millay imagines what a man born 10,000 years from now will see and experience in a world that may not have orchards anymore. 

Mortality and the fear of death also hover in the background of many songs, especially in “The Oak Leaves,” when a single leaf battles against being the last to fall. Ippolito’s remarkable accompaniment here features icy ripples at the top of the piano’s range, which at the end shoot catastrophically down into the piano’s depths. Throughout the cycle, the composer puts maximum emphasis on the clarity and meaning of the words, with natural speech rhythms never obscured by the accompaniment. In the final song, “The Buck in the Snow,” the piano steps away entirely at beginning and end as the singer mourns the beautiful buck lying dead in the snow.


Though prejudice limited his opportunities, William Grant Still was able to break through many barriers confronting African American musicians. In his long and distinguished career, he became the first Black American to conduct a major orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major company, and one of the pioneers in writing for films, radio, and television.

Written in Los Angeles in 1953, “Grief” was one of Still’s few classical art songs; its text was written by LeRoy V. Brant. As Still remembered, “Brant was accompanying … a music student to a local cemetery, where he saw a … statue of an angel with his head down, enclosed in his arms, weeping. The statue inspired Brant, who wrote the lyrics as a poem, which he sent to Still, who set it to music.” The song opens with an almost monotone vocal line sung over tolling–bell chords. Midway through, the singer suddenly breaks free in an impassioned melody, commanding the angel to “silence your wailing.” However, the music closes as it began, paralyzed by the weight of grief.

Selections from Songs of Travel

In 1904 when he published his cycle Songs of Travel on poems by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894), Ralph Vaughan Williams was just at the beginning of his career. Some observers were still inclined to dismiss him — a scion of the wealthy Wedgwood clan that founded the famous pottery — as a musical amateur. That year, he began his celebrated editorial work on the new English Hymnal and also was busy roaming the English countryside collecting folk songs. The Songs of Travel showed he was no amateur and pointed the way to the greatness that was to come.

Because he was already spending so much time on the road himself, these poems by Stevenson — who despite chronic ill health was an indefatigable traveler and died at age 44 on the South Pacific island of Samoa — undoubtedly held a special appeal to Vaughan Williams. A prolific poet as well as novelist, Stevenson wrote his Songs of Travel collection on Samoa about a year before his death. They combine both a youthful energy and a profound sense of mortality. And they embody tension between the allure of a life of independence on the open road and the yearning for the remembered pleasures of hearth and home.

Set to a firm tramping beat, “The Vagabond” initially has a confident and positive quality. However, the little hesitancy appearing in the last line of each strophe suggests the emotional conflict between lonely freedom and the security of love left behind. Shimmering arpeggios propel the quietly ecstatic “Let Beauty Awake,” which praises the two loveliest moments of the day, sunrise and sunset.

As he rests by “The Roadside Fire,” the traveler thinks of the girl left behind and fantasizes that she is with him, sharing in the pleasures of the road. The happy rush of the song’s beginning expands into a love song in a distant key that carries him far away from his lonely state. 

The composer’s harmonic choices for “Youth and Love” shade this verse about the powerful attraction of taking to the road for a very young man. The key is G major, but from the piano’s first chords, its triad is presented in an unstable position that subtly captures the youth’s restlessness. The key also fluctuates between major and minor as he wrestles between leaving and staying back with his girl.

Set over the off-the-beat ticking of time passing away, “In Dreams” intensifies the anguish of being alone. Chromatism and restless modulations express the traveler’s fears she has forgotten him. But to a wistful phrase echoed by the piano, he admits he has not forgotten her. Consolation comes in the sixth song, “The Infinite Shining Heavens,” as the traveler gazes at the night sky. The piano’s slow, entranced progression of chords, some rolled so they shimmer, describes the grandeur and mystery of those distant celestial bodies.

Composed three years earlier than the other songs, “Whither must I wander” broadens the theme of regret. Stevenson had become estranged from his parents in Edinburgh, and the composer pays tribute to those local references with a lovely, undulating melody based on the Scottish folksong “Wandering Willie.” 

The most popular of these songs is “Bright is the Ring of Words,” which ponders the immortality of verse and song that will outlast the life of their maker. It opens with the grand descending line of the melody Vaughan Williams chose for his majestic hymn “For All the Saints,” which would become one of his thematic signatures. 

Four Spirituals

In The Music of Black Americans, Eileen Southern eloquently sums up the role of music in the lives of enslaved African Americans: “Music was a primary form of communication for the slaves, just as it had been for their African forebears. Through the medium of song, the slave could comment on his problems and savor the few pleasures allowed him; he could voice his despair and his hopes, and assert his humanity in an environment that constantly denied his humanness.”

Today, the religiously inspired songs of the enslaved are known as “spirituals.” The term may have had its origin in the hymnal A Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs from Various Authors published in 1801 in Philadelphia by the African American Methodist minister Richard Allen.

Sunday was the only day of rest for enslaved African Americans, and it became a time for worship and music. Although many owners forbade them to hold religious services, the enslaved managed to worship regularly, meeting after midnight on Saturday night or very early in the morning Sunday before their masters were up. They refashioned traditional white hymns with new tunes and words, transforming them into their own spirituals. And often these words incorporated coded messages about their yearning for freedom.

Attributed to the famed choral conductor Hall Johnson (1888–1970), “Ain’t Got Time to Die” is a vigorous, highly rhythmic spiritual originally scored for soloist and chorus. Its music reflects the energy of the believer, who is so busy serving and praising Jesus that he “ain’t got time to die.” The peaceful “There is a Balm in Gilead” is a spiritual written sometime in the 19th century by an unknown composer. Liverman will sing a modernized arrangement with a beautiful piano meditation by Damien Sneed. The phrase “balm in Gilead” comes from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, in which it referred to Israel’s need for spiritual healing; here it extolls Jesus as a physician who can heal the soul. 

The beloved spiritual “Steal Away” is an example of an encoded song, in which the words “Steal Away to Jesus” express the slave’s desire to escape from the plantation that imprisons him. It was written sometime in the mid-19th century by Wallace Willis, who had indeed escaped slavery and joined the Choctaw tribe in Oklahoma. This spiritual and several others by Willis were passed on to the famed Jubilee Singers, who brought it worldwide fame. The arrangement is by Shawn Okpebholo.

The final traditional spiritual, “He’ll Bring it to Pass,” is a joyous, up-tempo song calling on believers to put their full trust in their Savior, who will bring to pass whatever they require. We’ll hear it in a zesty arrangement by famed pianist, composer, arranger, and Broadway conductor Joseph Joubert.

Four Songs

No other composer shaped and enriched the French song tradition more skillfully than Gabriel Fauré, who composed some 100 melodies over the course of his long career. Beginning with songs of lush lyricism, he progressively refined and pared his approach to songwriting until by his last collections everything was subordinated to the subtlest, most perfect declamation of the word and its emotional weight. However, the song Liverman has chosen, “Fleur jetée” written in 1884 to verse by Armand Silvestre, is extremely atypical of Fauré’s usually restrained style in its unbridled passion as well as for its use of the voice in full-throttle operatic splendor. The piano’s virtuoso fury portrays the fierce wind carrying away the despised flower as well as the anger of the spurned lover.

Though unfortunate in the shortness of his life, Franz Schubert was fortunate indeed to have been born into an era ripe for his particular literary/musical genius. The early 19th century saw an explosion of German poetry as the Romantic movement captivated its first generation. Schubert himself moved in an artistic circle that included far more poets than musicians, and he even tried his own hand at poetry. Besides the famous evenings when he played his music to his friends, he also experienced the white-hot intensity of their own creative efforts as they read aloud their latest verse. 

One of these poets, the wealthy German nobleman  Franz von Bruchmann, joined Schubert’s circle in the early 1820s and threw open his home to host the legendary Schubertiads unveiling the composer’s latest pieces. And undoubtedly that was where von Bruchmann’s poem “An die Leier” (“To the Lyre”) in Schubert’s dramatic setting first appeared. Here, the poet freely translated verses by Anacreon, a sixth-century B.C. Greek poet. The singer tuning up his lyre wishes to sing of the heroic deeds of ancient Greek warriors, but the strings will only play songs of love. Schubert uses two different musical styles to express this dichotomy. First the piano fiercely attacks dissonant chords and arpeggios summoning warlike scenes, and the singer responds with a harsh recitative. But this gradually fades away, and the singer launches into his love song: a warm, lyrical melody firmly rooted in the key of E-flat major.

Inspired by a Danish legend, the spooky ballad “Erlkönig,” was written by Goethe in 1782 for a singspiel or play with songs for the Weimar court. This tale of a father riding home at night with his young child who is being tormented by the supernatural king of the fairies that he alone can see, quickly caught on with composers and has received approximately 100 different settings, of which Schubert’s is the most famous. Liverman, however, has chosen a setting by the German Carl Loewe (1796–1869), which also deserves hearing. 

Schubert wrote his “Erlkönig” in 1815 when he was only 17; Loewe created his version a few years later in 1817/18, but had not yet heard Schubert’s song. While Schubert’s setting is terrifying from its very first notes, Loewe takes a quieter, more subtle approach, opening with an eerie portrayal of the misty night. That uncanny atmosphere continues in the lines for the Erlkönig, always sung in a seductive pianissimo in a series of arpeggios rather than a true melody. The father seems calm at first, and the riding motives in the piano are muffled. However, Loewe builds the drama inexorably as the riding accompaniment grows more urgent and dominates the terrifying denouement. 

Though his chosen instrument, the piano, is categorized as a percussion instrument, Sergei Rachmaninoff became one of music’s most inspired melodists, as lovers of his piano concertos can readily attest. And alongside his instrumental works, he poured his lyrical gift into some 80 songs, whose popularity is only limited by their being in the Russian language. 

During the summer of 1899, Rachmaninoff at age 26 wrote the dramatic song “Sud’ba” (“Fate”) to words by Alexey Apukhtin; he would not publish it until 1902 when it opened the Twelve Songs of opus 21. It was premiered in 1900 in Moscow by the great basso Fyodor Chaliapin with Rachmaninoff accompanying; the audience demanded an encore. This is a piece that requires not simply a good singer, but a powerful actor to achieve its full power. The composer had the clever idea of using Beethoven’s famous four-note “Fate knocks at the door” theme to propel the music and the story. Fate here is embodied as an old, gray-haired lady who knocks with her walking stick to announce bad news, even death to those who dwell in happiness. In the final scene, the composer uses his patented lush lyricism to portray a scene between two young lovers, but even that is ultimately crushed by Fate.

— Janet E. Bedell 

Janet E. Bedell is a program annotator and feature writer who writes for Carnegie Hall, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Cal Performances at the University of California-Berkeley, and other music organizations. 

About the Artists

Will Liverman, baritone

Called “a voice for this historic moment” (Washington Post), Grammy Award-winning baritone Will Liverman is the recipient of the 2022 Beverly Sills Artist Award and the co-creator of The Factotum – “mic-drop fabulous good” (Opera News) – which premiered at the Lyric Opera Chicago in 2023. 

This season Liverman returns to the Metropolitan Opera in the title role of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. He was previously seen at the Met opening its 2021-22 season in a celebrated “breakout performance” (New York Times) as Charles in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones, which won the 2023 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. 

Liverman’s 2023-24 season further includes productions with Opera Philadelphia for the world premiere of Rene Orth’s 10 Days in a Madhouse and the Met Opera for Roméo et Juliette. In concert, he joins the Lexington Philharmonic for the orchestrated world premiere of Shawn E. Okpebholo’s Two Black Churches, Houston Symphony’s Carmina Burana, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for Brahms’ A German Requiem, and The Washington Chorus’ Elijah Reimagined, plus Dayton Opera and Cincinnati Song Initiative for vocal recitals. He serves as Artistic Advisor for Renée Fleming’s SongStudio at Carnegie Hall. 

Cedille Records released Liverman’s Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers with pianist Paul Sanchez in February 2021. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Traditional Classical chart and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. 

Liverman is an alumnus of the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and was a Glimmerglass Festival Young Artist. He holds a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School and a Bachelor of Music degree from Wheaton College in Illinois. 

To learn more about Will Liverman, please visit willliverman.com. 

Myra Huang, piano

Acclaimed by Opera News as being “among the top accompanists of her generation” and “…a colouristic tour de force” by The New York Times, Grammy Award-nominated pianist Myra Huang has established herself as one of the leading recitalists in art song recital in the U.S. Huang is invited regularly to perform around the world, with tours including regular appearances at Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, The Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center, The Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Kennedy Center, and The 92nd Street Y. Huang was chosen as the recipient of The Samuel Sanders Collaborative Artist Award for 2019 by The Classical Recording Foundation for her consummate artistry. Regular collaborations include recitals with Fleur Barron, J’Nai Bridges, Lawrence Brownlee, Sasha Cooke, Ying Fang, Joshua Hopkins, Will Liverman, Angela Meade, John Matthew Myers, Eric Owens, Nicholas Phan, Susanna Phillips, Roderick Williams, and Anthony McGill. 

Huang holds the positions of the Head of Music for the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at The Metropolitan Opera, The Director of Musical Administration and Head Coach at The Aspen Music Festival, and faculty of the Collaborative Piano Department at The Manhattan School of Music, where she mentors and supports young opera singers and pianists of the next generation. She regularly adjudicates national competitions including the Laffont Competition at The Metropolitan Opera, as well as administers masterclasses at institutions across the country. 

Huang is an avid recitalist and recording artist. She is a two-time Grammy nominee for her album Gods and Monsters on the Avie label. Huang is a Steinway Artist.