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Katie Procell sings works by Peter Dayton

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Composer Peter Dayton and Navona Records present STORIES OUT OF CHERRY STEMS, an album of original vocal chamber music with carefully curated texts spanning multiple centuries. Soprano Katie Procell and numerous selected performers navigate a persistent tension between simplicity and complexity delicately threaded throughout the program, providing a solid stage for the texts of notable poets Pablo Neruda, Oscar Wilde, and more. The strengths of vocal and instrumental chamber music merge into a cohesive powerhouse in this recording, brimming with sung stories that compliment Dayton’s compositional style.

-Navona Records



Track Listing & Credits

Peter Dayton composer

Katie Procell soprano


Entwine Our Tongues: Sapphic Fragments (2019)  [14:34]

Texts by Jordi Alonso

 1   I. Fragment 32 (“You ask me why…”)  [1:44]

 2   II. Fragment 27 (“I would not ask the muse…”)  [2:05]

 3   III. Fragment 51 (“Should I get the girl I want…”)  [3:36]

 4   IV. Fragment 169 (“I might lead you astray…”)  [1:21]

 5   V. Fragment 96 (“I shall enter desire desiring…”)

       – VI. Fragment 149 (“Let me curl at your feet…”)  [5:48]

Andrea Morris oboe  Garrett Hale oboe, English horn

Brian Tracey clarinet  Jennifer Hughson clarinet, bass clarinet

Si Solamente (2017)  [24:27]

Texts by Pablo Neruda

 6   I. A todos, a vosotros...  [7:13]

 7   II. Barcarola  [10:47]

 8   III. Me gustas cuando callas  [6:27]

LAVENA violoncello

Lost Daughter: Songs on the Myth of Persephone (2020/2021)  [29:20]

 9   I. Requiescat (text by Oscar Wilde)  [6:09]

 10  II. Persephone, Falling (text by Rita Dove)  [4:22]

 11  III. Prayer to Persephone (text by Edna St. Vincent Millay)  [5:04]

 12  IV. Demeter & (text by Alfred, Lord Tennyson; text adapted by Peter Dayton)  [5:33]

 13  V. Persephone, the Wanderer (text by Louise Glück) [8:12]

Amanda Dame flute  Eric D'Alessandro viola  Erin Baker harp

Desiderata: Ten Pieces of Wisdom (2020)  [11:37]

Text by Max Ehrmann

 14  I. Go placidly amid the noise and haste…  [1:24]

 15  II. Speak your truth quietly and clearly…  [0:42]

 16  III. Avoid loud and aggressive persons…  [0:54]

 17  IV. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans…  [0:52]

 18  V. Exercise caution in your business affairs…. [1:16]

 19  VI. Be yourself… [1:17]

 20  VII. Take kindly the counsel of the years…  [0:49]

 21  VIII. Nurture strength to shield you… [0:56]

 22  IX. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle…

         – X. And whether or not it is clear to you...  [3:27]

Kyle Blake Jones alto saxophone

Listen to a sample from the album:

Entwine Our Tongues: V. Fragment 96 ("I shall enter desire desiring...") - VI. Fragment 149 ("Let me curl at your feet...") 

Listen to the Album on Spotify

Liner Notes

Liner Notes

As meticulous as Peter Dayton is in his music, he gives equal attention to words. As he tells it, it is through poetry that he first began exploring ideas of structure in art, long before turning to music. Each of the four sets of songs on "Stories Out of Cherry Stems" deal with different texts in inventive, often surprising ways. All of them feature the talents of soprano Katie Procell, who brings an expressive and singular performance to each piece. There is a natural, effortless quality to the vocal lines, which is as much a credit to Dayton's compositions as to Procell's interpretations. None of this musical material is simple. Yet every line spills from the tongue as if it could not have been uttered in any other way.

The conviction of these performances is evidence of the close working relationship between the composer and singer, who met in 2018 when Dayton attended a concert Procell was giving of Olivier Messiaen's Harawi (1945). Stunned by her performance, Dayton introduced himself and suggested working together on a future concert. Numerous collaborations quickly blossomed between the singer and composer, including the two pieces which bookend this album: Entwine Our Tongues: Sapphic Fragments (2019) and Desiderata: Ten Pieces of Wisdom (2020).

In Entwine Our Tongues, Procell sings with four reed instruments: two oboes and two clarinets (with doublings on English horn and bass clarinet). The texts come from Jordi Alonso's Honeyvoiced (2014), a book of poems based on the writings of Sappho. The song cycle opens with a flurry of activity in the instruments and an immediate bold entrance from Procell. Dense, shimmering harmonies vanish as quickly as they arrive, while Procell's grounding melody holds everything together. A truly standout moment of this piece is the penultimate movement, in which Procell is left unaccompanied to maneuver through complexly sensuous lines set to a text describing the hope that her desires might coincide with another's. The absence of the ensemble here is as palpable as is Procell's total self-sufficiency in her a cappella performance. The moment her solo ends, the reeds re-enter, launching the listener into the final, gently rocking movement.

The other ensemble piece of this album is Lost Daughter: Songs on the Myth of Persephone (2020/2021), for soprano, flute, viola and harp. Dayton selected each text of this cycle from a different source and time period, exploring various aspects of motherhood and grief. The piece begins plaintively; the three instruments seem at times to be one instrument-assemblage: a strange and subtle organ. Procell's dramatic and technical facility is on full display. She floats delicately over the top of the instruments, suddenly shifting her weight into heavier lines. Gentle gliding tones burst into nimble chromatic runs and wide leaps, then settle back into steady low incantations, barely above a whisper. Contrasting the first four movements, Dayton casts the fifth almost entirely as a spoken narration of Louise Glück's Persephone, the Wanderer (2006), while the three instruments weave around each other in careful heterophony. Procell is equally expressive in her dramatic reading as in her singing, bringing out all the wit and insight of Glück's modern commentary on the ancient myth.

The remaining pieces are duets between Procell and a single instrument. Si Solamente (2017), for soprano and cello, sets three poems by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Each deals in its own way with intimacy, with presence and absence. In three long movements, this piece is a haunting tour de force for both singer and cellist. There are two striking moments of athletic vocalise from Procell in the second movement. In the third movement the singer muses on a paradoxical desire for a lover's silence in order to more fully feel their presence through the possibility of that silence being broken. Dayton avoids any obvious renderings of silence in this movement. His use of a simple vocal melody anchors the poem's strophic form, while the cello moves through variations on a two-note repeating phrase, constantly reinventing itself but retaining its essential identity.

Desiderata, for soprano and saxophone, opens by invoking a similar theme, as Procell reminds the listener to "remember what peace there may be in silence." The performance of this piece's ten aphorisms—each punctuated by its own brief silence—matches the sincerity and humility of the text. Every one of these miniatures is as complete a composition as any of the longer movements on this album. Within them is found the same commitment to melody and line, the same careful attention to detail that characterizes Dayton's style. There is a persistent tension between simplicity and complexity delicately threaded through all these songs: twisted stems of cherries from which stories are spun. Each story is given charismatic life by Procell and her fellow performers.


-Stuart Wheeler

November, 2021

Liner Notes from the promotional CD booklet

In the summer of 2021, I gathered 24 brilliant musicians to record the entirety of my catalogue of songs since 2015. This album's celebration of Katie Procell is less than half of that total output. This and the 2023 forthcoming album of more of my vocal work represent, figuratively, a private summer songfest's worth of music, recorded and brought to a wider world from four mammoth sessions.

I am so grateful to Roland Park Community Center and Jason Buckwalter for hosting the extensive number of rehearsals as well as the recording sessions themselves; to the sound team at Arts Laureate for their expertise and perseverance in this massive undertaking; to my husband Douglas Johnson for his endless love; and I am most grateful to my parents Peter and Lisa Dayton, without whom none of this would be possible, and, of course, to the performers! Katie, Amanda, Andrea, Brian, Eric, Erin, Garrett, Jennifer, Kyle, and LAVENA, bravissimo!

-Peter Dayton

November, 2021

Further Remarks

Stuart Wheeler’s liner notes for Stories Out of Cherry Stems speak to the importance of Katie Procell upon my creative output and my direction as a composer and concert producer. In addition to these aspects of the album, I wanted to speak personally to the experience of Stores Out of Cherry Stems as a whole. Even as there is contrast in the 80 minutes of music presented, similarities emerge, which, hopefully, lead to a whole that is satisfying in its subliminal unity. Ideally, as listeners follow the journey of this album, they will listen to more than one complete work in a single sitting (if not the full album!), which will bring to their attention threads of sonic continuity between the pieces, binding them together across the disparate years of their composition on this single collection. Any two or more works on the album could be paired with satisfying results: the rocking, lullaby major 2nd interval that pervades the final movement of Entwine Our Tongues (2019) finds a mirror in the tentative, alternating major 2nd interval that opens Si Solamente (2017), gesturally peeking to the left and the right as the text addresses Neruda’s mysterious audience of nocturnal visitors. Si Solamente’s third movement has as its unobtrusive foundation a simple, lilting major 2nd interval that undergirds the sonnet setting’s Dorian mode melody, which is transformed into the plodding, funereal footsteps that the harp takes up in the first movement of Lost Daughter (2020/2021). The harp’s final, trailing C# harmonics of that massive song cycle become the D-flat of Katie’s opening, tender instruction to “go placidly amid the noise and the haste.” While pointing out these compositions’ similarities may give the impression that this album is a one-note experience (or one-interval experience, rather), I am not concerned. There is more than enough between these hinge-points, discovered and articulated here, years after I have composed some of these pieces. I personally view the any artist’s establishing their “voice” as coming to the point of facility with their creative habits such that their internal consistency becomes recognizable to their audience. If this is my major 2nd to sing, I will sing it (rather, Katie sings it, rapturously). Presented here is the encapsulation of my compositional accomplishments for the soprano voice: ambitious in its scope of text, duration, tessitura, and technique, there is nothing I have written elsewhere that isn’t also in here and plenty in these pieces that I have not attempted elsewhere. I am extremely proud to present Stories Out of Cherry Stems and am honored to know artists like Katie Procell, Erin Baker, Eric D’Alessandro, Amanda Dame, Garrett Hale, Jennifer Hughson, LAVENA, Kyle Blake Jones, Andrea Morris, and Brian Tracey who made this album possible.

-Peter Dayton

November, 2021


for Stories Out of Cherry Stems

  • Opera Ramblings Blog: "This is clever and sophisticated music. The accompanying instruments are well matched to their texts and the moods range from very playful to really rather dark." Read More

  • Take Effect Reviews: "A powerful listen that can also at times be delicate, Dayton creates a stunning, original body of work that will certainly impress the chamber and vocal music inclined." Read More

  • The Clarinet (Online): "The album overall presents a diverse yet cohesive demonstration of Dayton’s skilled and thoughtful writing and brings the listener on a captivating and engaging sonic adventure." Read More

  • Opera News (Critic's Choice): "Dayton continually creates fresh and interesting sounds... while Procell enthusiastically illuminates his idiosyncratic explorations with her gleaming soprano." Read More



Click on the buttons below to read the texts that the works on this album set to music in their original visual presentation and to read the original program notes that  I wrote to accompany each of the pieces on the album.



Browse beautiful, inspiring illustrations created by illustrations by Douglas Johnson using India Ink and watercolor. These images were created in real-time during rehearsals and recording sessions for this album. Discover more of Doug's brilliant artistry on his website.






Katie Procell has been praised throughout the Baltimore area as a “phenomenon with beautiful tone” (Johnathan Newmark). Her musical curiosity includes avant-garde. Past opera credits: various roles in Elevator (ENAEnsemble); Lisa (La Sonnambula; Opera Alchemy); Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro; Peabody Conservatory & Peach State Opera understudy); Krysia (understudy, Out of Darkness; Baltimore Theatre Project); Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia; James Madison University); Valencienne (The Merry Widow; JMU); Phyllis (Iolanthe; Luray Opera Theater); Patience (Patience; JMU); Despina (Così fan tutte; Luray). Represented by Spotlight Artists Management, she is a resident artist with Sparrow Live.

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Erin Baker is a Baltimore based harpist and music educator. She earned her Master’s degree in performance/pedagogy at the Peabody Conservatory under the tutelage of the late Ruth Inglefield. An accomplished orchestral player, Ms.Baker has played under the baton of Leonard Slatkin, Leon Fleisher, and Marin Alsop amongst others. Erin maintains a busy schedule with a variety of performance and teaching opportunities in and around Baltimore, MD. She currently holds a faculty position as the harp instructor for Baltimore Orchkids and the Baltimore School for the Arts TWIGS program.




Violist Eric D’Alessandro has performed throughout the United States and Canada in chamber ensembles and as a soloist as a member of a variety of groups, including the Atlas String Quartet, Capstone String Quartet, Chamber Encounters and Druid City Ensemble.

Mr. D’Alessandro completed a Master’s of Music at Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute and received an artist diploma at the San Francisco Academy Orchestra. He started working with students in 2009 and has continued this work in Baltimore as a teacher with the Chamber Encounters Music Academy and The Bryn Mawr School. Alongside his work as a teacher, he performs throughout the mid-atlantic region with groups such as the Pan American Symphony Orchestra and co-produces special projects devoted to the currency of art and collaborative modern experiences that are dedicated to bringing history and modern nuance to the concert hall.

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Amanda Dame is a Baltimore-based performer and teacher. She holds music degrees from both the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Amanda performs regularly with her flute and percussion duo, Duo Sila. The duo released their first album titled “Traditions Reimagined” in 2021, which explores the infusion of international music traditions within 20th century music, while showcasing the diverse capabilities created by the combination of flute and percussion. Amanda also has an online flute studio, and founded the summer camp Virtual Woodwind Academy in June 2020.




Garrett Hale is an oboist and arts administrator who is passionate about the performing arts. A versatile oboist and English horn player, he has performed in large ensembles, chamber groups, and as a solo performer around the U.S. and has studied and performed internationally in both Canada and Singapore. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Oboe Performance from the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University and received his master’s degree in Arts Management from American University. When not working or performing, Garrett enjoys cooking and spending time with his partner, John, and their two cats. 

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Jennifer Hughson is a vibrant clarinetist and bass clarinetist who regularly performs throughout the Eastern seaboard. Ms. Hughson is on faculty at both Morgan State University and the Peabody Preparatory, in Baltimore, MD.  Ms. Hughson holds positions in the Washington Chamber Orchestra, Mind on Fire New Music Ensemble and Liberty Wind Symphony. She has also played with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, the American Pops Orchestra, the Mid-Atlantic Symphony and the NakedEye New Music Ensemble. Ms. Hughson received her Bachelor of Music from Indiana University and her Master of Music from the Peabody Conservatory, studying clarinet with Howard Klug and Steven Barta.





Kyle Jones, saxophonist, is a performer, teacher, and new music advocate based in Kansas City, MO. Recently, he has been involved in a commissioning project with Dr. Nathan Mertens with the composer Anthony R. Green, as well as leading a consortium for a new work for saxophone and clarinet by composer Gabriela Ortiz. He currently serves as Adjunct Professor of Saxophone at MidAmerica Nazarene University. In addition to his performing activities, Kyle serves as a Co-Director for Fast Forward Austin,Development Lead/Publicist/Artist Liaison for Less Than <10, and manages and produces his own podcast entitled “Pay to Play.” 



Born and raised in Seattle, WA, Lavena’s parents started her on cello at age 6. After finishing her studies at the Peabody Conservatory, she became a founding member of The Atlas String Quartet, which performed at the semifinals of the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition in 2014. A staple of Baltimore’s new music scene, she has also toured as a cellist with the indie rock band Ra Ra Riot, and produced the video and blog series 12 Months of Practicing in 2019. Lavena released her first solo album in your hands on March 26th, 2021 on the label Bright Shiny Things, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Traditional Classical Albums Chart. 




Andrea I. Morris is an oboist, public musicologist, and librarian based in Baltimore, MD. Passionate about chamber music and education, her work centers on advocacy for, performance of, and access to new music. She holds dual Master’s of Music degrees in Oboe Performance and Musicology from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University where she was a recipient of the Grace Clagett Ranney Prize for chamber music, and was a member of the honors ensemble Zenith Winds. Morris also earned degrees from the University of Denver in Oboe Performance (BM ‘13) and Information Science (MLIS ‘17).

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Brian Tracey is a Baltimore-based clarinetist and organist. He attended the Peabody Institute for his graduate studies and fell in love with the city of Baltimore and the amazing variety of music there. He performs regularly with new music ensembles in Baltimore and with more traditional chamber music ensembles from New York to Washington D.C. He is on the faculty for the Peabody Institute's pre-college program and is an adjunct professor of clarinet at West Chester University in southeastern Pennsylvania. When not performing or teaching, Brian is usually playing board games with friends or outside kayaking, skiing, or hiking.




Stuart Wheeler is a singer and composer with interests in language and intonation. He spent several years in Utah involved with the Deseret Experimental Opera collective and as co-curator of the Avant GaRawge concert series. Now in Connecticut, Stuart is occupied with performance of the work of John Cage and Jackson Mac Low, as well as Old Harp Hymnody from the American South and New England. He has performed and recorded with the bands Quiet House, FunCoffin, Sen Wisher and NAPS, and in duet with both Linnea Sablosky and Jesse Quebbeman-Turley. He holds an MA in music from Wesleyan University.

Stories Out of Cherry Stems: Katie Procell sings works by Peter Dayton

Recorded at Roland Park Community Center in Baltimore, MD

Entwine Our Tongues: Sapphic Fragments, for Soprano and Reeds

Recorded July 16, 2021

Session Producer Robert Armstrong, Peter Dayton

Session Engineer Robert Armstrong

Session Editors Andrew Funcheon, Philipp Heim-Antolin

Honeyvoiced poems by Jordi Alonso (2014) are used with permission of the author and the publisher, XOXOX Press of Gambier, Ohio.

Si Solamente, for Soprano and Violoncello

Recorded August 21, 2021

Session Producer Robert Armstrong, Peter Dayton

Session Engineer Robert Armstrong, Lara Mistofsky Neuss

Session Editors Andrew Funcheon, Philipp Heim-Antolin

Texts by Pablo Neruda, permission granted by Fundación Pablo Neruda, represented by the Sociedad Chilena de Autores e Intérpretes Musicales (SCD). All Rights Reserved. “El Fugitivo XII” originally included in “Canto General” (1950) “Barcarola” originally included in “Residencia en el Tierra, II” (1931), “Me gustas cuando callas” originally included in “Viente poemas de amor y una canción desesperada” (1924)


Lost Daughter: Songs on the Myth of Persephone, for Soprano, Flute, Viola, and Harp

Recorded July 19, 2021

Session Producer Robert Armstrong, Peter Dayton

Session Engineer Robert Armstrong

Session Editors Andrew Funcheon, Philipp Heim-Antolin

Requiescat from “Poems”(1881) by Oscar Wilde. This poem is in the Public Domain.

Persephone, Falling from “Mother Love,” W.W.Norton, New York, Copyright © 1995 by Rita Dove. Used by Permission of the Author.

Hymn to Persephone from “Second April” (1921) by Edna St. Vincent Millay. This poem is in the Public Domain.

Demeter and Persephone from “Demeter, and Other Poems” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1889). This poem is in the Public Domain. Text adapted and arranged by Peter Dayton.

“Persephone, the Wanderer” by Louise Glück. Copyright © 2006 by Louise Glück, used by permission of The Wylie Agency LLC.

Desiderata: Ten Pieces of Wisdom, for Soprano and Alto Saxophone

Recorded July 16, 2021

Session Producer Robert Armstrong, Peter Dayton

Session Engineer Robert Armstrong

Session Editors Andrew Funcheon, Philipp Heim-Antolin

Executive Producer Bob Lord  Executive A&R Sam Renshaw  A&R Chris Robinson  VP of Production Jan Košulič

Audio Director Lucas Paquette  VP, Design & Marketing Director Brett Picknell  Art Director Ryan Harrison

Design Edward A. Fleming, Morgan Hauber   Publicity Patrick Niland, Aiden Curan   Content Manager Sara Warner

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