“Retrace” reprised, a new opera, & CD release!

Juventas Plays Retrace This Saturday

Saturday, 11/11 at 8:00pm ET
East Cambridge, MA
& Streaming Live on YouTube

Juventas New Music Ensemble presents encore performances of audience favorites from their recent seasons—including my piece Retrace!

Get tickets, read the program, and watch the livestream here.


New Opera in Workshop Staging: The Fire Tower

A black and white photo taken at the base of a staircase, looking up at a fire tower atop a mountain summitFriday, 11/17 at 7:30pm
Sunday, 11/19 at 3:00pm
San Antonio, TX

The University of Texas at San Antonio presents a fully-staged workshop production of my new short opera, The Fire Tower, on their program “Epigrams”! Directed by Jourdan Laine Howell. Tickets are available here and at the UTSA Recital Hall.

Set against a backdrop of climate crisis in the American West, this 24-minute opera for soprano, mezzo-soprano, and piano is an intimate portrait of two intrepid women who develop a bond of friendship during a trek deep into the wilderness. Learn more about The Fire Tower.


Sauntering Songs Now Available on CD

Album cover for "Sauntering Songs"My album Sauntering Songs is now available on physical CD from Skylark Vocal Ensemble! Please consider supporting my wonderful collaborators by purchasing a copy.

The album is also available on all streaming music platforms.

Extended liner notes for Sauntering Songs are available here.


Autumn Art Prints Added to Shop

This Fall I released giclée prints of two new watercolor paintings depicting autumn foliage and rock cliffs here in the Shawangunk Mountains. Check them out, along with my Spring/Summer series, at my Etsy shop!

New scores, concerts, and album release this summer!

Photograph of turtleSummer has arrived!

Here in the Hudson Valley, fragrant milkweed are blooming. Fireflies are flashing. And turtles are digging their nests (a favorite, the endangered wood turtle, pictured here).

And with the season, a few fun announcements from my composing activities—including free outdoor performances, a new album featuring my music, and the release of 10 (!) new works of my vocal music. Read on for more!

Juventas Performs Nell’s Music in July

Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA (July 16)
Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, MA (July 23)
Edvard Munch's painting "The Sun"
Edvard Munch, The Sun (1912). Munchmuseet, Oslo, Norway.

My perennial collaboration with Boston’s wonderful Juventas New Music Ensemble continues with these free, outdoor performances in July:

On Sunday, July 16, as part of their Community Day, the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA presents Juventas in two performances (11:00am and 2:00pm) of a full 45-minute program of my music!

This program will include FOUR World Premiere works and arrangements, exploring themes represented in the Clark’s special exhibitions: landscapes, ecology, and visual art. Highlights will include my miniature inspired by Edvard Munch’s The Sun (on exhibit at The Clark). Featuring Nick Southwick, flute; Ryan Shannon, violin; and Matthew Smith, cello. More information here.

A week later, Juventas will reprise their performance of my work Retrace in a performance at the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site on Sunday, July 23 at 2:00pm in Brookline, MA, also featuring music by Christina Rusnak, Oliver Caplan, Gwenyth Walker, and Stacey Garrop. More information here.

Woman Walking on Laura Strickling’s Upcoming Album

Album cover for Laura Strickling's "40@40"

I am thrilled for phenomenal GRAMMY-nominated soprano Laura Strickling‘s upcoming album of 20 World Premiere art songs, which she has commissioned and recorded with pianist Daniel Schlosberg—including my song Woman Walking with lyrics by Megan Cohen!

40@40 will be released by the Bright Shiny Things label on August 18. Pre-order here before August 17th with code LAURA20 for 20% off.

Selections from Sauntering Songs

Cover of the score of "Street Haunting" for choir

Looking for new music for choir or solo voice to perform? I’ve just released the scores of 10 (!) selections from my cantata Sauntering Songs, which may be programmed as standalone pieces.

Each song explores themes of walking and wanderlust, celebrating diverse characters who search for freedom and fulfillment through subversive journeys on foot.

Explore these titles and view free perusal scores on my website:

Interesting in performing any of this music? Please contact me for purchasing information.

 

Looking back on “Sauntering Songs” World Premiere concerts

Nell reaches out to shake the hand of conductor Matthew Guard in front of the performing ensemble, standing for applause after their performance inside a historic church.
“Sauntering Songs” at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newburyport, MA.

Nell poses with conductor Matthew Guard and an ensemble of 16 singers and instrumentalists, wearing casual clothes, during a recording session in a church venue.

Last week I had the unreal experience of watching my vision for concert-length cantata “Sauntering Songs,” a project many years in the making, come to life through the phenomenal voices of Skylark (Matthew Guard, Artistic Director; Sophie Amelkin, Fotina Naumenko, Carrie Cheron, Doug Dodson, Megan Roth, Paul D’Arcy, Erik Gustafson, Nathan Hodgson, Matthew Goinz, Enrico Lagasca, and Dana Whiteside) and an all-star instrumental quartet (guitarist James Moore with Thomas Barth, cello, Julia Scott Carey, piano, and Stacey Chou, flute, of Juventas New Music Ensemble).

I’m grateful for this project, these collaborators, and this week, for so, so many reasons… not least of which that I was able to join the artists for their rehearsals and three World Premiere performances, and to meet the audiences and hear their response to this work.

The final concert was recorded, and I look forward to being able to share it with all of you someday soon!

Announcing “Sauntering Songs,” a cantata for Skylark Vocal Ensemble

Title reads "Sauntering Songs" with photo of a distant figure walking on a footpath in grass-covered hills
World Premiere Performances in April 2023

I am thrilled to share a once-in-a-lifetime, dream-come-true project, and my third collaboration with the world class Skylark Vocal Ensemble: Sauntering Songs.

A love letter to wanderlust, this World Premiere commission weaves together art songs, choral music, and literature into an expansive cantata on the theme of walking. Influences from rock, folk, and musical theater feature prominently in this score marrying Skylark’s voices with an instrumental quartet. From Walt Whitman to the present day, Sauntering Songs celebrates diverse characters who search for freedom and fulfillment through subversive journeys on foot.

This work is an expression of so much that I’m passionate about, in music and in life. I look forward to sharing this work with audiences in Massachusetts next spring!

Subscription tickets are available now for the three World Premiere concerts as part of Skylark’s 2022-23 season, “a tour de force of innovative programs that re-define the choral experience for singers and audiences alike.” Single tickets go on sale August 25. Learn more here.

THURSDAY, APRIL 20, 2023 | 7 pm
(6:15 pm pre-concert talk)
Simon Center for the Arts
at Falmouth Academy
Falmouth, MA

FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2023 | 7 pm
(6:15 pm pre-concert talk)
Church of the Redeemer
Chestnut Hill, MA

SATURDAY, APRIL 22, 2023 | 7 pm
(6:15 pm pre-concert talk)​
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Newburyport, MA

June 2 Workshop of New Family Holiday Opera

Hear a Christmas fairy tale set in the magical world of “The Wizard of Oz”!

Librettist Edward Einhorn and I first started dreaming up The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, a family opera adaptation of the 1902 holiday classic by L. Frank Baum, back in 2015 while we were both fellows in AOP’s Composers & the Voice program.

This nontraditional Christmas fairy tale set in the magical world of “The Wizard of Oz” has always captured my imagination. Now I’m delighted to share that there will be a workshop preview of our opera-in-progress, in person in NYC and streaming online!

Hear 25 minutes of excerpts from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, performed in a piano-vocal concert reading of two holiday operas next Thursday, June 2 at 7:30pm EDT at OPERA America’s National Opera Center, 330 7th Ave, New York, NY, in a presentation by Edward Einhorn’s Untitled Theater Company No. 61. “Claus” will be paired with excerpts from Exagoge, Edward’s opera on Passover themes with composer Avner Finberg.

Reserve your ticket here (recommended donation $10; masks and proof of vaccination required). A free livestream will also be available on YouTube and posted for 48 hours following the performance.

Greet the Winter Solstice with choral music!

Listen to Boston Choral Ensemble’s NEW live recording of Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight, my choral setting of three poems for the winter season, from their holiday concert on December 11, 2021 (Klo Garoute, conductor).

Commissioned and premiered by Boston Choral Ensemble in 2019 through their 12th Annual Commission Competition, “Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight” features settings of three poems on the theme of winter: “Winter Branches” by Margaret Widdemer, “A Winter Blue Jay” by Sara Teasdale, and “A Winter Ride” by Amy Lowell, all written in the early 20th century by American women. Each of these poets used vivid descriptions of winter phenomena to convey moments of profound connection to the natural world.

Any of the three movements may be programmed separately as standalone works for performance. Read the program note and view the perusal score here.

Virtual Choir Performance of “It’s a Long Way” by SEMMEA Festival Choir

It’s rare privilege to receive a commission and premiere performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even rarer: receiving  two performances of a new work within a short time!

I was deeply moved by the virtual choir performance of my choral score, It’s a Long Way, given by the Massachusetts Music Educators Association Southeastern District (SEMMEA) Senior Festival Choir.

In early January 2021, nearly 200 high school students remotely rehearsed and recorded their parts with guidance from conductor Dr. Christopher Jackson. Their individual performances were then assembled into this beautiful performance documentation.

I also had the pleasure of participating in a virtual visit with the choir and a Q&A led by Dr. Felicia Barber, alongside fellow composer Joel Thompson.

Commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble for their New Voices for Education project, this work was composed primarily for study by high school and college choirs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The score and a professional recording of this work may be found on Skylark’s website.

“Transform the World with Beauty” in performances by The Astoria Choir, Williams College, and Skylark

Several upcoming performances have been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19; see list of all upcoming events for current information.

Transform the World with Beauty, my choral cycle inspired by the visual art and poetry of Victorian Britain, is being featured in concerts by three separate ensembles this spring!

The Astoria Choir logoI am honored that my piece was selected by The Astoria Choir as a winner of their Call for Scores for a program celebrating International Women’s Day. This Saturday in Astoria, Queens, the choir will be performing the first movement, “My First Camera,” which sets a delightful autobiographical text by pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.

Williams College logoNext month another ensemble, Williams College Chamber Choir will perform the second movement, “In an Artist’s Studio,” in two performances featuring their ensemble of women’s voices. This movement features Christina Rossetti’s poetic critique of a painter’s depictions of an idealized woman.

Looking further ahead to June, the Grammy-nominated Skylark Vocal Ensemble,who commissioned and premiered this work in 2019,will reprise the full cycle, including the third movement celebrating the designs and aesthetic philosophy of William Morris. Stay tuned for details!

In the meantime, listen to Transform the World with Beauty in the brilliant live recording by Skylark, paired with the texts and visual art that inspired my composition.

SATURDAY, MARCH 7, 2020 AT 8:00PM

The Astoria Choir , “Women in Song”
Trinity Lutheran Church, Astoria, NY

Event information

FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2020 AT 6:00PM

Williams Chamber Choir , “Looking/Seeing”
Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, MA

Event information.

SUNDAY, APRIL 19, 2020 AT 4:00PM

Williams Chamber Choir , “Looking/Seeing”
Williams College, Williamstown, MA

Event information.

World Premiere of “Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight” by Boston Choral Ensemble

Snow-covered field with tree shadows
Photograph: Nell Shaw Cohen, Taos, New Mexico, 2019

Saturday, December 14, 3:00pm
Boston Choral Ensemble Holiday Concert
Old South Church
645 Boylston St, Boston, MA
Purchase Tickets

Boston Choral Ensemble will give the World Premiere of Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight,commissioned through their 12th Annual Commission Competition, on the choir’s annual winter holiday concert!

Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight (ca. 9 minutes) features settings of three poems on the theme of winter: “Winter Branches” by Margaret Widdemer, “A Winter Blue Jay” by Sara Teasdale, and “A Winter Ride” by Amy Lowell, all written in the early 20th century by American women.

Each of these poets used vivid descriptions of winter phenomena to convey moments of profound connection to the natural world. I’ve grouped these poems together because I feel they form an aesthetically cohesive set, providing the basis for a musical narrative arc that moves from quiet contemplation (“Winter Branches”) to joyful exuberance (“A Winter Ride”).

I hope you may be able to join me at this very special performance!

Workshop of “Turn and Burn” at Houston Grand Opera

barrel racer

Next month, librettist Megan Cohen and I head back to Houston for the first music workshop of Turn and Burn, our chamber opera commissioned by Houston Grand Opera’s HGOco for premiere in Spring 2021.

Four days of work with our performers and directors will culminate in a presentation on December 9th of the complete 75-minute score, drafted for a reduced orchestration of piano, electric and acoustic guitar, and drum set. Revisions and orchestration will follow, leading to a full score workshop in 2020.

I can’t wait to share the fruits of this process with you all!