Blurred Lines


I’m excited to announce the release of my much anticipated debut Album, which launched digitally on the Albany Records label Oct. 15th. Blurred Lines features new commissions and lesser known/performed works by composers Tania León, Peter Hilliard & Matt Boresi, Maria Corley, B. E. Boykin, Leonard Mark Lewis, Nkeiru Okoye, and Douglas Tappin! Pianist Gregory Thompson along with musicians Jessica Lindsey (clarinet), Daniel Ferreira (percussion), Mira Frisch (cello), Kari Giles (violin), Robert Linton (bass guitar), and guest vocalist, David Hughey! 

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This album of hybrid vocal selections highlights the works of seven prominent 21st century composers who blur the lines between opera, classical art song, and other musical genres. The works featured often conflate core elements of rhythm, form, and harmonic language in two or more musical genres to produce a new, unidentifiable hybrid third. In my research, I have had the opportunity to examine, per- form, and teach 21st century hybrid vocal literature that fuses elements of Western classical, African diasporic, and other musical genres, and incorporates unique stylistic elements such as improvisation. In classical music, this ever-evolving fluidity is apparent, and for purists, it is becoming more difficult to determine the characteristics of what should be deemed “opera.”

There is more acceptance today of hybrid works as ‘high art’ than there was in Scott Joplin or even George Gershwin’s day. Opera companies are commissioning new works, many of which are culturally relevant hybrid works, and incorporating them into mainstage seasons with the expectation that they will serve as a vehicle for expressing the sentiment of the times and attract new audiences to a traditional

art form. This creates an opportunity and need for performers and voice teachers to respond in kind with the necessary knowledge and skill set to interpret and perform both traditional and hybrid works. Blurred Lines is a centerpiece for this conversation. This recording paves the road for expanded thinking around hybrid works and their inherent potentiality as kindling for sparking new pedagogies and using music as a tool for socio-political engagement. This music is as apropos in major concert halls and on the main stage, as it is in nontraditional spaces. It is my hope that the listener is enlightened and taken on a journey that encourages them to appreciate and embrace the Blurred Lines. —Sequina DuBose

Tania León’s Scourge of Hyacinths is based on a radio play by Nobel Prize laureate, Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka. The song Oh Yemanja is based on true events in Nigeria in the early 1980s. In the aria, Tiatin prays to the goddess Yemanja (a Santeria “water deity” –Yoruba origins) to help her son Miguel Domingo escape military persecution by taking a water-route to safety. Inspired by the music of her Afro-Cuban roots, León’s score incorporates repeated variations of a traditional chant to Yemanja that she learned from her own mother, as well as a jagged vocal line to represent Tiatin’s emotional anguish. The cello line represents Yemanja, fluidly conversing with the mother, while serving as a bridge to each new musical phrase.

In If I Had Known, B.E. Boykin sets the poetry of prolific turn of the century poet, Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar-Nelson. The piece recounts the speaker’s regrets for the pursuit of love over the “world of mind.” Newly composed for this project, the work incorporates a repeated soulful rhythm and blues bass line motif that underscores a lyrical melody interrupted by abrupt rests, reflective of the speaker’s hesitant emotional state. Though Moore’s text was written over a century ago, themes of disillusionment ring true for many couples forced to navigate love in a complicated pandemic-era setting.

Composer Maria Corley reflects on the song cycle The Aftermath (commissioned for this project) stating, “The text for my cycle The Aftermath was written before I had any idea what life would be like, post-pandemic (though, as I write this, I still can’t imagine throwing out my masks). Angst acknowl- edges the anxiety we all dealt with, Divergence suggests that returning to ‘normal’ is too low a bar, and Ricochet comments on humanity’s ability to bounce back (though it’s worth noting that when bullets ricochet, bad things can result). The music incorporates elements of the blues, folk/progressive rock, and jazz. I incorporated non-standard techniques, such as asking the pianist to strum and drum on the strings, and the singer to hum into the open lid of the piano.”

In A Jelly-Fish, composer Leonard Mark Lewis draws inspiration from poet Marianne Moore’s characteristic intellect and imagination. Lewis offers his insight on the work, commissioned for this project, remarking, “A Jelly-Fish merges the language of post-minimalism with Bessie Smith’s lyricism, and the voicings of Bill Evans. The voice floats through and above the instrumental ‘water’ singing Ms. Moore’s poem as an expression of beautiful and ever-changing human nature.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, my husband and I, like many disillusioned city-dwellers, began considering a relocation to a more isolated rural community, and in our quest came across a set of Town Hall meeting transcripts that were too ironic and hilarious to not inspire a song cycle commis- sion. In Notes from a Town Hall Meeting, Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi combine comedic numbers with serious ones to offer commentary on social justice and narrate the strained interpersonal relations brought on by stressful times. Each number “rides a line between jazz and art song” drawing from contemporary classical chamber music with jazz fusion and R & B soundscapes expertly played by our phenomenal ensemble: Daniel Ferreira (drum set), Mira Frisch (cello), Kari Giles (violin), Jessica Lindsey (clarinet), Robert Linton (bass guitar), and Gregory Thompson (piano).

Nkeiru Okoye’s poignant work Inside is What Remains was originally commissioned by Tulsa Opera for the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Memorial Concert, “Greenwood Overcomes.” Scholar, Dr. Horace J. Maxile, Jr. described the piece at its world premiere stating, “The piece features not only an original text (by the composer) but also an affecting lyricism. Brief, colorful jaunts to unexpected chords (and keys) are coupled with extraordinary episodes of vocalise that capture the essence of improvised stylings and soulful pitch inflections that signal a veritable nod to Black vernacular musical emblems. The all-embracing, quasi-tonal setting of this aspirational message and the formal return of the text, ‘Kindness is the answer; Kindness is the key,’ at the final modulation almost invites a congregationally sung response.”

Queen is taken from Douglas Tappin’s self-coined ‘musical drama,’ I Dream, which recounts the last 36 hours of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In this folk rock/R & B ballad sung by King’s wife, Coretta, she relates the isolation and loneliness that accompanies her role as wife to an iconic leader. Love to Give is a duet sung by the young Martin (David Hughey) and Coretta when they first meet. Here, Corretta voices her desire to be “seen” and stand out amongst the many young ladies vying for Martin’s attention. This piece fuses elements of contemporary musical theater, pop, and R & B. Both selections are accompanied by a trio of musicians: pianist Gregory Thompson, drummer Daniel Ferreira, and bass player Robert Linton. The final number, The Glory is taken from Tappin’s newly composed work entitled DIVA. Tappin summarizes, “A Diva from a bygone era relives the final night of her life that ended tragically, while competing for prominence in the same back-stage environment that is inhabited by Diva-present, who is at the pinnacle of her career, and an aspirational Diva yet-to-be. The Glory is her reflection on her career-defining moment.” In this soul-stirring ballad, Tappin combines elements of soul, R&B, and pop music, delivering a number that is an undeniable show-stopper.


Oh Yemanja (from Scourge of Hyacinths)

—TANIA LEÓN (B.1943)

Oh, Yemanja,
Sister of the clear...
Sister of the once clear waters,
Mover of the undertows...
Your waters are muddied.
Your once clear path,
Undertows that suck my household down to seabed.
I shall not abandon faith... I...
Await a sign.
Protectress of the innocent,

Let my son be an eel without scales.
That yet survives both heat and cold,
Flood and drought.
Let him breast these rapids.
Let him reach the calm sanctuary
Of your clear spring waters.
Oh, Yemanja, Keep faith with your faithful servitor.
Don`t abandon my frail crafts
In mid-stream,
No, not among the fulsome hyacinths.
Oh, Yemanja,
Protectress, seer of all, Sister...

If I Had Known

—Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar-Nelson (1875-1935)

If I had known
Two years ago how drear this life should be,
And crowd upon itself all strangely sad,
Mayhap another song would burst from out my lips,
Overflowing with the happiness of future hopes;
Mayhap another throb than that of joy.
Have stirred my soul into its inmost depths,
If I had known.

If I had known,
Two years ago the impotence of love,
The vainness of a kiss, how barren a caress,
Mayhap my soul to higher things have soarn,
Nor clung to earthly loves and tender dreams,
But ever up aloft into the blue empyrean,
And there to master all the world of mind,
If I had known.

The Aftermath: Angst

— Maria Thompson Corley (b.1966)

I didn’t want the theaters to close.
I didn’t want the concerts to stop.
I didn’t want to be afraid to eat in a restaurant,
Or touch,
Touch a doorknob with my bare hands

I wanted to kiss a stranger.
Oh, I wanted to kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss a stranger!
I wanted to hug...
I needed to hug.
I needed to hug my mother,
I needed to hug my mother desperately,
But it was too dangerous.

When will I feel truly safe again in a maskless crowd?
When will I feel truly safe?
Truly safe?
Ah, ah, ah, ah!
What if somebody coughs?


— Maria Thompson Corley (b.1966)

Get your shots, they said.
Vaccines will make things normal again.
What is normal?
What is normal?

Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. Xenophobia.
Greed. Corruption. Ignorance. Injustice.
Hatred. Violence. Genocide. Oppression.
White supremacy. Income inequality.
Wanton disregard for humanity.
Wanton disregard for the Earth.

I don’t want “normal.”
I want...
I want better, better, better.

Can’t we evolve, can’t we evolve,
Can’t we evolve...


— Maria Thompson Corley (b.1966)

We got used to taking off our shoes at airports.
We got used to tamper-proof packaging.
The stock market always rebounds.
Crises rise and fall like waves on the ocean.

Change is fright’ning,
often unwelcome,
sometimes fatal, but always inevitable.

How should we face change?
How can we embrace change?
Let go, let God.
Shake off the ashes and walk, stumble, limp,
Forward, forward, forward!

A Jelly-Fish

—Marianne Moore (1887-1972)

Visible, invisible,
A fluctuating charm,
An amber-colored amethyst
Inhabits it; your arm
Approaches, and
It opens and
It closes;
You have meant
To catch it,
And it shrivels;
You abandon
Your intent—
It opens, and it
Closes and you
Reach for it—
The blue
Surrounding it
Grows cloudy,
and It floats away
From you.

Notes from a Town Hall Meeting:
Infrastructure Complaint

—Matt Boresi (b. 1975)

I tripped on the sidewalk
and injured my groin
outside the Fractured Banana.
You wouldn’t find it so funny
if it were YOUR groin.

Progress on Initiatives Following Tragedy

—Matt Boresi (b. 1975)

Classrooms can now be secured from inside the room.
Additional officers have been stationed at entrances.
Emergency calls and texts are now systematized.
So next time this happens we can...what?

Run sooner? Hide harder?
Die in fewer numbers?
Should we applaud?

Regarding the Suspicious Proliferation of Computer Repair Stores

—Matt Boresi (b. 1975)

There are two computer repair stores on the main drag.
That’s at least one too many computer repair stores for a town this size.
And have you ever seen anyone bringing a computer
To the one on the west side of the street?

But every day an unmarked truck delivers a palette of boxes.
And every day some cars arrive and drive off with the boxes.

Am I really supposed to believe
that those boxes are filled with computer repair?

Response to Injuries During Protest

—Matt Boresi (b. 1975)

You say it’s not what you set out to do.
But what was it you set out to do?
You set out to send us home.
You set out to shut. Us. Up.

You set out to crush our righteous indignation.
And whether you do it with bullets.
Or you do it with tear gas and bean bags.
You’re doing it.

And a bean bag fired fast enough can easily fracture a skull.
Like my little brother’s skull.
Who hadn’t done anything.
Or lit any flames.
Or hurt any one.

He was just standing there.
And you put him down.

Neighbor Dispute

—Matt Boresi (b. 1975)

I believe I’ve been extraordinarily patient with my neighbor.
With the honking,
With the barking.
With the music,
With the lights.
With the garbage,
With the smoking,
With the urine,
With the fights.

I left notes and I made phone calls.
I attempted making peace.
And I called the association,
Mediation, and police.
My attempts at coexistence met persistence,

So my pipe wrench
Through their windshield.
Seemed a justified response.

Inside is What Remains

—Nkeiru Okoye (b. 1972)

Be kind to one another
Treat all as a sister or brother
Kindness is what you need
Kindness is the key

Different skin
Different creeds “Different” tells us
What we see

But inside we’re all the same
Inside is what remains

Kindness is the answer
Kindness is the key
To clothe yourself in kindness,
Is the most beautiful cloth to weave

Beauty is as beauty does
But kindness changes everyone
Kindness to my brother, take him by the hand
Kindness to my sister, now you understand

If we want a better world
If we want a brighter future
If we want a safe place
It starts with an embrace
Kindness is the answer
Kindness is the key
To clothe yourself in kindness,
Is the most beautiful cloth to weave

Queen (from I Dream)

—Douglas Tappin (b. 1967)

I have watched the moon go down.
Waiting for the sun to rise.
Near the phone, eyes on the door,
With dying hope, and sleepless eyes.

Finding aimless things to do,
till I fall asleep alone.
In my corner of our bed,
I need you here for me,
To care for me.

Sometimes I walk through the house.
Turning lights on as I go.
Shadows keep me company,
They’re always faithfully there for me.

Loneliness: my only friend.
As I watch the other wives,
With their husband by their sides.
Living so happily, peacefully.
Seems like such a perfect picture.

Queen, where is your King now?
Helping others, while you’re hurting.
You’ll get through this somehow
You’re still their Queen.

Queen, where is your King now?
Serving others, while you suffer.
Give them what they expect.
Show things are perfect.

Ev ‘ry princess must grow up.
but the dressing up goes on.
Sometimes make believe does too.
Some days it’s all there is to do.

Poise is still your best defense.
Majesty preserves your heart.
Never show them that you hurt.
They need consistency from you.
To complete their perfect picture.

Queen, where is your King now?
Helping others, while you’re hurting.
You’ll get through this some how
You’re still their Queen.

Queen, where is your King now?
Serving others, while you suffer.
Give them what they expect.
Show things are perfect.

You’re adored, and you’re revered.
Shower’d with love that does not fail.
Fix your smile, feign tears of joy.
Hide your eyes behind the veil.

To have and hold was the vow.
Who’s holding me now?
Queen, where is your King now?

Love to Give (from I Dream)

—Douglas Tappin (b. 1967)

There are lots of very pretty girls,
Vying for his eye,
Batting eyelids, baring cleavage,
Wearing skirts that hug the thigh.
Being saucy, flicking hair, and pouting,
Acting like a whore!
In his mind I hope I’m not one more!

I’m not forward like some girls,
Way too nervous, and unsure.
I could settle for his smile,
Or be friends, but why not more?

He is lacking one good thing.
Needs some beauty in his world.
Someone with a gentle touch.
Will he look? Will he see?
Will he notice and agree..
That I have love to give.
Love to share with you.
Does that reach you?
Does it touch you?
Are you feeling anything?
I am positive, I have love to give.

Take a risk, you fool, be reckless,
Be fearless, now, be carefree.
Bliss of love, come overwhelm me.

Venture all, Martin... I’m uncomplicated...
An openhearted singer, singing songs...
Will you look? Will you see?
Do you notice, and agree...?

And I have love to give
Love to share with you.
I’ve a giving heart that’s gracious,
And I’m ready to be yours.
I am positive, I have love to give.
I have love to give.
I have love to give!

For me to hear
I’ve looked. I see.
I notice and agree

Love to share with you
So gracious
And I’m ready to be yours
I am positive, I have love to give
I have love to give
I have love to give

The Glory ((from DIVA))

—Douglas Tappin (b. 1967)

When the seats don’t fill,
When the curtains close,
When you’ve no more shows,
Is it there?

When their heads are turned,
Where their eyes don’t see,
When it’s only me,
Is it there?

Is it there when your worst mistakes come back to haunt you?
Is it there, in your lowest moment,
Is it there?

When they scream your name,
When you make headlines,
When you blow their minds,
Is it there?

When they put you first,
When you hold their gaze,
When they give you praise,
Is it there?

Is it there when you know that things can’t get much better?
Is it there, in your greatest moment,
Is it there?

The glory, I feed it,
Excites me, I need it.
The front page, lead story,
The glory.

The glory, you gave it,
I held it, I crave it,
The limelight lit for me.
The glory.
The glory.

When the sand runs out,
When the sun is set,
Though you prayed “not yet” Is it there?

When the life is frail,
When the body’s old,
When the ground is cold,
Is it there?

Is it there when your shallow breathing turns to stillness?
Is it there, in your final moment,
Is it there?

The glory, I feed it,
Excites me, I need it.
The front page, lead story,
The glory.

The glory, you gave it,
I held it, I crave it,
The limelight lit for me.
The glory.

When it grips you,
you love then hate it.
First, it fills you with life,
but in the end it kills
And it can come and go as it wills...

The glory, you gave it,
I held it, I crave it,
The limelight lit for me.
The glory.
The glory.
The glory.


B.E. Boykin (Brittney Boykin) first pursued her interest in music during her time at Spelman College, attending classes that inspired and challenged her musical imagination and peaked her interest in composition. After graduating with a B.A. in Music, Boykin continued her studies while attending Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey, graduating with a M.M. in Sacred Music and receiving the R & R Young Composition Prize. Boykin has been commissioned and collaborated with several organizations, including a number of ACDA divisions, the Minnesota Opera and the Kennedy Center. She obtained her PhD from Georgia State University with an emphasis in Music Education and is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Maria Thompson Corley (DMA, piano, The Juilliard School) began composing and arranging as a child. Since then, her music has been performed, commissioned and recorded by numerous musicians and entities, nationally and internationally. Dr. Corley contributed short-form operas to two of The Decameron Opera Coalition’s virtual series. An Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre, Maria was chosen for the 2020-21 American National Association of Teachers of Singing mentorship program. In 2021-22, she was asked to become a mentor. Her catalog includes choral, ensemble, and instrumental works. Among other awards, she is the co-recipient of an Opera America IDEA grant. She is a published author, poet, and essayist.

Peter Hilliard (ASCAP) and Matt Boresi are writers of operas, musicals, art song, and choral work favoring themes of contemporary life. Their work includes the operas The Last American Hammer, Blue Viola, The FIlthy Habit, Don Imbroglio, an upcoming musical for Lyric Theatre @ Illinois, the song cycles Dead Mall Ballads (soprano), Buyer Beware (tenor), and Farmball Songs (baritone), and the puppet operas Verdi by Vegetables and The Harmony Jar. They are co-founders of the Decameron Opera Coalition, a network of independent opera companies creating new work and a national conversation about the future of opera and music theatre.

Tania León (b. Havana, Cuba) is highly regarded as a composer, conductor, and educator. León was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music, and in 2022, she was named a recipient of the 45th Annual Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements. Recent commissions include works for New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, NDR Symphony Orches- tra, Grossman Ensemble, and International Contemporary Ensemble. A founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, León instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series, co-founded the American Composers Orchestra’s Sonidos de las Américas Festivals, was New Music Advisor to
the New York Philharmonic, and is the founder/Artistic Director of Composers Now. Honors include the New York Governor’s Lifetime Achievement, inductions into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and fellowship awards from ASCAP Victor Herbert Award and The Koussevitzky Music and Guggenheim Foundations. León has received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Colgate University, Oberlin, SUNY Purchase College, and The Curtis Institute of Music, and served as U.S. Artistic Ambassador of American Culture in Madrid, Spain.

Leonard Mark Lewis, born in Great Yarmouth, England, in 1973 and raised in Houston, Texas, is a composer and pianist specializing in new music. His vocal works include a chamber opera, Wake Lucia, A Joycean Operatic Rite, and a catalog of celebrated art songs. He is an avid collaborator and has worked with choreographers and dance companies throughout the United States and abroad. He has received commissions and performances from the Charlotte Symphony, American Composer’s Orchestra (Dennis Russell Davies), North/South Consonance, AURA, Symposium for New Band Music, New Music Camerata, NACUSA, Concordia Trio, Hyperion Ensemble, Rhodora Trio, Duo Amizade, New Century Quartet; soloists Kenneth Tse, James Dick, Brian Utley, and Benjamin Geller, among many others. His concerti include works for percussion (Evolution, for Leonardo Soto), viola (Vast Skies, for Ben Geller), and saxophone (Concerto for Saxophone, for Kenneth Tse). Other major artists have performed his Concerto for Saxophone, including Steve Ticknor (President’s Own), Nate Nabb, and Tracy Patterson, who performed the work at Carnegie Hall. Lewis, a Professor of Music at Winthrop University, is the recipient of awards including ASCAP, B.M.I., Columbia University (Bearns Prize), and Voices of Change. His music has been performed in many countries around the world.

Hailed as “gripping” and “evocative” by The New York Times, Guggenheim fellow Nkeiru Okoye is an American-born composer of African American and Nigerian ancestry. An Arts Activist, Okoye’s body of work affirms traditional and new audiences, drawing from diverse influences. She is best known for her operas “HARRIET TUBMAN: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom,” and We’ve Got Our Eye on You;” orchestral works “Black Bottom” and “Voices Shouting Out,” composed as an artistic response to 9/11. Her piano suite “African Sketches,” was immortalized by Carnegie Hall’s “CH” monogram cam- paign. Her music has been commissioned by Opera North (UK), The Juilliard School, American Opera Projects, Detroit Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, University of Michigan orchestras, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and a wide array of other ensembles. She has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, NYSCA, Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, ASCAP, International Flor- ence Price Society, and many more. Dr. Okoye is a Board Member of Composers Now. She has a BMus from Oberlin Conservatory, and a PhD from Rutgers University.

Douglas Tappin is a writer and composer of musical-dramatic works that have been theatrically staged as musicals and operas in the UK and the USA, uniquely writing the book, musical and lyrical aspects of each piece. Born and educated in the UK, Douglas is a former Barrister who worked as a Com- mercial Attorney for eleven years, including as In-House Counsel for Island Records, Universal Music and Zomba/Jive International. He then earned an additional postgraduate degree, culminating in the dissertation That There Might Be Inspiration: an innovative, critical examination and articulation of the power of musical-dramatic art to transform individuals, communities, and culture, including through the historical and contemporary works of Wagner, Puccini, Sondheim, Lloyd Webber and Rice, Boublil and Schönberg. A member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Douglas presently lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife Anna, and two children — Nathanael and Katherine.


Daniel Ferreira (percussion)
Mira Frisch (cello)
Kari Giles (violin)
David Hughey (vocalist)
Jessica Lindsey (clarinet)
Robert Linton (bass guitar)
Gregory Thompson (Piano)


This project was made possible through support from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Faculty Research Grant, and from Arts and Science Council’s (Charlotte-Mecklenburg) Artist Support Grant. I am thankful to all of the composers and musicians who contributed their time and talents to both this project and my ambitious vision. I am grateful to B.E. Boykin, Peter Hilliard & Matt Boresi, Maria Corley, and Leonard Mark Lewis who composed specifically for this project. Special thanks to Marc McManeus and Paul Castanet of SoundPost Productions, LLC, and Dave Harris of Studio B Mastering for your technical acumen and guidance during this process.

Recorded April 29 - May 2, 2022 at Sharon Road Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, North Carolina Produced, engineered and edited by SoundPost Productions
Mastered by Studio B Mastering
Cover image: Ajani Winston

Publishers: B.E. Boykin: available from composer; Maria Corley: available from composer; Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi: available from composer/librettist team; Tania León: Peermusic Classical; Leonard Mark Lewis: available from composer; Nkeiru Okoye: Theodore Presser Company; Douglas Tappin: available from composer