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.
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 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.
Flute, clarinet, horn, percussion, violin, viola, and cello. 5 ½ minutes.
Commissioned by American Wild Ensemble, Juventas New Music Ensemble, Landscape Music, and Michigan Technological University Department of Visual and Performing Arts to commemorate the 2022 bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted.
This score will become available for purchase on January 1, 2023. If you’d like to be notified at that time, please inquire with Nell Shaw Cohen at email@example.com.
Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted described urban parks as “the lungs of the city.” My music responds to Olmsted & Calvert Vaux’s expression of this metaphor through the iconic meadows and woodlands of New York City’s Prospect Park (1867) and Central Park (1858). A lyrical theme, accompanied by sustained chords held against the flow of undulating triplets, opens and closes the piece. This music evokes the parks’ meadows, where the human body and the body of the landscape are connected through shared “breath.” Stepping off a busy sidewalk into these wide open spaces, the sensation of my lungs filling with fresh air feels like the echo of a gentle breeze blowing through treetops and grasses. A middle section of syncopated rhythms and sinuous counterpoint recalls the parks’ winding woodland interiors, which reflect the “heart” of both visitor and landscape. These woodlands are spaces for contemplation and intimate conversation, where dense forest gives cover to an enigmatic network of footpaths. Even as I cherish these two parks, I find their present-day terrain obfuscates a complex history. Seneca Village (1825-1857) was a vibrant Black community, which New York City’s government forcibly vacated in order to build Central Park. Both parks continue to occupy Lenapehoking: the unceded homeland of the Lenape. The concept of parks as “lungs” may have come from Olmsted’s work in public health during the Civil War. Yet this idea feels strikingly poignant in our own time of pandemic and climate crisis, and has given inspiration and impetus to my music.
American Wild Ensemble (Emlyn Johnson, flute, Ellen Breakfield-Glick, clarinet, Joel Ockerman, horn, Lauren Cauley, violin, Molly Goldman, viola, Daniel Ketter, cello, Colleen Bernstein, percussion), Highland Park, Rochester, NY, 8/07/22.
Juventas New Music Ensemble (Wei Zhao, flute, Wolcott Humphrey, clarinet, Anne Howarth, horn, Jesse MacDonald, violin, Lu Yu, viola, Minjin Chung, cello, Tom Schmidt, percussion), Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, Brookline, MA, 6/04/22.
American Wild Ensemble (Emlyn Johnson, flute, Ellen Breakfield-Glick, clarinet, Joel Ockerman, horn, Lauren Cauley, violin, Molly Goldman, viola, Daniel Ketter, cello, Colleen Bernstein, percussion), CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture, New York, NY, 5/28/22.
American Wild Ensemble (Emlyn Johnson, flute, Ellen Breakfield-Glick, clarinet, Joel Ockerman, horn, Lauren Cauley, violin, Molly Goldman, viola, Daniel Ketter, cello, Colleen Bernstein, percussion), Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, 5/28/22.
Juventas New Music Ensemble (Wei Zhao, flute, Wolcott Humphrey, clarinet, Anne Howarth, horn, Ryan Shannon, violin, Lu Yu, viola, Minjin Chung, cello, Tom Schmidt, percussion), Multicultural Arts Center. East Cambridge, MA, 3/26/22.
Performance score available for purchase. Please direct inquiries to Nell Shaw Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. Inspired in part by Rebecca Solnit’s cultural history of walking, Wanderlust.
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.
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.
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 .