6 Songs for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano

on Poems by Molly Fillmore

E. C. Schirmer Music Company

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CAMEOS was first composed as a soprano song cycle in 2017, following Juliana Hall receiving a package from soprano Molly Fillmore that contained six poems she had written, along with illustrations of the paintings and the women artists on which the poems are based. Fillmore recounted the impetus for her poems and her commission for Hall to set them to music:

“The idea for this cycle came while watching an episode of “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS. One of the pieces analyzed was a painting by a female American artist from the early 20th century. In discussing the work, the fact that the artist faced challenges with recognition due to her gender was mentioned, and I wondered how many female artists we should know more about, and do not, because their work was not created by a man. This inspired me to ask myself if there was something I, as a singer, could do to highlight some female American artists? I thought of the song group “Le travail du peintre” by Francis Poulenc and decided that there is good reason for a similar type of song group with female painters as its muse. The title of the poetry group, “Bold Beauty,” is straightforward. All of these women created beauty not only for themselves, but also for us, then known and unknown audience; in order to do so, as products of their time and our world, they needed to be bold. They challenged prescribed roles and expectations because they were compelled by art; and we are so grateful for their boldness and their beauty.”

In 2018, Fillmore (who had previously had a long and successful career as a mezzo-soprano) asked Hall if it might be possible to write a mezzo-soprano version of “Cameos” so Hall wrote a new version of the piece – essentially the same, but different enough in detail as to warrant its own version and publication. It is this mezzo-soprano version of “Cameos” that Fillmore and pianist Elvia Puccinelli recorded on their CD of Hall’s songs entitled “Bold Beauty: Songs by Juliana Hall” and it was this mezzo-soprano version that was first premiered in 2018.

Hall writes of the process of creating these songs:

“I’m grateful to Molly for sending me her wonderful poems, so full of brilliant color and sparkling musicality. Ordinarily I take my cue from words alone, but with “Cameos” this was the first time I had two sources of inspiration to guide me in my composing: Molly’s lively and imaginative words, of course, but also the creations of the six women artists who were the subject of Molly’s poems, the amazing artwork itself, that gave me a second perspective from which to view this project as I wrote, and provided a unique experience for me that made these songs a special joy to write!”

1 – Sarah Albritton
2 – Kay Walkingstick
3 – Nellie Mae Rowe
4 – Alice Dalton Brown
5 – Agnes Pelton
6 – Corita Kent

Vocal Range
A-flat 3  :  A-flat 5

16′ 00″

Vocal Tessitura
F 4  :  C 5

Molly Fillmore

First Performance
October 18, 2018
CollabFest 2018
University of North Texas School of Music
Denton, Texas

Year of Composition

First Performers
Molly Fillmore, mezzo-soprano
Elvia Puccinelli, piano

“Fillmore’s poetry – a collection titled “Bold Beauty” – examines the lives and work of six female artists of the early twentieth century through the creation of spare and enigmatic prose that speaks in staccato bursts…From the first, Hall’s compositional voice is instantly recognizable in these song settings. Her choice of interesting, unusual, and often less well known texts, combined with a musical, harmonic, and melodic language that can be barbed, tonally adventurous, and gloriously jagged, brings a union of word and music that intrigues the listener, and thoroughly engages performers…”

– Kathleen Roland-Silverstein,
   NATS Journal of Singing

“The title of this album of songs by Juliana Hall refers to a poetry set that became Cameos, one of the cycles performed here by soprano Molly Fillmore and pianist Elvia Puccinelli. But ‘Bold Beauty’ deserves to apply to the entire programme of Hall’s creations…a testament both to these supremely lyrical and resourceful writers and to composer Hall, whose glistening, poignant music follows the natural arc of the words while enhancing the conversational flow…Hall employs subtle brushstrokes of tone-painting to evoke the moods and emotions in the texts. Her music for Cameos (2018) highlights the evolution of her style…with added harmonic richness and bold and beautiful (amen, the disc’s title) shaping of melodic lines. Fillmore’s poems are spare, vivid glances at female artists who, in the soprano’s words, ‘challenged prescribed roles and expectations because they were compelled by art’.”

– Donald Rosenberg,

“American composer Juliana Hall has been highly prolific when it comes to song-writing, she has written some 60 song-cycles plus other vocal works which represents a remarkable dedication to the song form. And these are real art songs, not contemporary popular lyrics…Cameos sets lovely aphoristic texts by the singer on this disc, Molly Fillmore…The six songs are each quite strongly developed and remarkably complex in conception and construction…the songs here are powerful and imaginative statements. Whether they are evocative of the original artists and their art matters not, what is important is that Hall has created a sequence of striking musical statements that have a real life in their own right.”

– Robert Hugill,
   Planet Hugill

“Every measure of music recorded here is a clear demonstration of Hall’s exceptional abilities for taking almost any kind of text and giving it new life through music…Cameos, from 2018, is a set of six songs set to poems by Molly Fillmore…The set is meant to be a tribute to past American female artists whose excellent work deserves far greater recognition. One might be forgiven for assuming the worst about such a project, but in fact Fillmore’s poems are sophisticated and expertly crafted, and Hall reciprocates with some of her most imaginatively conceived music.”

– Gregory Berg,
   NATS Journal of Singing

Molly Fillmore, soprano
Elvia Puccinelli, piano

1 – Sarah Albritton

2 – Kay WalkingStick

3 – Nellie Mae Rowe

4 – Alice Dalton Brown

5 – Agnes Pelton

6 – Corita Kent

Molly Fillmore, soprano
Elvia Puccinelli, piano

Juliana Hall’s “Cameos” and the Female Visual Artist as Muse