Before She Became Fire: BCM+D Records Releases World Premiere Recording Showcasing Contemporary American Women Composers
The album features mezzo-soprano Kathryn Leemhuis and pianist Samuel Martin and explores complex themes of life, death and legacy.
WASHINGTON– BCM+D Records, the recording label of Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, released a new piano/vocal album this fall featuring mezzo-soprano Kathryn Leemhuis and pianist Samuel Martin entitled Before She Became Fire.
The world premiere recording features a collection of remarkable compositions for mezzo-soprano voice and piano, Before She Became Fire showcases the artistry of Lori Laitman, Judith Cloud and Melissa Dunphy – three women composers who have graced the contemporary music scene. Their distinctive works delve into the intricacies of life, the bittersweet embrace of mortality, the resonance of legacy, and the strength born from vulnerability. The album begins with Laitman’s two-song cycle And Music Will Not End, setting the stage for an exploration of the human experience by projecting powerful themes of love and loss. The following cycle, Judith Cloud’s The Secret History of Water, features eight melodies which ebb and flow, mirroring the lyrical intricacies that tell stories of strength and vulnerability. The poignant lyrics reveal the multifaceted nature of womanhood, a theme that carries over into Dunphy’s Four Poems of Nikita Gill. This concluding song cycle embraces the contemporary landscape, speaking directly to the lives of young women today through a prism of diverse experiences that define this generation’s journey.
“In the voices of these three remarkable women composers, we underscore the importance of providing opportunities for creators who have historically been marginalized,” explain Leemhuis and Martin. “Our album is a testament to the richness of female perspectives, the depth of their artistic expression, and the beauty of their musical narratives. By amplifying their voices, we contribute to a more inclusive and diverse musical landscape.”
A celebration of the new album, on October 1 at 3pm (ET), brings composers Lori Laitman and Melissa Dunphy in conversation with Leemhuis and Martin alongside performances of several works included on the album. This free performance will take place in Rock Hall Auditorium at 1715 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122, and will be livestreamed on the Boyer College YouTube channel at youtube.com/boyercollege.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Kathryn Leemhuis has performed with international opera companies such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dallas Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Teatro Colón, Fort Worth Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Florentine Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Ash Lawn Opera, and Annapolis Opera, among others. Her most notable roles include Dorabella in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Suzuki in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Dido in Pucell’s Dido and Aeneas, Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the Mother in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, Paquette in Bernstein’s Candide, Hänsel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, Giulietta in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann, Amaltea in Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto, and Florence Pike in Britten’s Albert Herring.
As a mezzo-soprano soloist on the concert stage, Leemhuis has performed at the Ravinia Festival, the Grant Park Music Festival, the Boise Philharmonic, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Music Festival. She performed with Chicago’s Music of the Baroque in both Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis and Mass in the Time of War, with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago in Händel’s Messiah, and with Gloriae Dei Cantores in Mozart’s Requiem and Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress. She has also performed multiple times with the Richmond Symphony, presenting Berlioz’s Les nuits d'été, Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette, and Mendelssohn’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht.
During her years as a young artist, Leemhuis performed multiple roles in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center, including Giovanna in Verdi’s Ernani, Glasa in Janácek's Kát'a Kabanová, Javotte in Massenet’s Manon, and the Kunstgewerblerin in Berg’s Lulu. She understudied Marguerite in Berlioz's La damnation de Faust, Siebel in Gounod's Faust, Varvara in Janácek's Kát'a Kabanová, Kate Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and Lola in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. Leemhuis was also a young artist with Opera Theatre St. Louis’ Gerdine Young Artist Program, the Carmel Bach Festival, Ravinia’s Steans Institute, and the Tanglewood Music Center, where she performed Dorabella under the baton of Maestro James Levine.
As a singer in the competition arena, Leemhuis has won several prizes, most notably with the Shreveport Opera, the New York Lyric Opera, the Opera at Florham, the Bel Canto Competition, the Heida Hermanns Competition, the National Opera Association, the Opera Birmingham, the Florida Grand Opera, the Gerda Lissner Foundation, the Fort Worth McCammon Foundation, the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, the Sullivan Foundation, the George London Foundation, the Giulio Gari Foundation, the Orpheus Vocal Competition, and the Opera Columbus Vocal Competition. She was a National Semi-Finalist in the 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Leemhuis is a native of Columbus, Ohio.
Samuel Martin is a dynamic artist in demand as a partner for recital, chamber, choral, orchestral, opera, and musical theater performances. His stylistic versatility has resulted in concert appearances both nationally and internationally, most recently in Germany, México, and throughout the United States.
Hailed as “Cincinnati’s champion for art song,” (Movers & Makers) Martin is the Founding Artistic Director of the Cincinnati Song Initiative, an award-winning nonprofit concert series dedicated to the promotion and innovation of song. Through the mission of CSI, he facilitates a new model for twenty-first century engagement between artists and audiences, creating an accessible, inclusive, and innovative space where classical music relates directly to the world in which we live today.
Together with mezzo Kathryn Leemhuis, Martin’s debut album on the BCM&D Records label, Before She Became Fire, shines a spotlight on never-before-recorded song cycles by composers Judith Cloud, Melissa Dunphy, and Lori Laitman.
A native of New York, Martin holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music and Ithaca College. His training was enhanced as a Fellow of the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, a program devoted to the intense study and performance of contemporary American art song, led by luminaries Stephanie Blythe and Alan Louis Smith. Martin serves on the vocal coaching faculty of The Hartt School at the University of Hartford, where he teaches specialized song seminars and coaches privately.
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