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Yara Ensemble

December 10, 2022 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Suggested Donation of $10

“Across Frontiers: Our Lives, Our Loves”

Saudade for piano solo Alexandra Mascolo-David (b. 1962- )

Works of Portuguese poet Yvette K. Centeno (b. 1940-) set to newly commissioned works for piano and mezzo-soprano by young contemporary Portuguese composers*

Mulher (Woman) Sofia Sousa Rocha (b. 1986- )
Lua Cheia (Full moon)
 Sara Ross (b. 1989- )
A Montanha e o Mar (The Mountain and the Sea)
 Francisco Fontes (b. 1993- )
Separação (Separation)
 Fátima Fonte (b. 1983- )

Six Appalachian Nursery Rhymes* Jay C. Batzner (b. 1974- )

Harry Larry Pridemore Newe
Girl in Bulan Town
Jack and Jill
Little Nancy Etticoat
Song of Six Cents
Charlie Mann

Trovas de Coimbra (Troubadour poetry from Coimbra, Portugal) Alexandra Mascolo-David

1. Vão-se os anos (The years gone by…)
2. Se eu soubesse ao ver o dia (Had I known when I saw the day…)
3. Olho, atento, o céu imenso (Intently, watching, the immense sky…)

*Denotes world premiere

Program Notes

Saudade was inspired by the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the 15th and 16th centuries,  and by saudade, the intense longing felt by both sailors and the loved ones left behind.

Newly Commissioned Portuguese Songs for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano
The themes of love, longing, motherhood, separation, and nature—intangible and ephemeral  elements of all human existence—pervade the work of Portuguese poet Yvette K. Centeno.  Yara Ensemble commissioned contemporary Portuguese composers Fátima Fonte, Francisco  Fontes, Sara Ross, and Sofia Sousa Rocha to write works based on Centeno’s poems. The world  premiere was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, but due to the Covid19 pandemic, the  first performance of the works suffered numerous delays. We are thrilled to finally bring these  works to the public at PianoForte Chicago, as they offer a unique opportunity to encourage and  disseminate the work of a new generation of Portuguese composers.

Appalachian Nursery Rhymes
I was thrilled when Yara Ensemble asked me to write a piece for them. And I was even more thrilled  when they had text already chosen – the delightful Appalachian Nursery Rhymes. These charming and  quirky versions of well-known rhymes were a lot of fun to play with and working with the ensemble has  been a dream come true! -Jay Batzner

Trovas de Coimbra
Between the 12th and 14th centuries, the art of troubadours flourished throughout Europe. The  medieval Portuguese city of Coimbra, home to one of Europe’s oldest universities, soon became  a vibrant cultural center where artists, musicians, and poets gathered. The poetry of trovas addressed the quintessential themes of platonic and unrequited love and saudade (longing).  The trova writing tradition in Portugal has survived the passing of time and is still prevalent in  today’s Coimbra. Poet A. Gonçalves Cunha (1902-1986) wrote Trovas de Coimbra in the 1930s.  Given my Portuguese heritage, the theme of saudade resonated with me deeply, thus inspiring  me to set three of Cunha’s trovas for mezzo-soprano and piano. – Alexandra Mascolo-David

About the Program
Yara Ensemble (Alexandra Mascolo-David, piano; Sarah Stone, mezzo-soprano; Annette Thornton, stage director) is excited to return to Piano Forte and present their new program entitled “Across Frontiers: Our Lives, Our Stories.” We open with our signature piano solo, “Saudade,” composed and played by Alexandra Mascolo-David. “Saudade” – meaning “longing” — is inspired by 16 th and 17 th century Portuguese women waiting for their husbands to return from New World sea voyages. We then travel first in time, with the World Premiere of newly commissioned works for piano and mezzo-soprano by contemporary Portuguese composers Fátima Fonte, Francisco Fontes, Sara Ross, and Sofia Sousa Rocha with poetry by Yvette Centeno, and then across the ocean, with six “Appalachian Nursery Rhymes” set to piano and mezzo-soprano by American composer Jay Batzner. The program concludes with three “Trovas de Coimbra” for mezzo-soprano and piano, composed by Mascolo-David. Yara Ensemble continues to create an immersive environment in which the audience experiences a journey of cultural exploration and understanding through music, storytelling, and poetry.


Also spelled Iara or Uira, theYara is a creature of native Brazilian mythology. She is often represented as a water nymph, siren, or mermaid—one of the forms commonly attributed to Brazilian orixá Yemanjá, the goddess of the seas. Yara is the beautiful young woman associated with a body of fresh water, with fair skin and green, seaweed-like hair, who occasionally could be found sitting on a rock combing her hair or basking in the sun. The song of the Yara is believed to be irresistible to men who, once under her spell, are lured to the waters’ depths to live with the siren forever.

Yara Ensemble is an exciting and unique collaboration between Portuguese-Italian-American pianist Alexandra Mascolo-David and Brazilian-British-American mezzo-soprano Sarah Stone. With direction by Annette Thornton, Yara Ensemble performances weave music, movement, and art into an intimate and accessible narrative journey designed for 21st century audiences. Our goal is to create an immersive performance experience where the audience is engaged in the act of discovery. Entertaining while educating is at the core of the ensemble’s mission.Yara Ensemble’s repertoire focus on music of the Iberian peninsula and the Americas, with an emphasis on newly commissioned woks by composers of the newer generation. For additional information, please visit the following Internet address: www.yaraensemble.com.



December 10, 2022
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Event Category:


PianoForte Studios
1335 South Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60605 United States
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(312) 291-0000
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