No Whining, No Flowers

No Whining No Flowers

In 2003, the Cornell University Chorus launched a commissioning project known informally as "No Whining, No Flowers". The goal of the project is to expand the contemporary repertoire for treble choirs by commissioning pieces from women composers using text from women writers. Furthermore, these texts are intended to explore topics that differ from the traditional treble choir repertoire themes of "Oh woe, my man has left me," and "La la, look at all the pretty flowers" - hence the title of the project. Please see below for more information about our recently commissioned pieces.


2018-2019: it isn’t a dream… By melissa dunphy

Melissa Dunphy’s It Isn’t a Dream… portrays a nightmare using the unsettling text of Sun-Up [I. Celia], a poem by the anarchist Lola Ridge. Dunphy’s composition evokes suspense and fear through dizzying musical lines and Ridge’s vivid imagery.


2017-2018: The Grail Bird By Christine Donkin

Christine Donkin's The Grail Bird sets to music the field notes of Melinda LaBranche, a Cornell scientist on a 2004 research expedition in Arkansas. LeBranche details her possible sighting of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, a bird long believed extinct. Donkin's setting employs a narrator and two choirs to create an immersive soundscape that vividly captures this remarkable story at the intersection of discovery and belief. 


2016-2017: Perception Test and Jump the chromosome BY Mia Makaroff

Mia Makaroff's Perception Test beautifully captures the scientist’s world-view, constant oscillation between inquiry and wonder. Jump the Chromosome celebrates the pathbreaking career of Cornell’s own Barbara McClintock, who won the Nobel Prize in physiology/medicine in 1983 for her discovery of transposons, also known as “jumping genes.” As a nod to McClintock’s own interest in jazz, Makaroff has set both poems in a lighter, popular style.

Adrienne Albert

2015-2016: Malala by Adrienne Albert

Adrienne Albert celebrates the life and words of women's education activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai in this year’s commission. At the time of the piece’s premiere, Malala was the same age as the Chorus’s youngest members. 

Lisa Bielawa

2014-2015: Songs from Ort by Lisa Bielawa

This year's commission, Songs from Ort, by Rome Prize winner Lisa Bielawa is a musical composition whose textual origin reveals a dizzying series of new beginnings, via fictitious attribution, translation, collaboration, and finally the poetic technique of erasure. 

flannery cunningham.jpg

2013-2014: Onion Days by Flannery Cunningham

Flannery Cunningham, a recent Mitchell Scholar, celebrates the dignity of working women from both sides of the Atlantic in her composition Onion Days. The text combines a Carl Sandburg poem with a Scottish waulking tune (waulking is the act of tossing and beating newly woven cloth, to strengthen it). 

Kay Rhie


This year's commissioned piece is Kay Rhie's modern arrangement of Kassia's Hymn, a piece traditionally sung during Catholic services in the last week of Lent.

Sally Lamb McCune

2011-2012: Voices of the Hills by Sally Lamb McCune

This piece, Voices of the Hills, is a set of four Appalachian folk songs arranged in a more contemporary style by composer Sally Lamb McCune.

David Conte

2010-2011: To Music by David Conte

This year, the Chorus commissioned a special piece in honor of Chorus alumna Heather Walters, '81, who passed away on August 27, 2009. Entitled To Music, the piece was composed by Cornell alumnus David Conte with text by Henry Van Dyke.

Libby Larsen

2009-2010A Book of Spells by Libby Larsen

This piece is a set of five movements--spells--in the spirit of Halloween, the day the work was premiered. The text is by Z.E. Budapest. Larsen is a Grammy award winning composer and co-founder of the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composer's Forum.

Abbie Betinis

2008-2009Chant for Great Compassion by Abbie Betinis

The text for Chant for Great Compassion, both English and Chinese transliteration, comes from Qiu Jin, Wang Erbei, and the traditional 'Great Compassion Mantra.' Betinis is a "most audacious... edgy and thrilling" young female composer known for setting texts of various cultures and time periods.

Augusta Read Thomas

2007-2008Juggler of Day by Augusta Read Thomas

The text for Juggler of Day comes from two Emily Dickinson poems. Augusta Read Thomas is a well known composer and teacher of music. She was the Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1997 to 2006, and one of the two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2007.

Carol Barnett

2006-2007Song of Perfect Propriety by Carol Barnett

The text for Song of Perfect Propriety comes from a poem by Dorothy Parker. Carol Barnett's music has been called audacious and engaging. Her varied catalog includes works for solo voice, piano, chorus, diverse chamber ensembles, orchestra, and wind ensemble.

Edie Hill

2005-2006A Voice by Edie Hill

The text for A Voice comes from a poem by May Sarton. Edie Hill is a nationally acclaimed composer whose vocal and instrumental works are frequently performed both internationally and throughout the U.S.

Sally Lamb McCune

2004-2005The Sadness of the Sea by Sally Lamb McCune

The Sadness of the Sea is a three movement piece with 2007 text derived from the works of Lydia Huntley Sigourney, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and the traditional children's tune "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"

Elizabeth Alexander

2003-2004Why I Pity the Woman Who Never Spills by Elizabeth Alexander

Why I Pity the Woman Who Never Spills is "a gutsy, sensual blues setting of Joan Wolf Prefontaine's poem in praise of messy women."