The Book of Spells

Clarice Assad composer
Nicole Chamberlain composer
Jennifer Higdon composer
Mary Kouyoumdjian composer
Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti composer
Soon Hee Newbold composer
Kimberly R. Osberg composer

Lynne Plowman composer

The Merian Ensemble
Christina Smith flute
Emily Brebach oboe/English horn
Marci Gurnow clarinet/bass clarinet
Jessica Oudin viola
Elisabeth Remy Johnson harp

Release Date: August 2, 2024
Catalog #: NV6644
Format: Digital & Physical

Passion and intellect meld in THE BOOK OF SPELLS, the Merian Ensemble’s hotly anticipated debut album. The album is comprised entirely of world premiere recordings, with works by Clarice Assad, Nicole Chamberlain, Jennifer Higdon, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, Soon Hee Newbold, Kimberly R. Osberg, and Lynne Plowman, each but one* commissioned by the Merian Ensemble. The Book of Spells offers a gripping and intimate portrait of modern chamber music, performed with brilliance and precision by an ensemble of world-class soloists who are dedicated to the elevation of women’s voices in classical music.

 Clarice Assad’s titular composition, The Book of Spells, opens the recording with three movements “inspired by rituals that deal with magic, which is done to achieve a particular goal, righteous or wicked” (Assad). The album continues, weaving together elements of folklore, faith, and science, with Nicole Chamberlain’s Atalanta, Lynne Plowman’s Small World, Jennifer Higdon’s The Sound of Light, Mary Kouyoumdjian’s A Boy and a Makeshift Toy*, Kimberly Osberg’s Just Another Climb, Soon Hee Newbold’s Alis Volat Propriis (She Flies With Her Own Wings), and Clarice Assad’s Solais. And in meridian, Leilehua Lanzilotti explores the themes of metamorphosis, inspired by the Merian Ensemble’s namesake, Maria Sibyllla Merian (1647–1717), a German entomologist, naturalist and scientific illustrator, whose work is featured on the album’s cover and book. 

Taken as a whole, The Book of Spells offers a finely-drawn portrait of 21st century chamber music – the compelling repertoire, composers and performers – while also highlighting the still-underrepresented voices of women in classical music.

*Mary Kouyoumdjian’s A Boy and a Makeshift Toy was originally commissioned by Michael Hall as a piece for viola and piano; it is presented here in a new Merian Ensemble arrangement.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 The Book of Spells: Chapter I: Love and Relationships; The Siren’s Seduction Clarice Assad The Merian Ensemble | Christina Smith, flute; Emily Brebach, oboe; Marci Gurnow bass clarinet; Jessica Oudin, viola; Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp 4:11
02 The Book of Spells: Chapter II: Wealth and Prosperity; Spell of Summon Greed Clarice Assad The Merian Ensemble | Christina Smith, flute; Emily Brebach, English horn; Marci Gurnow, bass clarinet; Jessica Oudin, viola; Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp 3:44
03 The Book of Spells: Chapter III: Health and Well-Being; A Spell for Global Healing Clarice Assad The Merian Ensemble | Christina Smith, flute; Emily Brebach, English horn; Marci Gurnow, bass clarinet; Jessica Oudin, viola; Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp 3:22
04 The Sound of Light Jennifer Higdon The Merian Ensemble | Christina Smith, flute; Emily Brebach, oboe; Marci Gurnow, bass clarinet; Jessica Oudin, viola; Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp 6:37
05 Small World Lynne Plowman The Merian Ensemble | Christina Smith, flute; Emily Brebach, English horn; Marci Gurnow, bass clarinet; Jessica Oudin, viola; Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp 10:44
06 Atalanta Nicole Chamberlain The Merian Ensemble | Christina Smith, flute; Emily Brebach, oboe; Marci Gurnow, bass clarinet; Jessica Oudin, viola; Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp 6:25
07 meridian Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti The Merian Ensemble | Christina Smith, alto flute; Emily Brebach, English horn; Marci Gurnow clarinet; Jessica Oudin, viola; Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp 7:37
08 A Boy and a Makeshift Toy Mary Kouyoumdjian, arr. Elisabeth Remy Johnson Jessica Oudin, viola; Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp; 8:29
09 Solais Clarice Assad Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp; 5:24
10 Alis Volat Propriis (“She Flies With Her Own Wings”) Soon Hee Newbold The Merian Ensemble | Christina Smith, flute; Emily Brebach, oboe; Marci Gurnow, bass clarinet; Jessica Oudin, viola; Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp 5:43
11 Just Another Climb Kimberly R. Osberg The Merian Ensemble | Christina Smith, flute; Emily Brebach, oboe/English horn; Marci Gurnow clarinet; Jessica Oudin, viola; Elisabeth Remy Johnson, harp 4:18

All Tracks World Premiere Recordings

The Book of Spells, The Sound of Light, Small World, Atalanta, meridian, Alis Volat Propriis, and Just Another Climb commissioned by the Merian Ensemble

Solais commissioned by Elisabeth Remy Johnson

A Boy and a Makeshift Toy commissioned by Michael Hall (new arrangement by The Merian Ensemble)

Recorded January 3-5, 2024 at Morgan Hall, Bailey Performance Center at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw GA
Recording Producer Elaine Martone, Sonarc Music
Recording Engineer Robert Friedrich, Five/Four Productions, LLC.
Assistant Engineer William Friedrich, Five/Four Productions, LLC.
Mixing & Mastering Robert Friedrich, Five/Four Productions, LLC.

Cover art of various works by Maria Sibylla Merian

Executive Producer Bob Lord

VP of A&R Brandon MacNeil
A&R Jeff LeRoy

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming, Morgan Hauber
Publicity Chelsea Kornago
Digital Marketing Manager Brett Iannucci

Artist Information

The Merian Ensemble

Ensemble

The Merian Ensemble is a chamber music group dedicated to promoting the standard of an inclusive repertoire. The group was formed in 2018 by five women musicians from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, determined to counteract the striking dearth of women composers programmed in classical music settings. Even today, research shows that of 111 major orchestras across 31 countries, only 7.7% of works played were written by women. (Donne – Women in Music, 2022). Through their “Listen: Works by Women” initiatives, the Merian Ensemble performs the abundant repertoire of music by women and commissions a new work each year.

Clarice Assad

composer

A powerful communicator renowned for her musical scope and versatility, Brazilian-American Clarice Assad is a significant artistic voice in the classical, world music, pop, and jazz genres and is acclaimed for her evocative colors, rich textures, and diverse stylistic range. A prolific GRAMMY® Award–nominated composer with more than 70 works to her credit, she has been commissioned by internationally renowned organizations, festivals, and artists and is published in France (Editions Lemoine), Germany (Trekel), Brazil (Criadores do Brasil), and the United States (Virtual Artists Collective Publishing).

An in-demand performer, she is a celebrated pianist and inventive vocalist who inspires and encourages audiences’ imaginations to break free of often self-imposed constraints. Assad has released seven solo albums and appeared on or had her works performed on another 34. Her music is represented on Cedille Records, SONY Masterworks, Nonesuch, Adventure Music, Edge, Telarc, NSS Music, GHA, and CHANDOS. Her innovative, accessible, and award-winning VOXploration series on music education, creation, songwriting, and improvisation has been presented throughout the world. Sought-after by artists and organizations worldwide, the multi-talented musician continues to attract new audiences both onstage and off.

clariceassad.com

Jennifer Higdon

composer

Jennifer Higdon considers one of the best aspects of her bio to be the great fortune of having had the opportunity to work with the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony, for pretty much the length of her career. This honor has provided a wealth of learning that has led to the opportunity for her to compose for extraordinary musicians and ensembles from around the world. And while there have been a few notable prizes awarded to her works, Higdon considers the greatest gift to have been the chance to share that knowledge, through notes on a page, with performers who inspire all of us daily.

jenniferhigdon.com

Lynne Plowman

composer

Described as “thrilling,” “highly original,” and “immediately appealing,” Lynne Plowman’s music ranges from delicate instrumental miniatures, to bold, theatrical large-scale works. She is perhaps best known for her award-winning chamber operas for young audiences, created with the writer, Martin Riley. 2023 saw two new opera productions — The Face in the Mirror (commissioned in 2011 by Welsh National Opera) in a new French translation, by Opéra-Théâtre Junior in Geneva, and Captain Blood’s Revenge (a 2012 Glyndebourne commission) at the Norfolk Into Opera Festival.

Living in rural Wales, Lynne Plowman’s concert music is often directly influenced by the natural world. A BBC Radio 3 lockdown commission, Songbird for solo flute, initiated a series of pieces featuring bird-song, including Bird Music for recorder and piano, commissioned by James Brookmyre and Elisabeth Williams and Dances with Bells and Birds: five movements for solo piano — which was premiered by Elena Cholakova at the 2023 Prague Piano Festival, ahead of a recording on U.S. label New Focus Recordings, planned for 2024.

A series of larger ensemble works reflects on the climate crisis. Carbon Sky was commissioned and premiered by The Berkeley Ensemble in 2019, performed most recently during their 2023 birthday celebrations at St John’s Smith Square in London. Clarion Call was commissioned by Ensemble Télémaque for performances in and around Marseille in 2021, and The Wind Sweepers, commissioned by UPROAR, Wales’ New Music Ensemble, toured to venues across Wales in 2024.

Plowman’s music is featured on several recordings by various labels and is regularly broadcast on BBC Radio 3. In 2020, Prima Facie Records released The Beachcomber, an album of solos and duos spanning 20 years of her music.

Plowman’s music is published by Wise Music Classical and Composers Edition.

lynneplowman.co.uk

Nicole Chamberlain

composer

Composer and flutist Nicole Chamberlain (b. 1977) has a varied career in the arts, acquiring simultaneous bachelor degrees in Music Composition and Digital Media at the University of Georgia. Her original compositions are influenced by storytelling and visual imagery from her former day job as a web animator and designer. Chamberlain’s music “heavily utilizes extended techniques [that] play into the theme or story of each piece to sonically enhance its meaning” (The Flute View). “Being a virtuoso flautist herself has informed her ability to write for the instrument with thrilling facility and endearing charm.” (Gramophone Magazine).

As a Powell Flutes Artist, Chamberlain has been enabled in this endeavor to perform her music to a wide audience and wouldn’t trade in her Powell Conservatory 9K Aurumite Flute and a Powell Handmade Custom Grenadilla Piccolo for the world.

Currently, Chamberlain balances her time composing, teaching students, performing, and avoiding graphic design work as much as possible. She lives in Doraville with her husband, guitarist and composer Brian Chamberlain. The Chamberlains have their own independent music publishing company, Spotted Rocket Publishing (spottedrocket.com), and pit bull, Gerty, who longs to be a social media influencer. You can typically catch Chamberlain on any of the many social media platforms where she spends an abhorrent amount of time. For more information visit her website at nikkinotes.com

Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti

composer

Leilehua Lanzilotti (b. 1983) is a Kanaka Maoli composer / sound artist. A “leading composer-performer” (New York Times), Lanzilotti’s work is characterized by expansive explorations of timbre. Lanzilotti’s practice explores radical indigenous contemporaneity, integrating community engagement into the heart of projects. By world-building through multimedia installation works and nontraditional concert experiences/musical interventions, Lanzilotti’s works activate imagination around new paths forward in language sovereignty, water sovereignty, land stewardship, and respect. Uplifting others by crafting projects that support both local communities and the economy, the work inspires hope to continue.

Lanzilotti was honored to be a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Music for with eyes the color of time (string orchestra), which the Pulitzer committee called, “a vibrant composition… that distinctly combines experimental string textures and episodes of melting lyricism.”

Honors include a 2023 SHIFT – Transformative Change and Indigenous Arts Award, 2023 MacGeorge Fellowship at the University of Melbourne, 2021 McKnight Visiting Composer with the American Composers Forum, a MAP Fund grant for [Switch~ Ensemble] for development and performance of hānau ka ua, a National Performance Network Creation & Development Fund grant for ahupuaʻa, a Native Launchpad Artist Award, an OPERA America: Discovery Grant, the New World Symphony BLUE (Build, Learn, Understand and Experiment) Alumni Award, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, an Empowering ʻŌiwi Leadership Award (E OLA), and a First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership Fellow among other accolades.

leilehualanzilotti.com

Mary Kouyoumdjian

composer

Mary Kouyoumdjian is a composer and documentarian with projects ranging from concert works to multimedia collaborations and film scores. As a first generation Armenian-American and having come from a family directly affected by the Lebanese Civil War and Armenian Genocide, she uses a sonic palette that draws on her heritage, interest in music as documentary, and background in experimental composition to progressively blend the old with the new. A strong believer in freedom of speech and the arts as an amplifier of expression, her compositional work often integrates recorded testimonies with resilient individuals and field recordings of place to invite empathy by humanizing complex experiences around social and political conflict.

Kouyoumdjian has received commissions for the New York Philharmonic, Kronos Quartet, Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Beth Morrison Projects/OPERA America, Alarm Will Sound, Bang on a Can, International Contemporary Ensemble, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and Roomful of Teeth among others. Her work has been featured internationally at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MASS MoCA, the Barbican Centre, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Millennium Park, Benaroya Hall, Prototype Festival, Cabrillo Festival, Big Ears Festival, Cal Performances, Tribeca Film Festival, and PBS.

Kouyoumdjian holds a D.M.A. and M.A. in Composition at Columbia University, an M.A. in Scoring for Film & Multimedia from New York University, and a B.A. in Composition from UC San Diego. Kouyoumdjian is a cofounder of the annual new music conference New Music Gathering, is on faculty at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University and The New School, is proud to have her music published on Schott’s PSNY, and is based in Brooklyn NY.

marykouyoumdjian.com

Soon Hee Newbold

composer

Soon Hee Newbold is an internationally acclaimed composer and conductor known for incorporating differing cultural and ethnic styles in her writing inspired by her experiences and travel. She started her musical journey at the age of 5 on piano and violin at age 7 and performed as a concert artist in professional ensembles around the world.

As a composer, Newbold’s works are performed by groups ranging in all levels from professional symphonies to beginning elementary ensembles in venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, Disney Hall, Lincoln Center, Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, and many more stages worldwide.

Newbold is frequently sought after as a keynote speaker and guest clinician. She has conducted and worked with orchestras and bands throughout the United States and overseas in places such as The Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, and China. As a filmmaker and composer in Hollywood, her music can also be heard in film and other recording projects.

Kimberly R. Osberg

composer

Kimberly R. Osberg (b. 1992) is a Portland-based composer from Eau Claire WI who specializes in interdisciplinary collaboration. Her projects have included dance, film, environmental sound installations, instrumental theater, plays, opera, visual art, award ceremonies, and stage combat. Her music has been described as “brilliant,” “highly-engaging,” “wonderfully suspenseful,” “wonderfully humorous and witty,” and “intensely colorful,” and has received acclaim from academic, commercial, and public audiences alike. Her collaborations have been hailed as “ambitious” and “pioneering,” and have even inspired collaborators to launch annual opportunities for composers (including the Exponential Ensemble’s Fordham Composers Program).

Since moving to Portland OR in 2020, Osberg’s prolific output has exploded into a dynamic array of works, including collaborations with the Merian Ensemble, the Beau Soir Ensemble, the Grand Circle New Music Ensemble, the Chaski duo, Whistling Hens, the New Mexico Contemporary Ensemble, the Bassless Trio, tuo duo, and SANS; duo. She is also an active clinician and guest speaker, working with a vast array of middle school, high school, and collegiate music programs across the country — including the UNI concert band, the Philadelphia All-City wind ensemble, and the New Jersey Youth Symphony combined flute ensembles.

Osberg has also attended several premiere festivals as a composition fellow, including the Brevard Music Festival and the Aspen Music Festival. She was also a featured composer for the New Mexico Contemporary Ensemble’s Annual James Tenney Memorial Symposium, and has enjoyed performances from the National Flute Association conference, IRCAM’s ManiFeste, Grand Teton Music Festival, Orford Festival, Oh My Ears New Music Festival, Madison New Music Festival, Darkwater Music Festival, Women Composers Festival of Hartford, and more.
She continues to live in Portland OR where she enjoys writing, hiking, watching movies with her partner Mauricio, and attempting to keep a few plants alive.

kimberlyosberg.com

Notes

With our commissions, we aim to support the composers creating works today, expand the platform for these pieces, and hopefully inspire others to commission and create. It has been a joy to collaborate with these composers, and an honor to bring their works to life. 

The Merian Ensemble commissions on this album have been supported by the American Harp Society, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the PRS Foundation, the Arts Council of Wales, Agnes Scott College’s Kirk Fund, New Music USA’s Creator Development Fund, and private individuals. The original viola/piano version of the Kouyoumdjian was commissioned by MIchael Hall.

The Merian Ensemble gratefully acknowledges the transformative support of The Gable Foundation, without which this recording project would not have been possible. Additionally, we acknowledge The John and Rosemary Brown Foundation, the Atlanta Foundation, and the Vaughan Williams Foundation for their generous support of this album, and New Music USA for their support of our 2023–2024 season. We are also deeply grateful for the generous support of the following individuals: John Blatz, Mark Hackner, Carolyn and Ken Meltzer, Suzanne Shull, and Christie Woodfin.

Our deepest thanks to the wonderful team of Producer Elaine Martone, Sonarc Music and Robert Friedrich, Five/Four Productions.

“I have long been intrigued by anything unexplained with pure logic, so occult themes, witchcraft, and the fantasy world have long been companions of my imagination. The Book of Spells is a three-movement composition inspired by rituals that deal with magic, which is done to achieve a particular goal, righteous or wicked. Each movement explores a rite and follows the reasoning of a book I came across. The chapter sections are thematic, each focusing on assorted areas of interest: “Chapter One” deals with matters of the heart (Love and Relationships); “Chapter Two” is about bringing wealth and prosperity into one’s life. “Chapter Three” is about health and well-being. Within each chapter, hundreds of spells teach the practitioner how to prepare and perform the rites, each for a particular purpose.”

– Clarice Assad

The Sound of Light was commissioned for the Merian Ensemble, by the Atlanta Symphony, to honor a wonderful supporter of the orchestra. We all, musicians, composers, and administrators, owe so much to those individuals who support us in the art that we make… those wonderful souls provide the “light” that allows us to create our musical joys.”

– Jennifer Higdon

“I’ve always been fascinated by old maps and began composing Small World after seeing the medieval Mappa Mundi in Hereford Cathedral, England. This was just as we were just coming out of the COVID-19 lockdowns when travel had been restricted. The piece begins with four slow phrases which represent the four points of the compass. Each instrument has its own distinctive character, and as they gather up each other’s fragments of melody and rhythm and weave them together to create longer musical lines, the music speeds up and the journey gathers pace.”

– Lynne Plowman

“The origin of the city of Atlanta’s namesake is a circuitous one, but it keeps returning to Atalanta. Atalanta was a Greek mythology character who grew up in the wilderness and was famous for her skills as a hunter and speed as a runner. Another prominent figure in Atlanta history was former Governor Wilson Lumpkin whose daughter’s full name was Martha Atalanta Lumpkin. In Atlanta folklore, it seems that Martha was up and running at an early age which concreted her nickname “Atlanta.” Governor Lumpkin eventually got his way, and the city was officially named Atlanta.

The city of Atlanta does share some qualities with the mythological character Atalanta. Atlanta is often called the city in the forest. There are numerous parks and conservation wilderness areas within the city limits. Many Atlantans take advantage of the beautiful parks for a good run. The most popular race is the 10K Peachtree Road Race which occurs every Fourth of July which draws 60,000 runners from all over the world. Atlanta is a city teeming with trees and runners.

Atalanta for flute, oboe, bass clarinet, viola, and harp reflects the energy and whimsy of a vibrant city in the forest. Fun, intense, and fast paced music that exploits the athletic and virtuosic abilities of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians that make up The Merian Ensemble. The piece incorporates a running pace that fluctuates with Atlanta’s rolling hills. A city backdrop that morphs into the wilderness as the runner enters a dense nature park, and then back again as the runner returns to her urban abode. A musical adventure to facilitate a runner’s high without the sweat… well maybe not as much for the listener.”

– Nicole Chamberlain

“Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717) — namesake of the Merian Ensemble, who commissioned this work — was a Botanical and Natural History Illustrator who is famous for her groundbreaking observations and illustrations of metamorphosis. The musical lines in this piece go through their own metamorphoses: whether of timbral shift, gestural evolution, or gradual unraveling of harmonic material into melodies.

Looking out onto the sea, one sees the color change and the shapes of the reflection morph throughout the day — the colors underwater become the most vivid at the sun’s meridian or solar noon. Currents create textural patterns, in turn catching the light in beams. The sea itself recalls journeys (there is a subtle reference to Sarah Kirkland Snider’s ‘Nausicaa’ from Penelope). Descriptive texts throughout quote Rumi’s poem ‘Quietness,’ including the final line, ‘the speechless full moon comes out now.’”

– Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti

“Inspired by the work of American Pulitzer-nominated war photographer Chris Hondros, who captured images of children in wars around the world, the Children of Conflict series is a collection of my own sonic portraits based off of Hondros’ intimately revealing photography with hopes to continue the storytelling and dialogue his work prompts.

A Boy and a Makeshift Toy is a portrait of a young boy playing in an abandoned train station, full of Albanian refugees, waiting to be taken to another camp. During an 11-week bombing campaign in 1999, Serbians displaced more than 800,000 Albanians out of Kosovo.”

– Mary Kouyoumdjian

“I loved reading Dava Sobel’s The Glass Universe about the women ‘computers’ at the Harvard Observatory around the turn of the last century, women who made intricate and complex calculations as they studied glass plate images of the night sky, taken using an enormous telescope. These women classified stars, cataloged galaxies, and made astounding discoveries that are still influential in astronomy today. I started daydreaming about commissioning a work in their honor, and thought the perfect composer would be Clarice Assad. She not only agreed, but, in an amazing coincidence, shared that she is related to world-renowned astroparticle physicist Dr. Angela Olinto. This piece honors the rich history of women in astronomy and was supported by New Music USA’s Creator Fund in 2022–2023. The composer has dedicated the work to Andrea Santiago.”

– Elisabeth Remy Johnson

“When I was looking for inspiration for this commission, I got many great ideas from Elisabeth and from our donor. They led me to some of the strong women in Shakespeare, poetry, contemporary writers, and legends. There were so many fascinating tales to draw from, I had a hard time picking just one. I came across the Latin saying ‘Alis Volat Propriis,’ which loosely translates in English to ‘she flies with her own wings’ and thought it was the perfect sentiment. What I love most about this motto is the reminder that we each have the ability to make a difference. Sometimes in the noisy chaos of society, it’s easy to look to others to solve problems or wait on the world to make things ‘fair’ when we really need to remember that we have our own wings too.”

– Soon Hee Newbold

“The Merian Ensemble commissioned Just Another Climb as part of the Project 12 commissioning series in 2020 (the project aimed to make commissioning affordable for musicians amid the global pandemic, generating 12 new works in 12 weeks). The ensemble told me their work focused on showcasing performances of works written and/or inspired by women who have been overlooked. Wondering what I might write about, I looked out my window at the nearby Mt. Hood and began to ponder what kinds of experience other women have had in climbing the biggest and most treacherous peaks in the world. I learned about a number of amazing mountaineers, including Gertrude Benham, Junko Tabei, Lucy Waler, and Arunima Sinha — but eventually stumbled upon another historic climb, this time by a team of women.

Just Another Climb is inspired by the first ‘manless ascent’ of the Grand Tetons in 1939 by mountaineers Margaret Smith Craighead, Margaret Bedell, Ann Sharples, and Mary Whittemore. When interviewed about the experience, Craighead simply said, “This may have been of importance to the record of events, but to us it was just another climb.”

The quote was such an apt summary of all the women I had read about: people who pursued their passions because they truly loved it — not to be deterred by historical precedent or societal doubts of their abilities. The piece makes full use of the small-but-capable ensemble to capture the sweeping surroundings of the Tetons at sunrise, the power and grit of the mountaineers, as well as the collaborative nature of their ascent.

Since the virtual premiere in the spring of 2021, the work finally received its first live performance — rather appropriately — at the Grand Teton Music Festival, just outside the national park where the historic climb took place.”

– Kimberly R. Osberg

The Merian Ensemble gratefully acknowledges the transformative support of The Gable Foundation, without which this recording project would not have been possible. Additionally, we acknowledge The John and Rosemary Brown Foundation, the Atlanta Foundation, the Vaughan Williams Foundation for their generous support of this album, and New Music USA for their support of our 2023–2024 season. We are also deeply grateful for the generous support of the following individuals: John Blatz, Mark Hackner, Carolyn and Ken Meltzer, Suzanne Shull, and Christie Woodfin.

Commission Acknowledgments

Assad: The Book of Spells was made possible in part by a grant from the American Harp Society.

Higdon: The Sound of Light was commissioned for The Merian Ensemble by The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, to honor Janine Brown in gratitude for her support and leadership.

Plowman: Small World was commissioned by The Merian Ensemble with funding from the PRS Foundation and the American Harp Society. Collaboration between Lynne Plowman and the Merian Ensemble in Atlanta was funded by the Arts Council of Wales. The Vaughan Williams Foundation has supported the inclusion of Small World in this recording.

Chamberlain: Atalanta was commissioned by Agnes Scott College’s Kirk Fund for the Merian Ensemble.

Lanzilotti: meridian was commissioned by The Merian Ensemble with the generous support of Gretchen Nagy and Allan Sandlin, and supported in part by The Bogliasco Foundation with the generous support of the Edward T. Cone Special Fellowship in Music.

Kouyoumdjian: A Boy and a Makeshift Toy (for viola and piano) was commissioned by Michael Hall.

Assad: Solais was supported by New Music USA’s Creator Development Fund in 2022–2023.

Newbold: Alis Volat Propriis was commissioned for The Merian Ensemble by The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to honor the memory of Betty Sands Fuller in gratitude for her decades of leadership and support of the ASO.

Osberg: Just Another Climb was commissioned by Elisabeth Remy Johnson through Kimberly R. Osberg’s Project 12 commissioning series.