Norfolk Letters

F. Ludwig Diehn Concert Series
Chandler Recital Hall
Old Dominion University
Monday, February 26, 2024

Ross Tamaccio, baritone
Hsiao-Ying Lin, piano
Michael Rickelton, composer

Honoring fallen soldiers for over 25 years, the Norfolk Armed Forces Memorial steadfastly commemorates the lives of all those who died serving their nation in times of war. The 22 bronze cast letters penned by fallen soldiers that live on in memoriam in downtown Norfolk will now be heard in new musical settings for voice and piano by composer Michael Rickelton.

Rickelton is a composer of “extremely attractive and thoughtfully shaped” (Music Web International) music that “seizes the ear” (Gramophone). Composer Lori Laitman described Rickelton as having “a great and clear gift for writing for the voice,” and his works have found favor with singers across the country. He is joined by sought-after baritone Ross Tamaccio and collaborative pianist Hsiao-Ying Lin. Accompanied by additional works inspired by the soldier’s experience, the world premiere of Norfolk Letters continues in Norfolk’s distinguished tradition of honoring America’s military heritage.


I am sorry that it has come to this

Battle Songs
I. Concord
II. Buena Vista
III. Shiloh
IV. In Flanders Fields

Norfolk Letters (Book 1) (world premiere)
I. Prelude 
II. Even the trenches can be beautiful
III. I want now [to] take up my pen
IV. We are on the march to Fort Wagner, to storm it
V. My girl, my girl, how I do miss you

About the Works

Premiered on November 11th, 2018 — a date marking not only Veterans Day, but also the centennial of the end of the First World War — I am sorry that it has come to this is an acknowledgement of the importance and realities of veterans healthcare. Scored for offstage voice and piano, I am sorry that it has come to this revolves around its electronic soundtrack, which focuses on a recording of twenty-two individual voices reading excerpts from a Veteran's suicide note documenting crippling mental and physical illnesses. These voices are a manifestation of the statistic that — at the time of this veteran's death — twenty-two veterans took their lives each day. Additionally, the diverse collection of voices helps to provide not only a textured soundscape, but also drive home the idea that this letter could have been written by any service person. The soundtrack begins with the “presidential chatter” of the five U.S. presidents who were in office during the lifetime of the individual who wrote the letter; the overlapping ramblings are the boastings of government achievements with respect to veterans healthcare. However, this flaunting of government successes is almost immediately contrasted with the reciting of the note left by the veteran, who states that the government has abandoned them, and that receiving proper health care is “too much to ask from a regime built upon the idea that suffering is noble, and relief is just for the weak.” Accompanying the centerpiece of a soundtrack is the piano, whose main role is to not only add live harmonies that settle with the additional sounds of the track, but also provide harmonic context for the offstage voice that interjects with selected chants drawn from the Latin Requiem Mass — the Mass for the dead.

The latest figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs show there were more than 6,000 Veteran suicides each year from 2001 to 2021 (the last year of available data). In 2021, the suicide rate was 2x greater for Veterans than for non-Veteran adults. As a friend recently said, “it is striking how many of our country’s most fundamental issues are, or ought to be, nonpartisan matters of shared human concern.” This is one of those issues.

For more information and to view the most recent VA National Suicide Data Report, please visit:

BATTLE SONGS recounts the events/effects of four battles of pre-WWII wars—the battle of Concord (Revolutionary War), the battle of Buena Vista (Mexican-American War), the battle of Shiloh (Civil War), and the second battle of Ypres (World War I).

Concord was my first venture into writing art song. Written for myself to perform, it was not until after many performances that I decided to expand the work into a set of songs. Shiloh, the second song added, is not only a powerfully reflective text, but represents the Civil War battle in which my own great-great-grandfather fought and was wounded.

I. Concord – "Concord Hymn" Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson’s "Concord Hymn" was sung to the tune Old Hundredth during the 1837 4th of July celebration in Concord, MA. The day’s festivities marked the dedication of the monument commemorating the battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, erected near the North Bridge where the initial battle took place. Today the foremost recognizable stanza is inscribed on the base of Daniel Chester French’s Minute Man Statue. Through Emerson’s words, coupled with the scenic surrounding landscape, visitors are able to reflect on the activity of April 19, 1775.

II. Buena Vista – "The Bivouac of the Dead" Theodore O’Hara
Fought near Monterrey, the battle of Buena Vista was the last major battle in northern Mexico during the Mexican-American War. It was future U.S. President Zachary Taylor’s final battle of the war. Although written to honor Kentuckians slain during the War, Theodore O’Hara’s "The Bivouac of the Dead" is commonly used to remember veterans of the Civil War. Plaques engraved with O’Hara’s text may be seen today in various cemeteries which commemorate some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War: Antietam, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Shiloh, Stone’s River, and Vicksburg. Even the McClellan Gate leading to the Arlington National Cemetery bears an inscription from O’Hara’s poem. O’Hara was born in Danville, Kentucky, on February 11, 1820. On June 6, 1867, O’Hara died and was buried in Columbus, GA. However, in 1873 his remains were moved to Frankfort, KY, to rest near the graves of the soldiers who inspired his famous poem.

III. Shiloh – "Shiloh: A Requiem" Herman Melville
Melville’s "Shiloh: A Requiem" depicts one of the bloodiest battles in the history of American warfare. Fought near Pittsburg Landing in southern Tennessee, the two-day battle (April 6-7, 1862) left over 23,000 men killed, wounded, or missing. The misery of the battle is vividly represented in James Lee McDonough’s Shiloh—in Hell before Night. “The rain came slowly at first, then gradually fell harder and harder until it beat against the ground in torrents. Continuing through most of the night, the downpour was accompanied by a cold, chilling wind that swept the battlefield. An intense darkness was broken only by flashes of lightning and the fuses of shells in the sky momentarily illuminating scenes of wasted humanity. Every fifteen minutes, all night long, a gun on each of the Union gunboats roared from the Tennessee River, sending two giant 8-inch shells arching toward the Confederate lines, their red fuses lighting up the starless night for a brief instant before they came screaming down, exploding and scattering fragments of iron in all directions…Many of the wounded, Confederate and Union, were spending an agonizing night—the last night some would ever know—in the blackness between the lines of the armies. As the flashes of lightning lit the fields and the rolling timberland, they found themselves alone, except for other wounded and innumerable bodies of the dead.” (1977, 184-185)

IV. In Flanders Fields – "In Flanders Fields" John McCrae
McCrae’s "In Flanders Fields" is recognized as one of the most moving war poems ever written. It remains a symbol of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Although he had been a doctor for years and served in the Canadian armed forces, McCrae found the conditions of Ypres almost impossible to bear. As a surgeon, Major McCrae spent 17 days treating injured men—Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans. One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student Alexis Helmer of Ottawa had been killed by a shell burst on May 2, 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae’s dressing station. With the absence of a chaplain, McCrae performed the funeral ceremony. The next day, while sitting on the back of an ambulance, McCrae vented his anguish by composing his historic poem. In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches. Why poppies? According to Rob Ruggenberg in his article "The Making of In Flanders Fields," “wild poppies flower when other plants in their direct neighborhood are dead. Their seeds can lie on the ground for years and years, but only when there are no more competing flowers or shrubs in the vicinity (for instance when someone firmly roots up the ground), these seeds will sprout…But in this poem the poppy plays one more role. The poppy is known as a symbol of sleep. The last line We shall not sleep, thou poppies grow / In Flanders fields might point to this fact. Some kinds of poppies are used to derive opium, from which morphine is made. Morphine was often used to put a wounded soldier to sleep. Sometimes medical doctors used it in a higher dose to put the incurable wounded out of their misery.” (

Norfolk Letters are settings of the letters contained in the Norfolk Armed Forces Memorial. Erected in the summer of 1998 at Town Point Park in Downtown Norfolk, the Armed Forces Memorial consists of 22 cast bronze letters scattered along the waterfront as if blown by the wind. Artists Maggie Smith and James Cutler curated a collection of letters conveying diverse emotional experiences, offering a glimpse into the humanity of the soldier's experience, and the effects of their service on loved ones back home. Find out more about the memorial on the Norfolk Arts webpage.

I first encountered the memorial in the spring of 2000, during a high school choir trip to Virginia Beach. As a typical high school sophomore, I didn't exactly grasp the significance of the words I was reading. It would be another decade before I visited the memorial again, but it would become a regular stop during my yearly camping excursion down to the North Carolina coast. During one of these visits, in 2016, I began to think about the possibility of hearing these letters set to music for voice and piano (in the tradition of the art song). Then in January 2022, as many artists began emerging from isolation, I began discussing a new music project with my friend and wonderful baritone, Ross Tamaccio. For whatever reason, the concept of musical settings of the letters contained in the Norfolk Armed Forces Memorial reemerged in my mind and I knew this was the project that needed to happen. 

The letters featured in the memorial were written by fallen soldiers to their loved ones, which allows the reader (and listener) insight to both sides of the relationship between a service person and those that they leave behind; the dates of these letters span the entire history of conflicts involving the United States, ranging from the Revolutionary War to the War in Afghanistan. Despite the time separating the first and last of these letters, all of these soldiers describe similar circumstances and experiences, in a way that — besides some differences in vernacular — these letters almost do not date themselves.

Almost 24 years after that first encounter, tonight's recital features the world premiere of the first five pieces in Norfolk Letters: Book 1. When complete, Book 1 will contain the letters dating 1776 through 1918, marking the Revolutionary War to the end of the First World War. Ten songs are contained in Book 1, along with an opening piano prelude and three piano intermezzi, which offer reflections on extracted texts from the letters of previous songs. Tonight we hear the opening piano prelude, and four letters. Over the next year, I will compose the remaining nine pieces in Book 1 for Ross and a commissioning consortium of singers, pianists, and arts supporters. To join the consortium and be a part of helping bring Norfolk Letters: Book 1 to more listeners, visit

When complete, Norfolk Letters (Books 1 and 2) will contain 22 songs and roughly 10 solo piano pieces offering ca. 3 hours of musical memorial to all those who sacrificed their lives in service to their nation. It is my hope that this music lives as a tribute to them and to their loved ones back home.

I. Prelude (solo piano)
The solo piano prelude opens the suite with music exploring emotions connected to war: duty, sacrifice, and loss. The prelude introduces several musical elements that serve as the foundations for the pieces to follow.

II. Even the trenches can be beautiful
Lieutenant Quincy Sharpe Mills (January 15, 1884 – July 26, 1918) — the only child of Thomas Mills (d. 1940) and Nannie Sharpe Mills (d. 1955) — was known as an exceptional author and political journalist prior to his military service. After the declaration of war on Germany by the United States in 1917, Mills left his hard-earned position as city editor at the New York newspaper Evening Sun to volunteer for military service, as he felt it his duty to fight for his country. At the age of 32, Quincy Sharpe Mills died during the Battle of Château-Thierry — a battle that successfully held off German invasion into France. During his service, he often wrote to his parents, specifically his mom, about the flowers and fields near the trenches.

III. I want now [to] take up my pen
Little is publicly known about Alexander Ogg, Jr., besides the following excerpt from The Norfolk Memorial: "Alexander Ogg, Jr. fought in the War of 1812 with Captain Robert Hooke’s Company of Riflemen, volunteers from Rockingham County, Virginia. Ogg was killed in action or died of illness while in service in 1813, at the estimated age of 35." Additionally, online records suggest that Ogg’s father arrived in Virginia from Scotland, and that the Jane and Susanna mentioned in Ogg’s letter are two of his sisters.  

IV. We are on the march to Fort Wagner, to storm it
Robert J. Simmons (d. August 23, 1863) was a former clerk from Bermuda who served as a First Sergeant for the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first recognized black regiments during the American Civil War. During the Second Battle of Fort Wagner in July of 1863, Simmons was wounded and captured as a prisoner, which he remained until his death in a South Carolina jail. For months after his capture, Simmons was recorded as being Missing In Action after the Fort Wagner attack. While he did not have children of his own, Simmons’ sister, Susan Reed — who lived with their mother, Margaret Simmons — had two children. While Simmons was preparing for war, his nephew, Joseph Reed, died at the age of seven on July 14th, 1863 after being beaten by a mob during the New York City draft riots; Susan Reed would later give birth to another son she named Robert John, after her brother. 

V. My girl, my girl, how I do miss you
Francis Michael Tracy (d. September 27, 1918) served as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry in the Army during the First World War. While Tracy was a law student, he married Gertrude Colman, who was born in Washington D.C. during the summer of 1889. In a letter to Gertrude, Tracy’s Lieutenant Colonel James B. Cavanaugh writes that, while in France, Tracy was “struck by a piece of high explosive shell which went over his head, landed about 100 yards past him, exploded & threw the piece backward — one of those strokes of fate so unaccountable for.” Gertrude kept the letters that Frank wrote her for almost 50 years, until her own passing. 


Presidential Chatter
President Barack Obama: "In this country, we take care of our own."

President Ronald Reagan: "To me it is unconscionable that veterans in need are denied hospital and medical care because of inadequate funding, which has closed hospital beds and cut health care personnel within the Veterans Administration."

President George H.W. Bush: "I am proud of what we've accomplished together to strengthen our veterans health care system, and proud of the specialized health care centers that we've created, and the new outpatient clinics."

President Bill Clinton: "We owe to our veterans a health care system that is there for them when they need it, and provides high quality and compassionate care."

President George W. Bush: "We've increased the VA's medical care budget by 51%. We've increased total outpatient visits; increased total number of prescriptions filled. We've committed more than 1.5 billion dollars to modernizing and expanding VA facilities so that veterans can get better care closer to home."

President Barack Obama: "If you find yourself struggling with the wounds of war – such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries – we’ll be there for you as well, with the care and treatment that you need. No veteran should have to wait months or years for the benefits that you’ve earned."

(excerpts from an) Anonymous Veteran's Suicide Note 
I am sorry that it has come to this. The fact is, for as long as I can remember my motivation for getting up every day has been so that you would not have to bury me. As things have continued to get worse, it has become clear that this alone is not a sufficient reason to carry on. The fact is, I am not getting better, I am not going to get better, and I will most certainly deteriorate further as time goes on. From a logical standpoint, it is better to simply end things quickly and let any repercussions from that play out in the short term than to drag things out into the long term. I really have been trying to hang on for more than a decade now, suffering unspeakable horror as quietly as possible.

My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure. All day, every day a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body. It is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety, even with all of the medications the doctors dare give. Simple things that everyone else takes for granted are nearly impossible for me. I cannot laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again. Now, to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.

You must not blame yourself. There are some things that a person simply can not come back from. The government has turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help. Any blame rests with them.

Beyond that, there are the host of physical illnesses that have struck me down again and again, for which they also offer no help. There might be some progress by now if they had not spent nearly twenty years denying the illness that I and so many others were exposed to. Further complicating matters is the repeated and severe brain injuries to which I was subjected, which they also seem to be expending no effort into understanding. What is known is that each of these should have been cause enough for immediate medical attention, which was not rendered. Perhaps, with the right medication at the right doses, I could have bought a couple of decent years, but even that is too much to ask from a regime built upon the idea that suffering is noble and relief is just for the weak.

Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference. It leaves us to where all we have to look forward to is constant pain, misery, poverty, and dishonor. I assure you that, when the numbers do finally drop, it will merely be because those who were pushed the farthest are already dead.

The fact is that any kind of ordinary life is an insult to those who died at my hand. How can I possibly go around like everyone else while the widows and orphans I created continue to struggle? If they could see me sitting here in suburbia, in my comfortable home working on some music project they would be outraged, and rightfully so.

I am left with basically nothing. Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war. Abandoned by those who would take the easy route, and a liability to those who stick it out, and thus deserve better. So you see, not only am I better off dead, but the world is better without me in it.

This is what brought me to my actual final mission—a mercy killing. I know how to kill, and I know how to do it so that there is no pain whatsoever. It was quick, and I did not suffer. And above all, now I am free. I feel no more pain. I have no more nightmares or flashbacks or hallucinations. I am no longer constantly depressed or afraid or worried. I am free.

Subvenite Sancti Dei, occurite Angeli Domini:
Suscipientes animam ejus:
Offerentes eam in conspectu Altissimi.

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Confutatis maledictis,
Flammis acribus addictis,
Voca me cum benedictis.
Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem.

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

In paradisum: deducant te Angeli:
in tuo adventu suscipiant te Martyres,
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.
Chorus Angelorum te suscipiat,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam habeas requiem.

Come to his assistance, ye Saints of God:
come forth to meet him, ye Angels of the Lord:
receiving his soul, offer it in the sight of the Most High.

Eternal rest grant unto them o Lord:
and let light perpetual shine upon them.

Once the cursed have been silenced,
sentenced to acrid flames:
Call Thou me with the blessed.
Merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest.

Eternal rest grant unto them o Lord:
and let light perpetual shine upon them.

May the Angels lead thee into paradise:
may the Martyrs receive thee at thy coming,
and lead thee into the holy city of Jerusalem.
May the choir of Angels receive thee,
and mayest thou have eternal rest with Lazarus, who once was poor.

I. Concord (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept,
Alike the Conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone,
That memory may their deed redeem,
When like our sires our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, or leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and Thee.

II. Buena Vista (Theodore O'Hara)
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat;
No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
No rumour of the foe's advance
now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind.

Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O'er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the glory tide;
Not long, our stout old Chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.

Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr's grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation's flag to save.
By rivers of their father's gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.
Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead,
Dear as the blood ye gave,
Where valor proudly sleeps.

III. Shiloh (Herman Melville)
Skimming lightly, wheeling still,
The swallows fly low
Over the field in clouded days,
The forest-field of Shiloh
Over the field where April rain
Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain,
Through the pauses of the night
That followed the Sunday fight
Around the church of Shiloh,
The church, so lone, the log-built one,
That echoed to many a parting groan
And natural prayer
Of dying foemen mingled there
Foemen at morn, but friends at eve
Fame or country least their care:
(What like a bullet can undeceive!)
And now they lay low,
While over them the swallows skim,
And all is hushed at Shiloh.

IV. In Flanders Fields (John McCrae)
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

II. Even the trenches can be beautiful Quincy Sharpe Mills - d. July 26, 1918
Dear Mother:
Even the trenches can be beautiful when they are trimmed with flowers, and the barbed wire forms a trellis for rambling vines, and shelter for innumerable thrushes and other songsters—one explanation, no doubt, of why the cats have a penchant for No-Man's-Land. The birds warble all the time, even when there is considerable activity, and it seems to me that their voices never sounded so sweet before. A number of them inhabit the six small trees, two birches and four wild cherry, which rise on the central island (entirely surrounded by trenches) of my strong point, or groupe de combat as the French call it. At the base of one of the birches is a flourishing wild rose bush, literally covered with blossoms, some of which I sneaked up and picked— keeping not only head but also the rest of me carefully DOWN during the process....Here are some of them for you, and also some daisies and yellow asters from the edge of one of my trenches.

III. I want now [to] take up my pen Alexander Ogg, Jr. - d. October 1813
Dearest Friends,
I want now [to] take up my pen to address you and inform you of present circumstances. I hope you will not be surprised or give way to grief or think hard of me for not visiting you before I started to Norfolk with the Rockingham Troop. I am now on the road. I had very short notice....We are to go on horse back armed with rifles and dirks, shot pouch and powder horn and bullets and with three days provisions. It is with great reluctance that I leave you all without seeing you or bidding you farewell....If I should never return it is my desire that all my things that I possess shall be equally divided between Jane and Susanna and all my just debts be paid and that Mariah Long should have that acre that I promised her for her work last summer....If there is any fighting to be done we are the men that bring it on, we riflemen....

IV. We are on the march to Fort Wagner, to storm it Robert J. Simmons - d. August 23, 1863
[My dear wife,]
We are on the march to Fort Wagner, to storm it. We have just completed our successful retreat from James Island; we fought a desperate battle there Thursday morning....Our company was in the reserve, when the outposts were attacked by rebel infantry and cavalry. I was sent out by our captain in command of a squad of men to support the left flank. The bullets fairly rained around us; when I got there the poor fellows were falling down around me, with pitiful groans. Our pickets only numbered about 250 men, attacked by about 900. It is supposed by the line of battle in the distance, that they were supported by a reserve of 3,000 men. We had to fire and retreat toward our own encampment. One poor sergeant of ours was shot down along side of me; several others were wounded near me. God has protected me through this, my first fiery, leaden trial, and I do give Him the glory....

V. My girl, my girl, how I do miss you Francis M. Tracy - d. September 27, 1918
Dearest Woman,
....My girl, my girl, how I do miss you. I didn't think it possible for one to be possessed of the longing I have for you. At night, I lie awake and think and think of you, the roar of the big guns giving way before the press of mental pictures of you....If I had to go over the same road with you again, I am quite sure the way would be easier for you. The mistakes I have made, the heartaches I have caused you, stand out like the shell holes that deface so much of this country, that once was so beautiful. I am learning my lesson, honey, and this experience, this absence from you, is burning its brand into my soul.... ....We are certain to move very soon, and when we do, we will not be able to write letters....I trust, and feel sure, that you and all of my real friends are saying a few silent prayers, that we may all do our duty completely, and live to tell those whom we love how we did it....Pray for me and all our boys....Your devoted Hubby.

About the Artists

Ross Tamaccio

Since moving to Baltimore in 2016 from his hometown in Herndon, Virginia, Ross Tamaccio has enjoyed an emerging career as a solo and ensemble singer in the Maryland/DC area and throughout North America. He is a well-known soloist with Washington Bach Consort, Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Central Maryland Chorale, Bach in Baltimore, and Maryland Choral Society. As a sought-after ensemble singer, Ross performs with the Oregon Bach Festival Chorus, Conspirare, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble, Bach Akademie Charlotte, True Concord Voices and Orchestra, Baltimore Concert Opera, and has performed with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (UK), Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Handel and Haydn Society, and Tafelmusik Baroque Chorus and Orchestra. Currently, he is a resident bass with the Washington National Cathedral Choir.

Highlights from recent seasons include the world premiere of Peter Latona’s The Saint’s Triumphant with the National Shrine Choir, the east coast premiere of Jake Heggie’s Out of Darkness, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the Huntington Symphony, Durufle’s Requiem with The Thirteen Choir, Handel’s Messiah with the Central Maryland Chorale, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs and Dona Nobis Pacem with Maryland Choral Society. In the 2021-2022 season Ross was a Voces8 Vocal Scholar. Upcoming projects include performances with Conspirare, True Concord Voices and Orchestra, Bach Akademie Charlotte, Kinnara, solo engagements with Spire Chamber Ensemble and Washington Bach Consort as part of their Noontime Cantata Series. Ross is a graduate of Shepherd University and Peabody Conservatory. He can be found on all social media platforms @rktamaccio or on his website

Hsiao-Ying Lin
Hsiao-Ying Lin

Prizewinner of numerous international competitions, pianist Hsiao-Ying Lin is one of the most sought-after collaborative partners in Washington-Baltimore area. Hsiao-Ying holds the Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degrees in piano performance from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, under the tutelage of Ellen Mack. Hsiao-Ying was on the Full Scholarship in Accompanying (2008-2013) at the Peabody Conservatory, and has been working closely with piano, string, voice, wind, brass and percussion departments ever since. 

Dr. Lin performs internationally as a soloist, collaborative artist and chamber musician in venues such as Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Great Hall Series presented by the Chamber Music Society of Maryland, the Strathmore Mansion Concert series, the Steinway Series at Smithsonian American Art Museum, Stevenson Hall at the Royal Conservartoire of Scotland, and the National Concert Hall in Taiwan. She was the recipient of the Sidney Friedberg Prize in chamber music, as well as the Clara Arschfeld Award, Peabody Preparatory Awards, and Sarah Stulman Zierler Prize in accompanying. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Dr. Lin holds a degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts in Piano Performance and Music Education from National Taiwan Normal University.

Dr. Lin is an artist with the Baltimore Musicales, and the Piatigorsky Foundation. As a recording artist, Dr. Lin’s recording Time and Memory has been released by Albany Records (2017), presenting American composer Michael Rickelton’s vocal-piano chamber and piano solo works. The recording has been broadcast throughout the country, including radio stations such as WBJC of Maryland/DC area, and Hawaii Public Radio’s HPR2.

Dr. Lin currently serves as Accompanying Program Manager at the Peabody Institute. She is also on the faculty of the Peabody Preparatory for the Pre-Conservatory Violin Program, a piano faculty member at University of Maryland- Baltimore County (UMBC), and at the Heifetz International Music Institute.

Hsiao-Ying Lin
Michael Rickelton

Michael Rickelton is a composer of “extremely attractive and thoughtfully shaped” (Music Web International) music that “seizes the ear” (Gramophone). An accomplished composer of solo, chamber, and orchestral works, Michael has a powerful and critically acclaimed affinity for the voice. Composer Lori Laitman described Michael as having “a great and clear gift for writing for the voice.” A singer in his own right, Michael brings melodic shape and linear drive to all his pieces, be they solo, chamber works, orchestral music, or electronic sound design. 

Renaissance music opened the gateway to Michael’s creative journey through its direct and impactful harmonic language. The inspiration for his work encompasses poetry, prose, visual arts, and diverse musical influences from Hässler to Nine Inch Nails. His involvement in the performance of symphonic vocal music cemented his role as a musician, and sacred works for chorus remain a cornerstone of his compositional output.

Michael’s work echoes music of the past yet lives undeniably within a contemporary framework. He often draws inspiration from combining centuries-old chant melodies with modern harmonies and performance techniques. This fusion of old and new is a central pillar of Michael’s creative process, clearly heard in works such as 27 Tenebrae Responsories and the solo piano piece “It is finished.” 

Many of his compositions address intense, challenging experiences that affect people at both personal and societal levels. I am sorry that it has come to this is an examination of Veteran's health care and suicide. “The End of a Season,” written at the request of the Christian Scholars’ Conference, explores abandonment and loneliness. “The End of a Season" begins Michael’s strong connection to the poetry of Dana Gioia, the most recent California Poet Laureate and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Gioia’s poems make up the song cycle Impossible Season. Michael also set Gioia’s “Pentecost,” a reflection upon the grief, anger, and guilt of a parent after the death of their young child. Pentecost was the recipient of the Gregg Smith Choral Composition Award, was the winner of the Pacific Chorale Choral Composition Contest, and was recorded by The John Alexander Singers on their American Voices album with Delos Records.

Recordings of Michael’s music have also been released by Albany Records and Petrichor Records. Time and Memory (Albany) is a portrait album of Michael’s work for solo voice and piano, including Time and Memory: suite for voice and piano on poems of William S. Trout; Battle Songs; and Impossible Season. Michael’s 6:46 was recently released by Petrichor Records on their series New Music by Living Composers. His 2021 release Effuse / Allure / Ancient Light is based on a trio of paintings by Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary, who describes her own work as “a window into the chaos… inviting the unconscious.”

Michael’s music has received awards and honors from ASCAP, American Composers Orchestra, The American Prize, Bluffton College, Gregg Smith and Syracuse University, Ithaca College, Lipscomb University, Meistersingers, Southeastern Composers' League, Pacific Chorale, and The Peabody Conservatory. His music has been featured in performances and readings by ensembles such as the Baltimore Symphony, Nashville Symphony, Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Pacific Chorale, and the Choir of the Washington National Cathedral. 

Michael is an active and devoted music educator, serving on the music faculties of The Peabody Conservatory, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at The Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, and Loyola University Maryland. He also maintains a private teaching studio and co-organizes Go Compose North America, an organization offering online workshops and opportunities for young composers. Michael has privately tutored students from numerous countries and four continents, many of which have had their works rehearsed, performed, and recorded by some of the world’s leading musicians.

As a sought-after vocalist, Michael performs regularly with organizations in Baltimore and the Washington, DC metro area. He has received honors from the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and has recorded as an ensemble singer and soloist with Naxos Records, Decca Records, and Gothic Records. 

A native of Charlotte, NC, Michael holds degrees from The Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University (D.M.A., M.M.), where he studied composition with Michael Hersch, and Lipscomb University (B.M.), where he studied with Jerome Reed. Michael also attended the European American Musical Alliance program at the École Normale de Musique in Paris, France, studying in Nadia Boulanger’s pedagogical traditions. He makes his home in Baltimore with his wife and two sons where he can also be found coaching youth baseball. 

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