Friday, December 03, 2021

November Had Lots of Notable News!


Hello December! Hello Winter!

Hi everyone! This is Claris - for those of you who may remember, I used to write Melissa's newsletters before I went off to law school last year! If you're new to the listserv, be ready for some terribly heavy-handed puns and outdated pop culture references unsuccessfully woven into the amazing news of what Melissa has been up to!

As usual, she's been up to an incredible amount of incredible work! She's pictured above with librettist Jackie Goldfinger, director Chris Mirto, and dramaturg Julia Bumke (from left to right) at the Birenbaum at Oberlin College where she workshopped her commissioned work with undergraduate Obies! Check out this link for some more photos of her in action!

So many opportunities to hear Melissa's music (and maybe see her in person??)
Chanticleer is singing "The Elements of the Sun" as part of their  Christmas tour! There are upcoming performances in New York City (tonight at 8PM and 12/5), Chicago (12/7 + 12/8), Milwaukee (12/9), Los Angeles (12/14), and Palo Alto (12/16)! ALSO Melissa will be at the New York performance this Sunday (Dec. 5th) - go hear her music AND see her face! Get tickets here.

The Choir of St. Paul's in Burlingame, CA is performing "Magnificat" on 12/5!

Most of the upcoming performances or choral/ensemble, but not this one! Rhiannon Vaughn is performing "Four Poems of Nikita Gill" on 12/8 at the University of Maryland's Gildenhorn Recital Hall. Watch the livestream here!

"O Oriens" has already been sung this advent season, including at the Washington National Cathedral last week, but will be sung even more!
  1. The William Ferris Chorale is performing it in Chicago today and 12/4 at the St. Vincent De Paul Church.
  2. On 12/5, it'll be performed multiple times! In Philadelphia, it'll be part of Saint Mark's A Service of Advent Lessons & Carolsat 4PM. It'll also be performed by the iCantanti Chamber Choirat the First English Lutheran Church in Cannon Falls, MN!
  3. The Harmonium Choral Society in Morristown, NJ is performing "O Oriens" on 12/11 and 12/12 at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown.
  4. It will be performed at the Church of the Good Shepherd's A Festival of Advent Lessons and Carols on Dec. 19th in Bryn Mawr, PA.
  5. For those in York, UK, the Ebor Singers are singing "O Oriens" at the National Centre for Early Music on Dec. 19th!

 The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh is performing "Halcyon Days" at various venues around Allegheny County on 12/10, 12/11, 12/12, 12/17, and 12/19! Check venue information and get tickets here!

  1. Halcyon Days is also being performed multiple times in the next week! The Voice of Concinnity is performing it on 12/4 and 12/5 at two different venues in CT.
  2. It's also being performed in Kansas City, MO by the UMKC Conservatory Singers on 12/4 and 12/5 at the Visitation Catholic Church!
  3. The Longwood Chorus is performing it at the All Saints Parish in Brookline, MA on 12/10.
  4. And last, but not least, the Young New Yorkers Chorus' Mixed Ensemble is performing "Halcyon Days" at St. Mary the Virgin Church in NYC on 12/11!

 On Dec. 19th, in Burlingame, CA, "Nunc Dimittis" will premiere as part of the Choir St. Paul's Episcopal Church's Christmas Concert! More details here.

A recording of the Trinity Wall Street Choir's performance of "If thou wilt be perfect"! This was presented by Amplify Female Composers in the Fall Female Composer Fridays series back in July 2021! The first 20 seconds or so alone are 😍
The organ preludes that Melissa wrote for Carson Cooman premiered, with the recital benefiting the maintenance of the organ at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston! It was also recently performed by Carson at the Memorial Church of Harvard University in Cambridge on November 15th! Please check out "Sehnsucht" and "Fruhling" here! Listening to "Fruhling" may help stave off those winter blues!
Here's an excerpt of the Richmond Symphony's performance of "Overdrive" conducted by Chia-Hsuan Lin in Richmond, VA! Only the first two minutes of the piece, but the drama!!
Willamette University Choir performed "Wild Embers" as part of their Fall Choral Concert in Salem, OR! There's something particularly poetic about singing "They should have checked the ashes / of the women they burned alive. / Because it takes a single wild ember / to bring a whole wildfire to life." in Salem (albeit not Salem, MA)! The performers did an amazing job of performing with masks on, but feel free to check out the link to the program in the description for a copy of the lyrics!
A picture of Cantus and Melissa from when they were working on the piece in September!
Cantus Performances
In October and November in various cities such as Bowling Green, OH and Harrogate, TN, Cantus performed "N-400 Erasure Songs," for which they previously commissioned Melissa! There aren't any recordings of the pieces setting poetry created by blacking out text from the U.S. naturalization form yet, but the StarTribune described "[each] of the three movements proved powerful, the first haunting and mournful, while the second pulsed with the anxious spirit of one sinking in the quicksand of bureaucracy. But reassurance arrived in the program's finale, a beautifully moving embrace upon arrival for which Dunphy created both music and text."
Also everywhere!
Dr. Jennifer Piazza-Pick performed "Four Poems of Nikita Gill" on Nov. 1st, for a faculty recital for Georgia College and State University's Department of Music.

Chor Leoni hosted an online concert, Breath in Hope, in which they performed "Waves of Gallipolli".

On Nov. 18th, "Captain Samuels Speaks to the Sea" was performed at the Hamilton Mansion in the Woodlands - a beautifully haunting, narrated piece performed in the middle of a historic garden and cemetery!

"Black Thunder" was performed by Aural Compass Projects' Chelsea Fingal DeSouza and CodyRay Caho for their "Before Body Meets Earth" performance on November 19th and 20th in Philadelphia and Wayne, PA. Check out the trailer on YouTube.

The Esoterics performed "Together" as part of their THE REWAKING program on Nov. 20th. They performed it back in 2019 too!


"Witch-Wife" premiered on Nov. 14th and was performed by Choir Matrix and Women of Concinnity for their Claiming Space concert in New Britain, CT! It was also performed later in Williamsburg, VA by the Barksdale Treble Chorus and Botetourt Chamber Singers as part of Bruton Parish's Candlelight Concert series.

"New Dreams" commissioned by La Caccina, premiered on Nov. 20th as part of their The Matriarchy performance series in Chicago. See below for a video of Melissa speaking about the inspiration for the piece, Grace Lee Boggs.
Melissa was part of a roundtable discussion with fellow composers and multi-hyphenates Erin Busch, Courtney Bryan, and Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa. They talked about their source of inspiration, processes, how they became composers, and more! You can view the full discussion on Opera Philadelphia's channel!
Melissa joined Opera Philadelphia's Chorus Master Elizabeth Braden and organist Meghan Melow Ness for a panel discussion on the Future of the Organ! For those of you who were able to make it in person - I'm very jealous!
Here's Melissa introducing "New Dreams," the commission for La Caccina inspired by Chinese-American civil rights activist Grace Lee Boggs! Melissa talks about how she was particularly inspired by the questions in Grace Lee Boggs' autobiography: "How do we transform ourselves? How do we transform our world? What do we need? What do we want? What is the difference?"
There is sadly no new Boghouse episode (YET), but Melissa was interviewed by Steve Danielson for his podcast, Moveable Do (like the solfege Do)! The episode also includes snippets of and reviews of a few of her pieces, including "What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach?"
And no, I don't mean "Bones or No Bones" (may your days always be Bones days). The Boghouse Gift Shop is back open! And Melissa and Matt are selling literal bones (animal) (mostly cow) from the 1700s which they found in their esteemed privies! Bone earrings! Bone necklaces! Loose bones for crafts! I'm very superstitious so they aren't right for me, but they look very cool! So if you're a cool person who wants to show the world that you're cool or need to get a holiday gift for someone, check it out!
That's it from me folks, but you'll hear from me again in the new year! Until then, hope you stay cozy!
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Saturday, October 02, 2021

Breaking News From Melissa Dunphy: apparently it's October now


Greetings from Saint Louis! This week, for the first time in 18 months, I got on a plane (mask very firmly in place) because on Sunday afternoon, the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus will perform my latest work for them We are the Music Makers. Yes, a choral premiere! In person! (Masked and vaxxed, of course.) So before I get stuck into other news: if you are in STL or know anyone in the area, spread the word in the next 36 hours:

Sunday, October 3, 2021
3:00 PM
E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall, 560 Music Center
Link to tickets

Here's a short teaser interview I did with Classic 107.3's John Clare. Fun fact: John and I go way back! 16 years ago, before I went back to school to become a composer, we were both employed at WITF-FM in Harrisburg, PA, and though our time together as official colleagues was short, we have kept in touch over the years, so I was pretty thrilled when I found out that he was moving here, and I've been looking forward to running into him.

The piece I wrote for the Chamber Chorus sets three verses of the poem Ode by Arthur O'Shaughnessy, which is probably most famous to folks in my generation because the line "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams" crops up in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1970), and "We are the Music Makers" is the name of one of the biggest music-related internet forums, and the largest musician Subreddit. The original poem is a celebration of the power of art even over death and politics, two things which have surely caused us all a lot of grief in the last year and a half.

And a quick reminder: last year, the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus released a CD, Saint Louis Premieres, with a recording of an earlier work I wrote for them, Suite Remembrance, now published through EC Schirmer. Help support this amazing choir and grab yourself a copy of the album! Incidentally, back in July, the British choir Hesperos performed one of the movements in that suite, "Mourning into Dancing" at Evensong in none other than WESTMINSTER ABBEY which is KIND OF A BIG DEAL and yet another reason to rail at the fact I'm not in London at this time when my music is apparently having a ᴍᴏᴍᴇɴᴛ.

I'll try to zoom through the rest of the news, because it's a lot (it's always a lot!) and also I'm over deadline on a Magnificat I also have to finish this weekend.

Gonzales Cantata News

Hey, am I about to cry in this screenshot? Yep! The Opera Philadelphia Chorus performed a number from the Gonzales Cantata in a new arrangement for organ (originally created for IN Series last year), and I got kind of emotional in my interview because it was the first time I had seen singers performing live in over a year. (Expect more emotions this weekend, which marks the first time I'll be seeing singers perform live in front of an audience.) You should watch the whole thing (including my weepy interview) via the Opera Philadelphia Channel.

Speaking of the little cantata that launched my career, later this month (October 22-24) the Gonzales Cantata is being performed in its entirety by Chicago Choral Artists! I wish I could be there, but I'll be in Oberlin workshopping my new opera instead. Tough break. But don't let that stop you! Pick up your tickets here.

Cantus Premieres N-400 Erasure Songs

Oh, can you not make it to Chicago this month because you're stuck in Minneapolis/St. Paul? Maybe instead, you'd be interested in attending one of these Cantus concerts, at which they are premiering a song cycle I wrote for them (!!!). Their website describes me as "one of today’s most compelling compositional voices" (!!!!!!) so ... the power of Dunphy compels you. N-400 Erasure Songs, as the name suggests, sets erasure poems carved out of the N-400 form that immigrants have to fill out when we apply to become US citizens. The three texts were created by Niina Pollari, Laurel Chen, and yours truly; I was lucky enough to Zoom into a Cantus rehearsal, and (unsurprisingly) they sound incredible singing the contrasting songs. They will be presenting five concerts of the program in the MSP area between October 15 and 24; details and tickets here.

Oh, can you not make it to Minneapolis/St. Paul because you're literally anywhere else in the world? Why not tune in to the October 22 concert online! Streaming tickets available here

Richmond Symphony plays Overdrive

Something kind of magical has begun to happen this year: as my new work catalog expands, some of my older works that haven't left the house in years have been offered dates, and I couldn't be more thrilled for them. I wrote Overdrive over a decade ago, but it hasn't seen a performance since the Curtis Symphony recorded it while I was at Penn. But on October 23, the Richmond Symphony is taking it to the ball on this fantastic program which includes Sterling Elliott playing Haydn's 2nd Cello Concerto.  I can't be there because of the aforementioned Oberlin workshop! So please go in my stead. Tickets and details here.

Album Release from Tonality: American Will Be featuring #UnitedWeDream

One of my fave choirs, Tonality, conducted by the brilliant Alexander Lloyd Blake, just release a new album recorded during the pandemic. America Will Be is a powerful reflection of our hopes for this country, and I'm so proud that my song from American DREAMERS, #UnitedWeDream, with lyrics by Claudia D. Hernandez, is the final track. Learn more and find out where to listen here. There's also a write-up on I Care If You Listen about the video Tonality created for my song. And if you're in LA, there's a live concert performance of the album on October 9 at St. John's Episcopal Cathedral. Details and tickets here.

In the meantime, here's a conversation Alex and I had recently about the piece and Tonality's work:
TonalityTalks: Dr. Melissa Dunphy on "#UnitedWeDream"

More Talking

If you're in the mood for interviews, here's another one that I did with singer Ailsa Campbell of St Martin-in-the-Fields, discussing two works of mine that they sung recently: O Oriens (originally commissioned by Choral Arts Philadelphia) and Halcyon Days (originally commissioned by Voces 8):
Two of my works were performed in their #ReSound concert 'Upon your heart' conducted by Anna Lapwood.

More News

October 2, which is either today or tomorrow depending on when you open this e-mail: Alex Lloyd Blake will be the guest conductor of beloved choir Resonance Ensemble in Portland, and they'll be performing #UnitedWeDream at Cerimon House. Tickets and details here

On Sunday October 24 (HAVE YOU NOTICED HOW MANY THINGS DISCUSSED IN THIS NEWSLETTER ARE HAPPENING THAT WEEKEND, IT IS WILDDDDD), a set of two organ preludes that I wrote for organist Carson Cooman is being premiered—a long-delayed first outing because of this rotten pandemic, but I'm so happy it's happening now! If you're in Boston, the recital is a benefit to help maintain the wonderful organ at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Tickets and details here.  

November 10 and 11 in Vancouver, Chor Leoni are premiering a new TTBB arrangement of Waves of Gallipoli, originally commissioned by the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus. Chor Leoni reached out to me during the pandemic for their interview series, and I'm delighted to be working with them. Stay tuned for more news on that front... in the meantime get your tickets here.

On December 5, the Fort Dodge Symphony is performing my Jack and the Beanstalk suite! Tickets are only $10, free for students, and I swear to you the tunes I wrote into that work will stick in your head for the rest of your life. Details here.

And save the date: on April 9 and 10, 2022, if you're in the Philadelphia area, you  won't want to miss the Lyric Fest concert The Song Catcher—I'm writing a new folk song for them inspired by the political songs of writers like Woody Guthrie. It's called Joey Baloney, with text by my good friend and sometime director Ozzie Jones, and I can't wait for you to hear it.

If you missed the Clearfield Zalon back in June, you can watch it on YouTube! Badass violinist performed my solo violin work kommós on this program. Andrea's Salon is celebrating 30 years this year, and I'm so proud to have been a part of it.


I am rapidly running out of energy and time, so very quickly: last month, Matt and I roadtripped down to Colonial Williamsburg with a van full of artifacts so they could be professionally photographed for an article we are writing for Ceramics in America. We had a fantastic time being welcomed by curators from the Colonial Williamsburg Art Museums, Jamestown Settlement, and Reeves Museum at Washington and Lee, who gave us guided tours of their collections. Reader, I cannot even begin to describe to you how cool it was to see not only the items on display, but all the hidden treasures that they have in back rooms! We were totally geeking out. More news about this soon, but here are a few photos from the weekend (the pretty shots are by Rob Hunter):

Good LORD we have a lot to podcast about, whenever we get time to podcast again.

And speaking of time, my new managerial assistant Dina is AMAZING, and if you want to e-mail me about anything composition related, you should probably copy her at, because she's way better at staying on top of her inbox than I am. And I have two wonderful student/interns Josiah and Kira who have been picking up my slack on the nitty gritty of being a self-published composer, such as keeping my website updated and tracking my performances. AND ALSO AN ANNOUNCEMENT: beginning with my next newsletter, my former intern Claris is returning to be funnier and cooler than I can ever manage to be at 2AM on a Friday night when I should be in bed because I have a dress rehearsal to attend in the morning. So hopefully it won't be three whole months until my next newsletter? Time will tell (whatever time is).


Saturday, July 03, 2021

For the purpose of this newsletter, it's June 33nd


Hello hello! If you're getting this newsletter for the first time and you don't know why, it's probably because you bought some music of mine on Bandcamp in the last year—unsubscribe if you hate it, I won't be mad! It's been a whole eight weeks since my last newsletter because as you can probably tell from the photo above, my archaeological pursuit kicked into high gear again and stole any spare time I might have had in between composing too much music. If anyone has any tips on balancing life as a freelance composer with life as a citizen archaeologist, both of which seem to be full-time jobs (plus overtime), I am open to suggestions. I do have some good news to report on this front: later this month, I will be bringing on an managerial assistant and possibly also an intern or two as well to help with the load, but of course that will mean the schedule will be even worse for a while because I'll have to figure out how to organize myself enough to delegate. Thank you everyone for your patience!

I'll talk about the new archaeology exploits further down—first let's blast through all the music news.


If you've been subscribed for a while, you might remember a couple paragraphs I wrote somewhere in the middle of the pandemic about how criminal it is that classical music doesn't center composition as a core practice. Over the following months, I honed that rant as a guest speaker in countless Zoom classrooms to the point where I figured it was time to create a definitive version. After I uploaded this, it got shared around a fair bit—not just in classical music circles, but also among jazz musicians and even coders. Take a squiz if you haven't already, and maybe share with your music educator friends:
The most intensive part of editing this video was creating the captions (in a former life, I was a TV closed captioner, so busting out those skills again was quite the throwback), but it was worth it to make it more accessible, and to let you play it muted if you prefer, just in case anyone out there hates listening to the sound of my voice as much as the occasional misogynist Apple Podcasts reviewer lol


Apparently a slew of performers in Britain has been programming my music the last couple of weeks, which is very frustrating because there is an ocean and an ongoing pandemic standing in the way of my attendance. A couple of these performances are available for you to watch/listen to after the fact though:

            -   The BBC Singers (!!!) conducted by Nicholas Chalmers performed Halcyon Days at the Nevill Holt Opera June Festival, and a recording of the concert was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 (!!!) this week. Tune in here (the whole concert is great, but if you're pressed for time, Halcyon Days kicks off at 1:47:30):  

            -   At a church you might have heard of called St Martin-in-the-Fields (!!!), Anna Lapwood (!!!) conducted St Martin's Voices in a gorgeous program "Upon your Heart," which contained the aforementioned Halcyon Days and O Oriens. You can purchase tickets to watch online for £10 until August 31:


A few newsletters ago I posted a mysterious photo from a recording session in a church, and now I can reveal the purpose: Opera Philadelphia recorded one of the choruses from the Gonzales Cantata, "Loyalty Over Judgment" for their annual Organ Stops concert, part of their 2021-2022 season. COVID isn't done yet, so the concert won't be live, but Opera Philly has been pioneering the concept of a digital opera channel and producing gorgeous content for everyone to experience from the comfort of their own homes, anywhere in the world. The Organ Stops concert will go live on July 16; you can purchase a subscription to the Opera Philadelphia channel for $9.99 per month or $99 per year; it's more than worth it to support all the work they've been doing pushing this art form forward into the 21st century. Whet your appetite with this trailer: 
The Opera Philadelphia Chorus will headline “Organ Day” which will feature music by Verdi, Wagner, and a number of modern composers including Hannah Kendall, Melissa Dunphy, Marcus DeLoach, and David Hurd.


Earlier this year, I completed a choral sea shanty for the choir at Mizzou: Sailing Away (sheet music available at that link) uses text by late 19th-century poet Isabel Grimes Richey (born 1858 in Lancaster, MO). Of course, I was a little bit inspired by the TikTok sea shanty craze—but also excuse me and FYI, I've written sea shanty influenced music before, TRENDS SCHMENDS. Listen to the premiere of Sailing Away by the University of Missouri University Singers, conducted by R. Paul Crabb, below:
Sailing Away begins around 23 minutes in if you're pressed for time...


At the last choral conference I attended—ACDA East in Rochester NY right before the pandemic shutdown—I heard a choir from Central Bucks High School West sing. I was bowled over by their concert, and when it was done, I beelined for the conductor and basically threw myself at them, wide-eyed and hungry for a commission. So I'm thrilled to report that this year, I wrote them a new work for TTBB chorus with (spoiler) surprise solo soprano, When the Time Comes. This song uses text from an interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg (with kind permission from her surviving relatives), and I can't release the sheet music yet, but I'm so happy to show you this recording from the choir's end-of-semester concert: 
When the Time Comes, sung by the Central Bucks High School-West Mens Choir and soloist Sierra Safran, Joseph Ohrt conducting.


Santa Monica College Choir and Chorosynthesis recently released a new online concert "Righting Our Wrongs," featuring three student compositions and the second performance of my multi-movement work Amendment: Righting Our Wrongs, commissioned by the Votes for Women Consortium and premiered under the co-direction of Jeremiah Selvey and Wendy Moy. (NB the score for this work is not yet publicly available to give all the choirs in the consortium the chance to premiere the work.)
Soprano Dana Varga and violist Drew Ricciardi gave a cracking live performance of my arrangement of the Bob Dylan song Farewell, Angelina
Soprano Noelle McMurtry created two stunning films featuring my music for a larger capstone project at Peabody, and I'm excited to share them with you. With cinematography from Elizabeth van Os and direction/audio engineering from Caroline Miller—who both sang in IN Series's film of the Gonzales Cantata last year—I'm of the firm opinion that this is how music films should be done! Take note! Here's June (poetry by Lauren Rile Smith, a line of which formed the title of the entire capstone project, "I take the long way there").
And here's another take on Farewell, Angelina, with Flavia Pajaro-van de Stadt on viola.
Another fabulous music film was created by violinist Barbora Kolářová and filmmaker Marc Webster for the May TURN UP Festival: this time for Theme and Variables: Scallops and Bollocks for Tea. I love how irreverent this is—and also how masterfully performed!
Have I mentioned lately that dancers are amazing? The National Arts Diversity Integration Association brought together choreographers and composers for Opus Illuminate: ACFA 2021, and one of the works featured was June #1. It's magical, you have to check it out. Also please consider donating to NADIA; all donations will go to supporting the incredible artists, production costs, and venues.


            -   Super special! Little Shadow Productions paired me with the extraordinary musician Dawn Avery for a conversation in their "Share The Mic Mondays" series. Dawn is warm and smart and fascinating and we literally could have talked for hours—I feel like we only just scratched the surface here. We share so many themes in our work even though we come from very different backgrounds, and there was so much to explore.

            -   I also did an interview with Concord Women's Chorus about a work I wrote for them, Grown Wild (coming soon), along with poet Melissa Apperson. I can't wait to see these enthusiastic and thoughtful singers at the live premiere down the line.


            -   What are you doing April 9, 2022? Will you be anywhere near NYC? Yes, I know that's a long way in the future, but I'm just saying, I'm scheduled to make my Carnegie Hall debut... 

            -   Oh, will you be on the other side of the country next spring? No worries, Bay Choral Guild has you covered, you can go listen to something I wrote there instead...

            -   Earlier this year, Aural Compass filmed a riveting concert performance: "Before Body Meet Earth," which features a new piano-vocal arrangement of my song for baritone Black Thunder (lyrics by Luke Stromberg, originally written for Network for New Music for baritone and piano trio). If you missed the live stream, never fear: they will be releasing the video of the concert in the fall. For a little taste and some insight, watch this quick interview between singers CodyRay Caho and Chelsea Fingal DeSouza:


            -   Austen Wilson has been blogging for ChoralNet, and he's written two posts that discuss my work with the choir PhilHarmonia. Read Modulating/Adjusting to a New Era: Transitions in Music, Part 1 and Part 2.

            -   At last year's National Puppetry Conference at the O'Neill, I was hugely honored to contribute music to a piece by Katayoun Amir-Aslani about sexual assault at Gettysburg College. Katayoun's story, and that of fellow surviver Shannon Keeler, was recently picked up by Associated Press, leading to the possibility of justice for both of them. It frankly sucks that some victims need to get national press to pressure authorities to act in a rape case, despite the existence of witnesses, evidence, and a confession, and I'm so angry on their behalf.

            -   This past month, I did sound design for a LIVE THEATRE SHOW, WHAAAAT. It's true: Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu  was staged at Hawthorne Park here in Philly in a co-production by Theater Exile and Theatre in the X, led by one of my favorite directors to work with in the whole wide world, Ozzie Jones (who, incidentally, is keen to direct an opera, and I've made it my life's mission to do everything I can to help him achieve that goal because he would be FIRE at directing an opera. FIRE. If you are looking for a director, get in touch, he is worth his weight in gold.) Anyway, the show got this nice write-up that mentions my sound design in American Theatre magazine, woot!


There's a part of me that's really irritated by the timing of this, because after a year of cleaning, sorting, and assembling, I had almost finished processing all the finds from our last privy dig (our South Privy), and was on the verge of reclaiming my kitchen counters for their intended purpose. But there was nothing I could do to postpone the action when construction started on an empty lot between our building and I-95, and the foundation pit exposed two 7-foot-diameter brick-lined privies plainly visible from our back deck. This lot is owned by the architect that designed our building, so we had full permission to dig—but not to delay construction, which meant we had to move as quickly as possible. Of course, because the privy gods (demons?) have the cruelest senses of humor, this happened during a week when Matt was traveling for work, which meant we were already one digger down for some of the window of time we had to excavate.

On the first night, privy diggers Michael and Tom (whom we interviewed on The Boghouse) came over to help, and a test pit revealed that, indeed, at least one of the privies was chock-full of artifacts from the second half of the 18th century. On the second night, with Matt out of town, Kevin the farmer (who helped us dig another privy on our block a couple years ago) took his place and attacked the other privy, a hellacious pit full of heavy clay, containing a glut of interesting bottles and ceramics from the late 18th-century through to the late 19th-century. In a surprise twist, Tom (whom I swear has some kind of mystical ability when it comes to finding pits) found two more privies nearby: a wood-lined shorter privy that didn't contain very much, and a 4-foot-diameter pit in the middle of the site which I guessed correctly would be solidly mid-18th century, about the same vintage as the lower half of our South Privy. We dug down more than ten feet, finishing near midnight, and my pandemic-softened body was all but paralyzed with fatigue and pain the next day.

By the weekend we had rallied the troops: Matt came home, Duncan (a trained archaeologist who also helped with our South Privy dig) rocked up with his son, Michael brought his son Louis, and I put the call out to other interested parties (including local news anchor Sarah Bloomquist and her family, a couple of archaeologists who work at the Museum of the American Revolution and the National Park Service, and even one of my composition students, Adah!) and we all descended on the pits. Long story short: we have hundreds more pounds of dirty sherds to process in the coming months, and I've lost the use of my kitchen counters again.

But it's worth it. Even a preliminary survey of the multiple tubs of sherds has yielded some really exciting artifacts, including unique redware, delft, ceramics and glass that refer to well-known historical figures of the 1700s, and a handful of Native American trade beads. Stay tuned. And again, thanks for your patience. I'm so tired!


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