“A wonderful musician.”Dizzy Gillespie
While Ellen studied classical piano through high school, she also tried to recreate Ray Charles’ piano style, listening to his records in her room and then running downstairs to the piano.
At Harvard, she fell in love with lieder listening to Hermann Prey, and earned her B.A. in Philosophy with a thesis about aesthetic expression, specifically what exactly happens when a singer performs a song. After college, Ellen found her way to playing and writing music— jazzy pop tunes, music for ballet and modern dance, music for theater from improv comedy to Greek tragedy to Shakespeare and Stoppard. In the 90’s a friend, tenor Daniel Pociernicki, commissioned her to set four poems of E.E. Cummings. Since then she’s written songs to poems by Cummings, Seamus Heaney, WB Yeats, Wallace Stevens, Thomas Hardy, and others, while continuing to compose frequently for theater. Recently, Ellen realized that she’s doing what she wrote about in her thesis: playing and composing music.
Ellen has three art song CDs: a wind has blown the rain away, the first of all my dreams, and The Cat and the Moon. Every Play’s an Opera collects her theatre music. Dizzy Gillespie called her “a wonderful musician.” The NY Times called her art songs “Ardent, spiky, and refreshingly organic.” Here’s her website for more infos: ellenmandel.com