Five Borough Songbook Vol III


THURSDAY, APR 21, 2022

7:00 PM pre-concert chat
7:30 PM performance


SUNDAY, APR 24, 2022

3:30 PM pre-concert chat
4:00 PM performance


5BMF’s 2021-2022 Season continues this spring with the World Premiere of the Five Borough Songbook, Volume III!

A special co-production with On Site Opera, this new cycle of fifteen songs, duets, and ensembles by fifteen composers was commissioned in honor of 5BMF’s 15th Anniversary and On Site Opera’s 10th Anniversary seasons, and marks the third installment of 5BMF’s critically-acclaimed quinquennial Five Borough Songbook project.

Featuring new works by Arianne Abela, Raquel Acevedo Klein, Kinan Azmeh, Colin Britt, Majel Connery, Laura Jobin-Acosta, Will Healy, Brian Lawlor, Jessica Meyer, Angélica Negrón, Nkeiru Okoye, Juri Seo, Aaron Siegel, Darian Thomas, and Jonathan Woody, the Songbook derives its inspiration from locations scattered throughout New York City — three songs for each borough — to create a mosaic of the city’s past, present and future. The Songbook’s texts are drawn from a variety of sources: written by the composers themselves, from existing poetry (including Joseph Tusiani, Amy Lowell, and Walt Whitman), and newly-commissioned words in Arabic by Firas Sulaiman, in Spanish and English by Noel Quiñones, and by Valerie Seeley.

This April, the Songbook, Vol III will receive its World Premiere in a free performance at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Dweck Cultural Center, co-presented by BPL Presents, followed by the Staten Island premiere at Trinity Lutheran Church. Both concerts feature an all-star lineup of artists, including performers from the acclaimed vocal super-group Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble — sopranos Michele Kennedy and Gitanjali Mathur, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte, tenor Haitham Haidar, and bass-baritone Jonathan Woody — as well as pianist Candace Chien, violinist Pala Garcia, and cellist John Popham.



Thu 4.21.22 | 7:30 PM

Dweck Cultural Center, Brooklyn Public Library

This event is in the past.

Sun 4.24.22 | 4:00 pm

Trinity Lutheran Church, Staten Island

$25 General Admission
$15 Students w/ID
This event is in the past.
NEA Arts

The Five Borough Songbook, Vol. III is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Five Borough Songbook, Vol. III is supported in part by The Puffin Foundation.


TBA; New works by:
Arianne Abela
Raquel Acevedo Klein
Kinan Azmeh
Colin Britt
Majel Connery
Laura Jobin-Acosta
Will Healy
Brian Lawlor
Jessica Meyer
Angélica Negrón
Nkeiru Okoye
Juri Seo
Aaron Siegel
Darian Thomas
Jonathan Woody


Michele Kennedy, soprano

Soprano Michele Kennedy is a versatile specialist in early classical and new music. Praised by The Washington Post as “a fine young soprano with a lovely voice”— possessing an “excellent and engaging” presence and “a graceful tonal clarity that is a wonder to hear” (San Francisco Chronicle) — Michele’s concert venues include Carnegie Hall, Davies Symphony Hall, Getty Museum, The Library of Congress, and Washington National Cathedral.

Recent seasons have featured Michele in the Bach Magnificat, St. John Passion, and Christmas Oratorio, Handel Messiah & Dixit Dominus, Mozart C Minor Mass, Faure Requiem, and Smith Moore’s Scenes from the Life of a Martyr. She’s been featured in Bach’s St. John with The San Francisco Symphony, Poulenc’s Gloria with Bach Society of Saint Louis, Handel’s Messiah with Trinity Wall Street, and Mendelssohn’s Midsummer with The SF Ballet. Michele is thrilled for her upcoming debuts with Portland Baroque Orchestra, Shenendoah Bach Festival, and Dark Horse Consort in 2022.

Among Michele’s new music adventures are Aaron Siegel’s oratorio – I Will Tell You The Truth About This – at NYC’s Schomburg Center, and selected Studio Ghibli arias with Maestro Hisaishi and The Hollywood Film Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. She performed Dina Shilleh’s Another Day premiere and selected art songs by Florence Price with Mimesis Ensemble in a recital program soon to be made into a new album. And after debuting Julia Wolfe’s Fire In My Mouth with The New York Philharmonic in 2019, Michele will join Lorelei Ensemble in a world premiere tour of Wolfe’s Her Story in 2022-23 alongside the Nashville, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and National Symphony Orchestras.

Michele completed her musical studies at Yale University and NYU. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, visual artist Benjamin Thorpe, and their daughter, Audra May. A lifelong advocate of BIPOC, LGBTQ, and female voices across the field, Michele is all about cultivating joy in daily practice wherever it can be found.

Gitanjali Mathur

GITANJALI MATHUR is hailed as having “skyrocketing coloratura,” “fluid and dexterous voice,” “piercingly clear soprano,” and being a “natural and convincing comedic actress.” Originally from India, she grew up learning North Indian Classical music with her guru N.G Kelkar. After completing her Bachelor, Master’s and Performer Diploma Degrees in Vocal Performance along with minors in Computer Science and Mathematics from Indiana University, she moved to Austin, TX. She performs regularly with Texas Early Music Project, Ensemble viii, La Follia, True Concord Voices and Orchestra, the Victoria Bach Festival, Texas Bach Festival, American Baroque Opera Company, and the GRAMMY-winning ensemble Conspirare. In addition, she has sung on GRAMMY-winning and -nominated CDs with both Conspirare and Seraphic Fire. Mathur was nominated in 2018 in the Austin Critics Table Awards for “Classical Best Singer”. She made her solo Carnegie Hall debut with Helmuth Rilling in J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and fondly remembers her time singing with Maestro Rilling at the Oregon Bach Festival. She performed the lead female roles in Pergolesi’s Intermezzo La Serva Padrona in 2009, in Telemann’s comic Opera Pimpinone in 2018, and in Handel’s Acis and Galatea in 2022. In 2020, she created, co-produced and performed in a talk-show style mini-series featuring lullabies and songs of comfort from around the world called “Night Music!”

Cecilia Duarte, mezzo-soprano

Praised by The New York Times as “a creamy voiced mezzo-soprano,” Cecilia Duarte is a versatile singer who specializes in early music and contemporary opera. A soloist in the Grammy-Winning album Duruflé: The Complete Choral Works, Cecilia premiered the role of Renata in the Mariachi Opera Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (Houston Grand Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, San Diego Opera, El Paso Opera, NYCOpera, Europe and South America); as well as Renata in El Milagro del Recuerdo (HGO); Harriet/First Responder in After the Storm (HGO); Alicia in Some Light Emerges (HGO); and Alma in the new opera web series Star Cross’d with Houston Grand Opera. Other operatic roles include Maria in Maria de Buenos Aires, Loma Williams in Cold Sassy Tree, Sarelda in The Inspector, and Tituba in The Crucible.

Cecilia’s early music experience includes regular performances with Ars Lyrica Houston, Mercury Houston, Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble and most recently, the Boston Early Music Festival. Future engagements include performances with Houston Grand Opera, American Baroque Opera, the Boston Early Music Festival, and Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble, as well as the release of her first solo album, Reencuentros (Reference Recordings), produced by multiple Grammy-Award-winner Blanton Alspaugh.

Haitham Haidar, tenor

Haitham Haidar is a Lebanese-Palestinian Canadian tenor, currently based in Montreal. He is a proud graduate of Yale’s Institute of Sacred Music, McGill’s Schulich School of Music, and the University of British Columbia. Praised for his ‘ductile,’ ‘bright,’ and ‘robust’ tenor, Haitham enjoys performing oratorio, opera, and chamber music across North America, Europe, and Asia. Haitham is also a proud member of Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble, whose mission aims to present vocal music with the highest artistic excellence, while celebrating racial, ethnic, and gender diversity.

Haitham has recently been seen as the tenor soloist with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra in Handel’s Messiah under the baton of Kathleen Allan, and as an ensemble member with Apollo’s Fire, Artefact, and Spire ensembles. Upcoming performances include Evangelist in Bach’s St. John Passion with Pacific Baroque Orchestra and Kathleen Allan.

Haitham’s approach to performance has always been humanity first. Being an Arab immigrant in North America comes with its unique set of oppressive challenges and it is because of that and what he sees around him in the field, that he aims to touch people’s hearts with music and compassion and make change in the world the best way he knows how.

Jonathan Woody, baritone

Bass-baritone Jonathan Woody is a sought-after performer of early and new music in New York and across North America. He has been featured with historically-informed orchestras such as Apollo’s Fire, Boston Early Music Festival, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Bach Collegium San Diego, Portland Baroque Orchestra and New York Baroque Incorporated, earning praise as “charismatic,” “riveting,” and “wonderfully dramatic.” Jonathan is also committed to ensemble singing at the highest level and has performed with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, TENET, the Clarion Music Society and New York Polyphony, among others.

An avid performer of new music, Jonathan has premiered works including Ellen Reid’s p r i s m (2019 Pulitzer Prize winner), Ted Hearne’s The Source, Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves (NYC premiere), and Du Yun’s Angel’s Bone (2017 Pulitzer Prize winner). He has appeared with Staunton Music Festival, Aldeburgh Festival, Portland Bach Festival, Carmel Bach Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, Opera Lafayette, Gotham Chamber Opera, and Beth Morrison Projects. Jonathan has recorded with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street (Musica Omnia), Boston Early Music Festival (RadioBremen), and New York Polyphony (BIS Records). Jonathan’s musical pursuits extend beyond his voice; as a composer, he has been commissioned by groups including Lorelei Ensemble, the Handel & Haydn Society and the Uncommon Music Festival.

Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, Jonathan holds degrees from McGill University and the University of Maryland, College Park.

Candace Chien, piano

Lauded for her “particularly lovely” playing and sound, collaborative pianist Candace Chien is an active performer and teacher in the New York City area. The 2021-22 season includes appearances at Kimmel Center Perelman Hall and Academy of Music, Five Boroughs Music Festival, Winter Harbor Music Festival, collaborations with Fresh Squeezed Opera and Opera On Tap and more. She continues her role as pianist for On Site Opera, including a featured performance at Caramoor’s summer season alongside mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe. Because of her commitment to outreach, Candace is also Music for Autism’s Spotlight Artist of 2022. In the spare time between private teaching and concertizing, one can also find Candace in the kitchen. Her personal connection to music and food can be seen on Food Network tv show, Cooks Versus Cons, Season 4 in the episode “Fry, Fry Again!”.

Candace is a graduate of The Juilliard School, studying with Jonathan Feldman and Margo Garrett. She received her Master’s degree in piano performance at the Manhattan School of Music with the guidance of Jeffery Cohen and obtained her undergraduate degree in piano performance and music education at Temple University under Professor Harvey Wedeen.

Pala Garcia, violin

Pala Garcia is a critically acclaimed violinist, balancing a full performance schedule with her work as an educator and advocate of socially conscious artistry. As a contemporary music specialist, she is the co-founder of Longleash, an “expert young trio” (Strad Magazine) that recently added two highly acclaimed releases to their discography: a debut album, Passage, that earned them Sequenza 21’s Best New Recording Artist of 2017, and a work on the album Soft Aberration, named a Notable Recording of 2017 by The New Yorker

Pala has performed as a featured artist throughout Asia, Europe and North America, and as a regular guest in some of the world’s most respected ensembles, including the the International Contemporary Ensemble, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Her longstanding involvement with Carnegie Hall’s social impact programs has led to meaningful artistic collaborations with New Yorkers from all walks of life, making music, celebrating creativity and building community in prisons, shelters and hospitals.

Pala serves on the violin faculties of the Juilliard School’s Preparatory Division and Hunter College, and was a Senior Teaching Fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center. Together with her Longleash colleagues, Pala co-leads the Loretto Project, a summer residency and concert series, and its Pathways Initiative, a high school composition workshop. She is an alum of the Juilliard School and is currently a doctoral candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she was also recently granted a certificate in Women’s Studies. Her debut solo album, featuring the music of Peter Kramer, is forthcoming in 2022 with New Focus Recordings.

John Popham, cello

Cellist John Popham is a chamber musician and teacher based in Brooklyn, New York. His playing has been described as “brilliant” and “virtuosic” (Kronen Zeitung), “warm but variegated”, and “finely polished” (The New York Times).

Currently a member of Either/Or Ensemble and LONGLEASH, Mr. Popham has performed internationally with groups including Klangforum Wien, Talea Ensemble, and the Argento Chamber Ensemble. He has appeared as soloist with the Louisville Orchestra, the String Orchestra of Brooklyn, the Red Light Ensemble, and the Kunstuniversität Graz Chorus.

Recent festival appearances include Brücken (Austria), Open Musik (Austria), IMPULS (Austria), the Vermont Mozart Festival, USINESONORE (Switzerland), Bay Chamber (Maine), the Contemporary Classical Music Festival (Peru), Lucerne Festival, and Klangspuren (Austria).

Dedicated to new music performance, Mr. Popham has worked with composers including Pierre Boulez, Tristan Murail, Steve Reich, Nils Vigeland, and Reiko Füting. The recipient of a Fulbright research grant, Mr. Popham spent the 2013/2014 academic year in Austria, where he studied the performance practice of Klangforum Wien and worked with leading figures in contemporary Austrian music: Beat Furrer, Georg Friedrich Haas, Klaus Lang, and Pierluigi Billone.

Mr. Popham is currently cello faculty of the Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program. He received his BM and MM from the Manhattan School of Music where he was a student of David Geber and David Soyer and was awarded the Manhattan School of Music Full Scholarship. He has recorded for Tzadik, Carrier, New Focus, Albany, and Arte Nova records.

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