Orchestra 2001 and the debut of “Rossetti Songs” performed by Tamara Ryan

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

This Sunday at 7:30 in Lang Concert Hall, Tamara Ryan ’06 will be making her professional debut with Orchestra 2001, performing the world debut of two songs based on the poetry of Christina Rossetti, written by Professor Tom Whitman specifically for Tamara Ryan’s voice.

Professor Whitman contacted Tamara Ryan about writing a piece for her voice last year just prior to Christmas break. “I was floored,” she recalls. “And I was a little bit intimidatedÉ but I accepted immediately.” For Professor Whitman, the challenge was to create an original piece tailored to Tamara’s voice that would fit well in a program of 19th century art songs. He turned to Professor Natalie Anderson, with whom he had collaborated in the past, for assistance in selecting an appropriate text.

It was Nathalie Anderson who pointed out Christina Rossetti, whose pieces are full of the bittersweet emotional and natural themes characteristic of art songs. “The poems really grabbed me right away,” explains Prof. Whitman. Prof. Whitman then proceeded to study Tamara’s voice, working with recordings of her past recitals and consulting with Tamara’s voice teacher, Debra Scurto-Davis, to best adapt the piece to Tamara’s range. “I wrote the songs for Tammy to sing. It was really all about Tammy and showcasing her,” Prof Whitman adds.

Jim Freeman of Orchestra 2001 invited Tamara to sing the pieces with the orchestra, which required expanding the piece from a piano accompaniment to a full orchestral accompaniment, a task carried about by Mark Alburger in California. It is Alburger’s version that will be performed this Sunday, though Tamara will also perform the original score on April 30th.

For Tamara Ryan, a senior Music Major who hopes to take the next year to continue her studies independently, the experience of learning the Rossetti songs has been a challenge, but one that has been enriching as well. Tamara observes, “They were the hardest things I had ever learned by far!” The experience is one that she feels will be beneficial should she pursue singing professionally. Ultimately, Tamara is gracious towards all involved in the collaboration and states simply, “My deepest hope is that the work that I do is really important and not a frivolous thingÉ I hope people get touched in a deep way.”

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