I have had the privelege to work with amazing co-directors and musicians on some of my most favorite projects to date.
the story of a pa i sha
a musical narrative about my chickasaw ancestors
As a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, I grew up looking at the portrait of my 4th great grandmother Pa I Sha, a woman of immense strength who carried the Chickasaw reputation of "unconquered and unconquerable." This musical narrative, The Story of Pa I Sha, highlights four major stories about my Chickasaw ancestors using my original settings of stomp dances, traditional songs, and hymns from the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations.
We commissioned six Chicago composers to write six pieces about six communities in Chicago. The result was nothing short of amazing. We were honored to perform these works across Chicago and record the Chicago Stories album. The works told stories of Assyrian refugees, Swedish immigrants, two Mexican immigrant brothers who helped start the Latin jazz music scene in Pilsen, minority women in executive positions, and the Great Migration. This album was released in 2021 and features works composed by (in alphabetical order): Amos Gillespie, Heidi Joosten, Ronnie Kuller, Eric Malmquist, and Kurt Westerberg. To purchase the album, click on the image to the left of this text.
In collaboration with the Artemisia Vocal Trio, Blaxican poet Leslé Honoré, and composer Heidi Joosten, the BBE recorded and released a music video of the new work, Pandemic Woman, on International Women's Day in 2022. This work tells the stories of women from all walks of life and their strength that helped the world carry on in the global pandemic.
Back in 2015, I was doing research on fiddle traditions in the 17th and 18th centuries, and by fate came across this work that is an astounding example of how folk tunes and the "classical music" of the time intersected. Published in 1725 by the revered poet Allan Ramsay, this charming comedy of shepherds and their lasses was last performed in the U.S. in 1798. It features the folk and fiddle music of Scotland as “arias” set to text. With a 16-member cast of Chicago’s leading next generation artists the BBE (re)premiered this Scottish opera at The Old Town School of Folk Music and Theater Wit to sold out shows. Click below to read about tale of the noble hearted Patie, and his lovely Peggy, the struggle between love and aristocratic duty, and a couple of old lassies who teach a wayward laddie a lesson with their "sorcerous" pranks!