Songs from a Jade Garden

Ten short songs for soprano, string trio, piano and narrator; also for soprano, tenor, flute, violin, cello and piano, or soprano and piano. Premiered at  St. Peter's Church, New York, NY (2003); Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Lake Placid, NY (2004); Music at Emmanuel, Whitestone, NY (2004); and WMP Concert Hall, New York, NY in collaboration with Chamber 16 (2011).

No. 1 – In Search of Orchids (Sung Yu)

White autumn and black winter have passed.

Traveling treacherous roads as flying dust

On the highway to Phoenix Court![1]


Mulberry scent in green wood spring,

Taunting senses, searching for delicate, sweet orchids.

All still their picking; all but one meet my gaze.


For I am Sung Yu!


Dancing fingertips pick sweet mulberry bright leaves

Swaying from her slender waist,

Robes flowing across rich, red lotus hips.

Unyielding, she does not look my way.


Ha!  I have no patience for unwinding

Tightly bound seven color sashes![2]

Flying on mulberry scent,

I shall walk the narrow lane.[3]

Notes For "In Search of Orchids" 

   [1]  To be caught up in a whirl of political activity as a minister at the Imperial Court

   [2]  Seven color sash was woven for a spring festival of seven colors and showed the a young woman was eligible for marriage

   [3]  “Narrow lane” refers to the area of the city where brothels would be located.

No. 2 – An Old Proverb (Meng Chu)

It is more painful to meet a minister[4]

Than to become bitter twisted dogwood.

It's more becoming to meet a minister

Than to be a course-cloth cocoon!


It is superior to be Only Wife

Than Concubine or Singing Girl.[5]


It is best to be free of such decisions!


Here is what Meng Chu believes:

Being deaf to arrogant lord's pleas

insures progress as a Singing Girl

And perhaps Only Wife!

Notes For "An Old Proverb"

   [4]  Working as a mulberry girl is not as desirable as marrying a lord (minister)

   [5]  “Singing Girl” could be either strictly a performer or a courtesan. A courtesan also would be a performer as part of her job.

In Search of Orchids - Ilya Speranza
An Old Proverb - Ilya Speranza