Sauntering Songs (2023)

Cantata for 2 sopranos, 2 mezzo-sopranos, 2 tenors, baritone, bass-baritone, and SATB chamber choir, with flute, guitar (electric, acoustic, and classical), piano, and cello. 62 minutes.

Commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble.

Album cover art for "Sauntering Songs," with title and credits. Photograph of a distant figure walking on a dirt path through grassy hills on a sunny day. Bird logo for "Skylark Live" in bottom corner.

Read the liner notes with essays and lyrics.

Skylark Vocal Ensemble’s World Premiere live recording of Sauntering Songs (paired with Transform the World with Beauty) is available NOW on all major streaming music platforms (including Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Pandora, and Tidal). The physical CD is available for purchase from Skylark. Read the liner notes with essays and lyrics.

Watch the trailer:

A love letter to wanderlust, Sauntering Songs weaves together art songs, choral music, and literature into an expansive cantata on the theme of walking.

Influences from rock, folk, and musical theater shine in a lyrical and evocative score by composer/librettist Nell Shaw Cohen, marrying the voices of three-time GRAMMY®-nominee Skylark with an instrumental quartet comprised of guitarist James Moore and musicians from Juventas New Music Ensemble.

From Walt Whitman to the present day, Sauntering Songs celebrates diverse characters who search for freedom and fulfillment through subversive journeys on foot.

Perusal Score

Perusal score available on request. Performance score available for purchase. Please direct inquiries to Nell Shaw Cohen at nell@nellshawcohen.com.

Selections available for standalone performance (click titles for details and perusal scores):

Credits

Music & Libretto by Nell Shaw Cohen
With texts by John Clare, Megan Cohen, Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, John Francis, John Muir, Nan Shepherd, Walt Whitman, and Virginia Woolf

Dramaturg: Megan Cohen (Website)
Sensitivity Consultant for song “Best Friend”: Laura Elliott (Twitter)
Sensitivity Consultant for song “Rare Bird”: Dr. Kassandra Ford (Website)

Photograph of Skylark Vocal Ensemble, wearing black and dark plum concert dress, standing in a semicircle and smiling toward the camera in a grassy outdoor setting
Skylark Vocal Ensemble
Juventas New Music Ensemble in concert dress, standing under a tree and holding their instruments as they face the camera
Juventas New Music Ensemble
Black and white photograph of James Moore, looking towards the camera
James Moore, Guitar
Performance History

Skylark Vocal Ensemble (Matthew Guard, Artistic Director), Juventas New Music Ensemble, and James Moore, guitar; Falmouth Academy, Falmouth, MA, 4/20/23.

Skylark Vocal Ensemble (Matthew Guard, Artistic Director), Juventas New Music Ensemble, and James Moore, guitar; Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, MA, 4/21/23

Skylark Vocal Ensemble (Matthew Guard, Artistic Director), Juventas New Music Ensemble, and James Moore, guitar; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Newburyport, MA, 4/22/23.

Fallen Star (2017/arr. 2020, 2022)

Voice and piano. 6 1/2 mins.
— Arrangement for baritone, soprano, mezzo-soprano, SATB chamber choir, flute, acoustic guitar, cello, and piano. 7 1/2 mins.

Lyrics by Mashuq Mushtaq Deen.

Arrangement for large ensemble included in Sauntering Songs: a concert-length cantata on the theme of walking, commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble.

Perusal Score

View perusal score (baritone and piano version).

Performance score available for purchase. Please direct inquiries to Nell Shaw Cohen at nell@nellshawcohen.com.

Version for solo voice and piano also available as part of NewMusicShelf Anthology of New Music: Trans & Nonbinary Voices, Vol. 1. May be transposed to any key.

Program Note
Watercolor painting of starry night sky and shooting star over Western mountains.
Painting by Nell Shaw Cohen.

The first version of Fallen Star was written in 2017 during the New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Studio, an intensive laboratory for music-theater collaborations directed by Nautilus Music-Theater.

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen and I created Fallen Star in response to a prompt from baritone Joshua Hinck to write a song with themes from Classical mythology. In doing so, Deen also incorporated our shared love of the American West, and the transcendent night skies of Northern New Mexico, into his brilliant lyric.

Fallen Star was later arranged and incorporated into Sauntering Songs: a concert-length cantata on the theme of walking, commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble. 

Related Content

Performance History

Voice and piano version:

Nashua Pride Festival, Melina Jaharis, mezzo-soprano. Nashua Community Music School, Nashua, NH, 6/25/22.

New Dramatists, version for three voices presented as part of music-theater workshop. Blake Friedman, Nicole Mitchell, and Camille Harris, vocalists, with Charity Wicks, piano. New York NY, 4/19/18.

New Dramatists, version for three voices presented as part of public working session at culmination of the New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Studio. Joshua Hinck, Mallory Hawks, and Lucia Rodrique, vocalists, with Roger Ames, piano. New York NY, 02/03/17.

Large ensemble version:

Visit the Sauntering Songs page for performance history.

Woman Walking (2020/arr. 2023)

Soprano and piano (or mezzo-soprano, cello, and piano). 5 mins.

Watercolor painting of a city street
Painting by Nell Shaw Cohen

Soprano and piano version commissioned by Laura Strickling for The 40@40 Project.

Mezzo-soprano, cello, and piano version excerpted from Sauntering Songs: a concert-length cantata on the theme of walking, commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble.

Lyrics by Megan Cohen.

The World Premiere recording of Woman Walking is featured on 40@40 released by soprano Laura Strickling (Bright Shiny Things). Available for purchase and for streaming on all major platforms. Nominated for a 2024 GRAMMY Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album.

Perusal Score

View perusal score for soprano and piano version.

View persual score for mezzo-soprano, cello, and piano version.

Performance scores available for purchase. Please direct inquiries to Nell Shaw Cohen at nell@nellshawcohen.com.

Program Note

A portrait of a solitary woman and present-day flâneuse as she saunters on city streets, taking it all in and going nowhere in particular. Originally commissioned by Laura Strickling in a version for soprano and piano, this song was later arranged and incorporated into Sauntering Songs: a concert-length cantata on the theme of walking, commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble. 

Related Content

Performance History

Soprano and piano version:

  • Laura Strickling, soprano and Daniel Schlosberg, piano; University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 3/2/22.
  • Laura Strickling, soprano and Daniel Schlosberg, piano; Thirsty Ears Festival, Chicago, IL, 8/14/22.
  • Laura Strickling, soprano and Daniel Schlosberg, piano; Baltimore Lieder Weekend, Baltimore, MD, 10/21/22.
  • Laura Strickling, soprano and Daniel Schlosberg, piano; Bargemusic, Brooklyn, NY, 4/14/2023.

Mezzo-soprano, cello, and piano version:

Visit the Sauntering Songs page for performance history.

Turn and Burn (2020)

Opera in one act for 2 sopranos, mezzo-soprano, baritone, and bass-baritone, with electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, drum set, 2 violins, viola, cello, and double bass. 71 mins.

Libretto by Megan Cohen. Commissioned by Houston Grand Opera for HGOco’s “Song of Houston” initiative. Recipient of OPERA America Commissioning Grant for Female Composers.

Barrel racer in black and white

In Turn and Burn, small-town barrel racing champion Shayla Taylor and ambitious executive Jamie Hernandez aim for a big win at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. When an accident threatens Shayla’s career-defining race, the women discover each other’s strength in adversity. Set in a colorful world of bucking broncs and carnival rides, composer Nell Shaw Cohen and librettist Megan Cohen’s original story informed by interviews with rodeo athletes offers a feminist perspective on contemporary rodeo culture.

Performance History

Workshop at Houston Grand Opera, Houston, TX, Geoffrey Loff, Conductor; 12/09/19.

World Premiere production originally scheduled for February 2021, postponed (due to COVID-19) to 2023 .