Celebrating Women Composers
Join the College and The Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra in celebrating the lives and works of women throughout history with the music of alumna Karen LeFrak '69, the often overlooked contributions of Louise Farrenc to the French Romantic period, and Nkeiru Okoye's probing new monodrama and ever more popular songs of Harriet Tubman featuring soloists Synthia Pullum, soprano and Damian Norfleet, baritone. This invigorating performance is conducted by Ng Tian Hui.
Sponsored by the Mount Holyoke Club of Chicago, Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy and the Music Department of Mount Holyoke College
The Mary Lyon Concert Series presented by The Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra (MHSO)
In addition to the Abbey Chapel performance, the MHSO of Mount Holyoke College will also perform the Mary Lyon Concert Series at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, Illinois on Saturday, January 21st at 4:00pm (tickets required).
The Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra, or MHSO, is one of the largest of many musical performing groups at Mount Holyoke College. Other groups include the Chorale, Glee Club, and Chamber Singers, as well as numerous women’s acapella groups, Flute Choir, and Big Band, among others. The MHSO includes Mount Holyoke students of all class years, majors, and minors, as well as Mount Holyoke Faculty members, members of the surrounding community, and students from other colleges in the Five College Consortium.
The Orchestra’s repertoire over the years has included a wide range of styles ranging from Mozart and Beethoven to popular movie soundtracks including Pirates of the Caribbean and works by John Williams. The Orchestra was founded in 2000 by Mount Holyoke students Lisa Utsinger ’01 and Sara Curtin ’02.
“...Synthia Pullum sang Miss Jessel with great power, verve, and conviction (and nice touches of Bertha Mason, the madwoman in the attic from Jane Eyre).” -The Boston Musical Intelligencer=
A native of Jefferson, TX, Synthia Pullum is an aspiring opera singer and educator. After much musical success in high school, she went on to study vocal performance at Loyola University New Orleans under the late Professor Philip Frohnmayer. While attending Loyola, she performed the title role of Susannah by Carlisle Floyd and received numerous awards from competitions, such as the 2011 Classical Singer Competition where she was a district finalist and the 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Gulf Coast District where she received the Encouragement Award. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she traveled to Kiefersfelden, Germany performing Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with the Internationale Theater und Opern Company in Summer 2012. She then went on to pursue a Master of Music in Vocal Pedagogy from New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA under Ms. Luretta Bybee. There she performed role of Miss Jessel in Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of The Screw, as well as the title role in Giacomo Puccini’s Suor Angelica; she made her professional debut with WomenArts in the East Coast premiere of Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story as Lou Ella Townsend and Victoria Gray. In 2016, she performed the role of Fiordiligi in Mozarts’s Cosi fan tutte with the Deleware Valley Opera Company's Summer Festival. She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and Sigma Alpha Iota, International Music Fraternity for Women.
Damian Norfleet is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed actor of stage and screen. Norfleet played the role of Smith in the Drama Desk Award-nominated production of The Threepenny Opera at Marvell Repertory Theater; was nominated for an IRNE Award for Best Actor for his performance as Coalhouse in Ragtime at Fiddlehead Theatre Company where he returned to play The Lion in The Wiz; and won an ATAC Globe award for Best Actor for his performance as Ken in Smokey Joe’s Café at Sierra Repertory Theatre. Additionally, he appeared as Curtis Taylor Jr. in Dreamgirls for Ivoryton Playhouse, Joe in Showboat for Lamplite Theater, and Old Deuteronomy in Cats at Ocean City Theatre. This month, Mr. Norfleet can be seen in Ogunquit Playhouse’s production of Beauty and the Beast. In addition to doing established stage works, Damian actively participates in workshops, including Yeast Nation (by the Tony-winning creators of Urinetown) at the Perseverance Theater, Makandal at the Guggenheim Museum Theater, Go West! (Village People musical), Casanova at AMAS Musical Theater, and multiple new shows with the Prospect Theater Company. Mr. Norfleet appeared in the inaugural cast of After Midnight aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle. A former resident artist of the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, Mr. Norfleet is also an advocate for new American operas. He recently played Frederick Douglass in the new opera Truth, and originated the role of John Tubman in Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed with The American Opera Project in New York City. On screen, Damian can be seen as the Emcee in the feature film Outliving Emily (starring Andre Braugher, Phylicia Rashad, and Olympia Dukakis) and as Edmund in the comedy series CO-Operation.
Ng Tian Hui
Orchestra Conductor and Founder of the Mary Lyon Concert Series
Ng Tian Hui, the conductor of the MHSO, is a conductor, composer, and singer. He is known for his versatility as a composer and has written music for animation, film, dance, and theatre, as well as for choir and orchestra. A baritone, he has performed to critical acclaim as a soloist with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonic Chamber Choir of Singapore. Mr. Ng holds a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from the Yale School of Music and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, with Marguerite Brooks, Simon Carrington, Jeffrey Douma, and Masaaki Suzuki. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Birmingham, UK, where he studied composition with Vic Hoyland and orchestral conducting with Andrew Constantine, trombone with Phillip Harrison, and Sackbut with Susan Addison.
At Yale, he was the principal assistant conductor of the Yale Camerata, co-conductor of the Yale Recital Chorus and the Saybrook College Orchestra, and the ensemble manager of the Yale Schola Cantorum. At Birmingham, he was the conductor of the Chamber Choir, the Chamber Orchestra, Sinfonia, Recital Chorus and Summer Festival New Music Ensemble and Opera. He has participated in conducting master classes with Simon Halsey, Paul Hillier, Nicholas McGegan, Helmuth Rilling and Dale Warland, among others.
His outstanding work at Yale won him the Edwin Stanley Seder Scholarship in 2009 and the Hugh Porter Scholarship in 2010. He was awarded the Silver Award at the National Arts Education Awards 2006 for his work in crafting an integrated arts program which embraced Music, Theatre, Dance, and the Visual Arts at Ang Mo Kio Secondary School in Singapore. He has taught at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, and has made numerous presentations at conferences and workshops.
We asked him a few questions about what inspired the creation of the Mary Lyon Concert Series and this year’s tour program. Here is his answer:
“Ever since I first arrived at Mount Holyoke College, I have been thinking of how to ensure that the orchestra's program, in addition to paying homage to the great music of the western classical canon, which is largely composed by "dead white men", also serves to reflect the diversity of our college. A part of this, was very naturally works by women composers, living and not. Up till 2014, we were very lucky with a range of anniversaries and serendipitous opportunities that resulted in a good number of women composers being featured in our programming. I thought that it would be good to create a new tradition for the orchestra, so that we can be one of the leading exponents of music by women. Hence the Mary Lyon Concert, which goes on tour each year to one of our alumnae clubs in the nation.
The inaugural concert last year was held in DC, and this year, we will visit our Chicago club. Last year's program was inspired by the political concerns of our nation, given that we were performing in the nation's capital. We performed Dark River, by Mary D Watkins in recognition of the civil rights debate that has pervaded the conversations of 2015. In relation to the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, we chose to focus on the commonalities of the Abrahamic faith and focus on our shared values and stories, instead of the differences between the major religions that were born in the Middle East.
Our Chicago club appreciated the social activism of our DC program and asked that we program something similar. I was primarily inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and wanted to ensure that that had a voice in classical music, that went beyond the usual Porgy and Bess rendition.”