Ill on a Journey is a multilingual opera/oratorio about navigating life with chronic illness—the story of Aurelia, an adventure-loving woman whose health increasingly restricts her mobility. Featuring ancient and modern texts from around the world, it explores the theme of travel and alternative means of fulfillment for those who are unable to leave home. The title is taken from the last poem of Matsuo Bashō, a 17th-century Japanese journeyman-poet with whom Aurelia feels an affinity.
Aurelia’s worsening illness precipitates a search for meaning in her favorite activity: traveling. From the isolation of her bedroom, she voraciously reads, trying to pinpoint exactly why traveling is so special to her, and how she might find similar purpose in her new housebound life.
The story takes place over the course of a year and is divided into 12 movements corresponding to each month. The chorus and its soloists present material that Aurelia reads (texts by Han Yu, Matsuo Bashō, Gabriela Mistral, Claude McKay, and Alexander Pushkin, among others, in the original languages), and she responds in solo (soprano) passages, on texts by the composer in English. Three of Aurelia’s solo movements have been independently performed in chamber ensemble arrangements, available below.
This piece was inspired by Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, 478 acres of natural beauty, history, and sculpture. The site of the 1776 Battle of Long Island, the cemetery now features four glacial ponds and thousands of trees (including some of Brooklyn’s oldest), sheltering an astounding variety of resident and migrating birds. Continue reading →
In May 2010, sixteen-year-old Kalief Browder was accused of robbery, arrested, and imprisoned on Rikers Island in New York to await trial. He was there for three years, much of the time in solitary confinement. Pressured to plead guilty, he insisted he was innocent and wanted to go to court. Continue reading →
for four treble voices, alto flute, bass clarinet, cello, piano
About 60,000 people, including some 24,000 children, sleep in New York’s municipal homeless shelters each night, and thousands more sleep unsheltered on the streets. This diverse population includes people from nearly all walks of life, although the primary cause of homelessness for the majority is the severe shortage of affordable housing.
I wrote Climate Honesty around the time U.S. Senator James Inhofe brought a snowball to work in an attempt to deny the existence of climate change. My song is not addressed to the senator—I have no words for him—but rather to those who want to believe what people like him have to say, not only on this subject but on any where it is comfortable yet irresponsible to be ignorant.
Excerpt sung by Margaret Streeter, Crystal Tung, Julia Tang and Diana Hill. Conducted by Evelyn Troester DeGraf: