Unsaid Prayers

The Smith College Department of Music presents the world premiere of Unsaid Prayers, a new song cycle for baritone, soprano and harp by composer Nicolas Gutierrez, set to the poetry of Jana Lillie, Sunday, February 27 at 3 p.m. in Sweeney Concert Hall. Filling out the program will be art songs by Black composers, reimagined for voice and harp. The concert is open to the public with masks and proof of full vaccination required for entry.

The poetry within the cycle was written by Jana Lillie, a bi-racial poet and theater professional from Bennington, Vermont whose first collection of poems, Unsaid Prayers, was recently published by Northshire Books. The collection is in direct response to the tensions in our society around racial injustice and gun violence. Lillie’s work speaks directly from her layered processing of the social unrest during the pandemic through the lenses of her blackness and whiteness.

Composer Nicolas Gutierrez said he was overwhelmed with emotion when he first read Unsaid Prayers. “Sadness, outrage, hope, and numbness are just a few that come to mind but even those cannot fully describe the range of emotions that are present in her words which cut to the bone and demand attention.” Eight of these poems were chosen for the song cycle. Gutierrez adds, “While this cycle explores the disturbing realities in our country today, there is an overall theme of hope that strings all of them together. Just like the title implies, each song is a type of prayer yearning for a better future.”

Cailin Marcel Manson, baritone and conductor, commissioned the piece with a grant from the Higgins School of Humanities at Clark University where he is Professor of Practice and Director of Music Performance. Unsaid Prayers will be performed by Manson, soprano Katherine Saik, and harpist Jordan Thomas, who won first place in the 2013 America Protégé International Concerto Competition. Saik, Lecturer in Voice at Smith College and a frequent soloist, is excited to bring this important work to the Sweeney stage. “Over the past couple of months, this piece has walked alongside me, manifesting into a tangible existence all of things that my soul is too tired to say and too afraid to hope for out loud.” she explains, “It truly has been my unsaid prayer.”

The world premiere tour of Unsaid Prayers includes performances at Clark University’s Traina Center for the Arts and the Bennington Performing Arts Center. The Smith concert is open to the public at Sweeney Concert Hall. Masks and proof of full vaccination are required for entry. To register for the livestream: https://unsaidprayers.eventbrite.com