Credit: Courtesy

On Thursday, November 18, mezzo-soprano Sun-Ly Pierce and pianist Chien-Lin Lu, the 2019 Marilyn Horne Song Competition winners, will premiere a song cycle written expressly for them by Pulitzer Prize– and Grammy-winning American composer Jennifer Higdon. Wise Moon sets five short poems about the moon in music intended to bring out the unique talents of these two young artists. Higdon was present as a judge at the competition in 2019, and her journey to writing this new work began that day. “Sun-Ly embodied the songs she sang in the competition in a way that was entirely convincing,” Higdon said, adding that she felt “as though entering into a world with them.” 

Higdon was equally impressed with the “control and colors” she heard from Chien-Lin Lu’s piano. The impact of his playing led her to imagine the work as intensely collaborative — more a duet than a song cycle. The concert, which will also include Debussy, Schoenberg, Wolf, Britten, and Bolcom, begins at 7 p.m.

Higdon’s work will also feature in an upcoming concert by the Santa Barbara Symphony. On February 19-20, 2022 as part of the Symphony’s “Beethoven in Bloom” program, harpist Michelle Temple will perform Higdon’s Harp Concerto. Higdon won the 2020 Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for the Harp Concerto, her third Grammy. For tickets and more information about the Marilyn Horne Song Competition recital on November 18, visit

This edition of ON Culture was originally emailed to subscribers on February 16, 2024. To receive Leslie Dinaberg’s arts newsletter in your inbox on Fridays, sign up at


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