I. The Song Rehearsal: Duet, a cappella (A. E. Stallings)
- Performer(s) Audrey Luna, soprano; Gwen Coleman Detwiler, soprano; Lydia Brown, piano
In the summer of 2013, Gwen Detwiler, Audrey Luna, and I were faculty together at SongFest. Waiting for a master class to begin, we found ourselves in a conversation, exchanging stories about what it was like, for each of us, to give birth. Some of our experiences were common to all three of us, others were unique. As we were talking, we remarked that there is very little, if any, art song literature about the experience itself told from the birthing mother's perspective. This seemed strange to us and so we decided to create a work which tells stories of the birth experience in song. All during 2014, we searched for and exchanged ideas for texts, we tried writing our own texts, and we asked our friends to contribute texts. Then Gwen's sister pointed us towards a book of essays, Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers edited by Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon. For eight of the ten songs we drew from texts by Phoebe Damrosch, Lauren Groff, Heidi Pitlor, Cheryl Strayed, and Gina Zucker. Two additional poems by A. E. Stallings complete the cycle.
The Birth Project, for two sopranos and piano, is a cycle made up of stories: discovering you are pregnant (“The Song Rehearsal,” “Pregnant”), marveling at the mystery of the child growing in the womb (“Ultrasound”), being past the due date (“Due Date”), intense aloneness (“Alone”), letting go of fear (“Mia”), and four birth stories (“Superhero,” “From the Start,” “Five Days,” “I did it!”).