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Beyoncé: Run the World

With so many possibilities, I decided to use the themes of Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin as the themes of my “Song of the Day.” Women’s rights. Civil rights. Women’s suffrage. Pacifism. And a whole lot of Fierce Grace.


The title of “Fierce Grace” is no joke­– it’s fierce on every level, from Jeannette Rankin herself to the all-female creative team of the cycle (Kitty Brazelton, Laura Kaminsky, Laura Karpman, Kimberly Reed and Ellen Reid) to the mindset Heather Johnson and I have to embody in order to perform this non-stop forty-minute work. And who shall put the final stamp of Fierceness on my “Song of the Day” narration? None other than Sasha Fierce herself, who even transcended that name to achieve her reign as Queen…BEYONCÉ. Girl power at its finest.

Nancy Sinatra: These Boots Are Made for Walking

With so many possibilities, I decided to use the themes of Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin as the themes of my “Song of the Day.” Women’s rights. Civil rights. Women’s suffrage. Pacifism. And a whole lot of Fierce Grace.


Given that the third song of the cycle is titled “10,000 Go-Go Boots” (text by Kimberly Reed, music by Laura Kaminsky), how could I NOT include this iconic song recorded by Nancy Sinatra? In 1966, Nancy made her boots for walkin’, and in 1968, Jeannette stepped, stepped, stepped to the Capitol to protest the war in Vietnam, surrounded by the boots of another generation.

Joan Jett: Bad Reputation

With so many possibilities, I decided to use the themes of Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin as the themes of my “Song of the Day.” Women’s rights. Civil rights. Women’s suffrage. Pacifism. And a whole lot of Fierce Grace.


Rankin didn’t care whether she fit into the public’s expectation of her, or into “the boys club” of Congress– she was going to vote for what she believed in. She voted against World War I, and was the lone voice of dissent against the declaration of war on Japan in 1941. Following the vote, she was pursued by a mob of reporters, forcing her to take cover in a phone booth until the Capitol Police arrived to escort her to her office. “As a woman I can’t go to war,” she stated, “and I refuse to send anyone else.” As an ode to Jeannette’s resolution and Kitty Brazelton’s rock ‘n’ roll past (which you can hear hints of in the second song of Fierce Grace), I give you this gem by Joan Jett.

Marian Anderson sings “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”

With so many possibilities, I decided to use the themes of Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin as the themes of my “Song of the Day.” Women’s rights. Civil rights. Women’s suffrage. Pacifism. And a whole lot of Fierce Grace.


Kimberly Reed mentions so many amazing women within the text of Fierce Grace, from Hildegard to Harriet, Susan B to Shirley C, Battling Bella to Wonder Woman. And of course– as the Gen Z “Jeannie” remembers in the text-driven (in every sense!) fourth song featuring Laura Karpman’s music– there’s Eleanor Roosevelt. Diplomat, activist, and oh yeah, the longest serving First Lady of the United States, thanks to FDR’s four terms. When the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let Marian Anderson sing in Constitution Hall in 1939, Roosevelt left the group in protest and arranged for Ms. Anderson to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, beginning with “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

Ethel Smyth: The March of the Women

With so many possibilities, I decided to use the themes of Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin as the themes of my “Song of the Day.” Women’s rights. Civil rights. Women’s suffrage. Pacifism. And a whole lot of Fierce Grace.

P.S. While 2020 is the centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, it was actually passed by Congress on June 4, 1919…meaning our performance on June 11, 2019 is celebrating a centennial as well!


Let’s start with Ethel Smyth, Dame, suffragette and the first female composer to have an opera premiered at The Met. (The latter of which was a title held for more than a century, but that’s another blog post…) Composed in 1910, “The March of the Women” became the anthem of the Women’s Suffrage movement, particularly in the UK. While I can’t say for certain if the Montana-born Rankin (who was a suffragist, not a suffragette) heard this anthem, I learned that she marched during the Woman Suffrage Procession in Washington, D.C. in 1913, three years before being the first woman elected to Congress. “Shout, shout, up with your song!” these women sing, and “Fight for women, fight for suffrage, fight for peace” proclaims the first song of Fierce Grace (text by Kimberly Reed, music by Ellen Reid).

Ray Lustig: Velvet Shoes

NYFOS offers a week of cold-weather songs as we settle into the winter season. 

Ray Lustig’s “Velvet Shoes” was selected by then NYFOS program consultant Ben Sosland for the very first NYFOS Next program in 2009. It was so striking that Steven Blier brought it to the Mainstage the next season in The Newest Deal. Its spare texture captures the fragile peace of a landscape covered by fresh and unblemished snow.

From Steven Blier’s 2010 program notes for The Newest Deal:

The first piece that I knew I wanted was “Velvet Shoes,” by Ray Lustig. I heard it in November at our first new music salon, NYFOS Next, and the song took my breath away. Ray is on the faculty at Juilliard, and studies there as well—he’s working on his D.M.A. with John Corigliano and Robert Beaser. But Ray’s path to music has some delicious kinks. He grew up in Queens but was born in Tokyo, and prior to his life as a composer and teacher he was a molecular biology researcher at Columbia University and Massachusetts General, with several published articles to his name. He writes music of great delicacy, imbued with iridescent colors, percussion effects, and timbral spacing that seem to evoke his birthplace—Tokyo, that is, not Queens. Ray is beginning to find recognition in the great jungle of American classical music—Jonathan Miller directed a workshop of his new opera, Semmelweis. It’s no surprise to me that ballet companies have also picked up on Ray’s music; it has a colorful plasticity, a sense of movement that seems to dance even before a choreographer can get his hands on it.

Adrienne Danrich sings “Velvet Shoes” with Mila Henry at the piano

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