Music and Poetry: Bios

On November 20, 2021 at 7pm, A MUSICAL FEAST, takes the stage at the Canisius College Montante Cultural Center, with a unique new program, “Music and Poetry”.

This seasons’ presentation will feature a number of local poets and musicians collaborating through the imagery of the written word and the emotional depth of the musical note.

The performance begins with a recitation by local poets George and Donna Grace followed by a stirring performance of three of the six Akhmatova Songs by John Tavener. Written in 1993, Akhmatova Songs commemorates the work of Russian poet, Anna Gorenko (aka, Akhmatova), whose poems paid tribute to her beloved novelists Dante, Pushkin, Lermontov, and Pasternak. Performed by UB Professor and Director of Vocal Performance, Tiffany Du Mouchelle, and SUNY Fredonia cellist, Natasha Farny, the music echoes the themes so prevalent in her poems and features a dark yearning for a kind of self-approval that never comes. These same themes will be re-examined when port Ryki Zuckerman reads her two darkly lyrical poems, “Restoration” and “Reincarnation”. Donna Grace was a gallery co-owner; as legislative aide in the City of Buffalo, Donna founded a successful educational court referral program; she ran for Buffalo Niagara Common Council; and for the past fifteen years, worked as a Substitute Teacher in Buffalo Public Schools. In the quiet of the pandemic, Donna began a poetry series called Notes in Isolation. Both of her poetry submissions to the Buffalo News have been published, and her work is among the LitGarden Writers Group anthology, “Just Twelve More Poems”.

George Grace is a poet, playwright, fiction writer, and visual artist. In 1984, he founded the Circleformance Lit./Music Series and the Streetwriters Workshop (now the LitGarden Writers Group). All six of his plays were staged locally, he has written three poetry anthologies and has been published numerous times on the News’ Poetry Page, in Earth’s Daughters, Purelight Magazine, and The Moody Street Irregulars. A visual artist, he is a former four-term president of the Buffalo Society of Artists, has exhibited nationally and has won many awards for his work. He has had articles by, and about, him in Pastel Journal, Art Calendar, and Artis Spectrum: Soho Journal of the Arts. His work is in numerous private and public collections.

Ryki Zuckerman earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a Masters in Art Education from SUNY Buffalo State College. She is the author of the full-length poetry collection, Looking for Bora Bora (Saddle Road Press, 2013), and also seven chapbooks: the gone artists (Nixes Mate, 2019), the skirt at the center of the universe (The Writers Den, 2018), Three Poems (University of Buffalo Poetry Collection, 2017), the nothing that is, (Benevolent Bird Press, 2015), a bright nowhere (Foothills, 2015), body of the work (Textile Bridge Press), and suite of six (Destitute Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared in Paterson Literary Review, Black Mountain College II Review, Slipstream, Steel Bellow, Swift Kick, Escarpments, Lips, Paunch, Home Planet News, Pure Light, Buffalo News, Artvoice, and online (Ghost City Review, anti-heroin chic, Nixes Mate Review, Dispatches from the Poetry Wars, poetrysuperhighway, and Moondance). Her work is anthologized (Insurrection [Gnashing Teeth Press, 2021], Moving Images: Poetry Inspired by Cinema [Before Your Quiet Eyes Publishing, 2021], A Celebration of Western New York Poets, Mo’ Joe, Water, and Flash of Dark Vol II & III) and published as two Broadsides (one from Serendipity Arts, another from Tea Leaves Collection). She is a co-editor of Earth’s Daughters magazine. A former fine arts professor, she curates the “Literary Cafe at CFI (Center for Inquiry)” series.

The first half closes with poet, Maureen O’Connor and violinist, Moshe Shulman collaborating to premier, “Feels Like -17 Degree F”. Maureen O’Connor is a native of the Buffalo area. She claims to have started writing soon after learning to spell. She retired from the Federal government nearly 15 years ago after 35 years of service. Since then she keeps discovering new aspects of her poetic voice. O’Connor feels privileged to have been a featured reader for The Screening Room moderated by Sandy McPherson Carrubba Geary.and for The Center for Inquiry poetry series moderated by Ryki Zuckerman. The opportunity to collaborate with Moshe Shulman for this Musical Feast program has been most enjoyable and enlightening for her. Russian-born Israeli composer, violin, viola, and bandoneon player, Moshe Shulman (b.1978) holds a Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in composition from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and the PhD degree in composition from the NY State University at Buffalo. His music was performed in Israel, Canada, United States, Russia and France and Hungary with various ensembles such as Norrbotten NEO and Juventas New Music Ensemble, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Meridian Brass Quintet, Slee Sinfonietta (Buffalo, NY), International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and Arditti Quartet. He received a 2015 Fromm Foundation Commission from Harvard University. Moshe won 3rd prize for “Construction 3” at the Jurgenson Contemporary Music International Competition in Moscow and received NYSCA grant to write ballet for children. Stephen Solook, playing a new movement from Fromm commissioned “Four Elements” by the Cambodian-composer and Grawemeyer award recipient Chinary Ung. Stephen Solook is a new music percussionist living in Buffalo, NY, and recently named finalist for Artist of the Year from Arts Services Inc. 2021 Spark Awards. He regularly performs with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and Pulitzer and Grammy winning composers. With Cultures in Harmony, he has worked in Africa and Asia. Stephen’s recordings are on Bridge, Chen Li, Vortex, and Mode Labels, and is published by Bachovich Music Publications. Dr. Solook received is D.M.A. from University of California San Diego He’s collaborated with many of the country’s preeminent new music ensembles including Bang on a Can All-Stars, Eighth Black Bird, Ensemble Dal Niente, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and San Francisco Chamber Music Players.  His compositions, published by Bachovich Music, offer a reverence to the past while amplifying new possibilities of timbre, expression, and extending technical possibilities of the instruments he writes for.

The second half of the concert opens with the poetry of David Landry, “Voices”, poet and actor who taught for the English Department at Buffalo State for 35 years, with 3 of those spent in Turkey on a Fulbright, and another collaboration of local artist, illustrator, published poet, and composer, Daniel Haskin, (web designer, member of the Buffalo Society of Artists, published in The Snapdragon Journal of Art and Healing, The Ekphrastic Review, and other literary journals) with soprano, Tiffany Du Mouchelle titled “Medusa”. The theme of this portion of the presentation takes on a forward-looking character with hope for the future in the face of great trial. Soprano, Tiffany Du Mouchelle is praised for her musical versatility, an electric stage presence and exceptional dramatic sensibilities. Most recognized for her fearlessness in exploring new and challenging repertoire, she ushers the voice into new realms of expressivity, including a vast array of musical styles and languages, featuring over 100 different languages and exploring the genres of classical, world, contemporary, cabaret, and theatrical works.

David Landrey, poet and actor who taught for the English Department at Buffalo State for 35 years, will recite his poem “Voices”. UB Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Scott Williams’ poem, “DI + AL + Y + SIS”, gives that message great practical meaning.

The major work in the second half of the program will be “Sonata for Cello and Piano”. The Ekstasis Duo of Natasha Farny, cello, and Eliran Avni, piano will perform this piece written by George Walker, the first African American to win the Pulitzer Price in Music. The piece has an uplifting quality not unlike a joyful dance. It has modestly dark undertones that serve as a constant reminder that perseverance in the face of adversity is the very definition of a life well-lived. Praised as possessing both “ironclad technique” and “ample suppleness” by The New York Times, Eliran Avni is an emerging force in the classical music scene. Hailed as “The new hope of Israeli music” by Ma’ariv, he made his debut with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Zubin Mehta at age 17. Since then, he has appeared as a soloist and chamber music collaborator throughout Europe, North and South America, as well as in his native Israel, and has played for live broadcasts for the Israeli and German broadcasting systems. As a soloist, Eliran is known as a preeminent interpreter of the music of composer Avner Dorman, and developed a strong affinity for chamber music after studying with world-renowned musicians Yo-Yo- Ma and Isaac Stern. Dr. Avni received both his BM, MM, and DMA degrees while studying with Dr. Yoheved Kaplinsky and Jerome Lowenthal at The Juilliard School.  He is currently a member of the Ekstasis Duo with cellist Natasha  Farny. Director of the Claudette Sorel International Piano Competition, and a piano faculty member at the State University of New York at Fredonia School of Music.Natasha Farny is Professor at the SUNY Fredonia School of Music and a member of the Ekstasis Duo. Her debut CD “French Cello Music” was issued in January 2020 and “Women’s Voices” with pianist Eliran Avni, will be released in 2022. The recipient of numerous awards, she gave a lecture in October for the Kasling Memorial Lecture Award on women composers. Rounding out the evening and that theme, Carol Townsend will read her poem, “Transcendence” and the Ekstasis Duo will present, Alexander Zemlinski’s “Tarantella”.

A Musical Feast was founded in 2006 by retired Concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Charles Haupt. Irene Haupt serves as General Manager. It’s enlightened programming melds contemporary and classical music with poetry and dance in a setting featuring locally- and internationally acclaimed musicians and artists. After 13 years as the Musical Ensemble at the Burchfield Penney Art Gallery, “A Musical Feast” is taking its diverse performances into the Greater Buffalo Community. For more information, please visit our website:

Please show your vaccination cards and wear masks. Tickets for this performance are $ 5 for students, $ 7 faculty/staff, $ 10 General, available at the door or online at: