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Calliope's Call, 'New Moon'

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Published June 19, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated June 19, 2024 at 10:58 a.m.


Calliope's Call, New Moon - COURTESY
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  • Calliope's Call, New Moon

(Self-released, digital)

The singers who make up Calliope's Call, a Boston-based ensemble, live elsewhere. Founder and mezzo-soprano Megan Roth resides in Hartford, Conn., and soprano Evangelia "Evan" Leontis moved to Winhall, Vt., in 2018. While the two have found an appreciative audience and donor base in Boston, where they mainly continue to perform, they'll reach much-deserved new fans with their debut album, New Moon, released this Thursday, June 20.

In Greek mythology, Calliope is one of the nine muses of music and the patron of epic poetry; fittingly, Calliope's Call specialize in art song, or poems turned into song. Usually performed solo with piano accompaniment, the art-song repertoire goes back centuries and is stocked with Italian, German and French songs. New Moon, however, features more contemporary songs by American women composers, all in English.

Four of them are living: Sarah Hutchings, Jodi Goble, Libby Larsen and Gilda Lyons, all born between 1950 and 1984. The fifth, Marion Bauer, lived from 1882 to 1955. Two song cycles on the album are so new they are first recordings: Hutchings' The Dream of the Moon, from 2022, and Goble's 2017 Valentines From Amherst.

The poetry is largely by American women, too. Listeners may recognize Emily Dickinson's "Wild Nights! — Wild Nights!," which Goble turns into a two-and-a-half-minute drama of passion in the second song of Valentines. Rita Dove's "Adolescence I" becomes a bluesy song called "Boy's Lips" in Larsen's cycle Love After 1950. Each song on the album is a gem of a composition delivered in the singers' highly trained, operatic voices.

Leontis, who studied at the Eastman School of Music and earned a master's degree at Boston University and a doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is a Vermont soprano to watch. She teaches voice at Vermont State University Castleton and Keene State College in New Hampshire and has sung leads and solos in Brandon's Barn Opera, the Bennington County Choral Society and Brattleboro's Wagner in Vermont Festival.

Leontis and Roth each sing roughly half the works on the album, accompanied with attentive panache by New England Conservatory pianist J.J. Penna. Leontis sings Hutchings' five-song cycle, which ranges in mood from the brightly playful "The Giggle Fit" to the mournful "Bitterness"; Hutchings wrote her own poems based on works by Persian poet Hafiz.

Leontis discovered Bauer, the first American composer to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, while researching material for her doctoral recital. Bauer's Four Poems, Op. 16 is haunting and dramatic and at least as contemporary-sounding as the Hutchings, though composed in 1924.

Penna disappears in the final number, "The Parting Glass," an a cappella duet of an Irish song arranged by Lyons. So close in range are Leontis' and Roth's voices in the song that it is difficult to tell them apart, and so well matched that one wishes for more duets. Perhaps that could be their second album.

New Moon will be available on all major streaming services. Leontis performs solo at the Taconic Music Festival in Manchester on Saturday, June 29.

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