Sappho Songs

  • Wintergreen Music Festival, Wintergreen, VA Diamond Hill Dr Roseland, VA, 22967 United States
Sarah Kapps

Sarah Kapps

Gilda Lyons

Gilda Lyons

Program note

The Sappho Songs were composed during the autumn of 2004 during a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation's Villa Serbellon in Bellagio and completed in New York City in December of the same year.

First, I asked Robert La Rue to choose a handful of Sappho poems from a newly-published translation and to arrange them into an emotionally and psychologically satisying sequence. Second, I adapted the poetry (in the process superimposing six of the poems in order to form dialogues and inserting a reprise of one of them) as I would the text of a living librettist. The result was a song cycle that explores Sappho's poetry and the female condition from eleven different angles.

The cycle was composed for the ensemble Seraphim -- Elaine Valby, Robert La Rue, and Gilda Lyons. The group premiered it on 23 September 2005 in New York City at the Church of Saint Matthew and Saint Timothy, on the inaugural concert of the Phoenix Concert Series. The very specific vocal qualities of the women's voices, their extraordinary blend when combined, and the creamy intelligence of La Rue's playing were an inspiration throughout.

Artistic Director Erin Freeman and Composition Academy faculty member Gilda Lyons will bring their voices together with cellist Sarah Kapps in a setting of Sappho poetry composed by Daron Hagen. Come to the stunning Lookout to find out how a composer brings to life this ancient poetry in this intense and intimate trio.


This concert is sponsored by Stanley Rose and Susan Thomas in celebration of the birthday of legendary cellist Leonard Rose, born this day in 1918.

Erin Freeman

Erin Freeman

Learn more about the Sappho Songs here.

Learn more about the Wintergreen Music Festival here

Learn more about Sarah Kapps here.

Learn more about Erin Freeman here.

Learn more about Gilda Lyons here.


  • Premiere: 23 September 2005  / Church of Saint Matthew and Saint Timothy, New York, NY  / Gilda Lyons, soprano / Elaine Valby, mezzo / Robert La Rue, cello
  • Instrumentation: S,Mez,vc 
  • Duration: 32'
  • Text: Sappho (trans. by Mary Barnard), adapted by the composer (E) 
  1. Come Now
  2. Bridesmaids' Carol
  3. Lament for a Maidenhead
  4. At Noontime
  5. I Confess / I Believe
  6. My Tongue is Broken
  7. Say What You Like / I Have No Complaints
  8. Rich As You Are / Death is An Evil
  9. Not One Word
  10. Reprise
  11. The Evening Star