Generations of Chinese spoke of it only in whispers. A secret so taboo, that its thousands of innocent victims were viewed even by their own families with shame.
That changes tonight.
Comfort Girl is a musical exploration of the lives of Chinese 'comfort women' who were abducted into sexual slavery by the Japanese army during WWII. The work is a tribute to these young women’s incandescent courage and indomitable spirit, not only while in captivity during the War but also—in a cruel irony—when they returned home to their families, who didn’t always welcome them back with open arms.
Of the 400,000+ victims, more than half were Chinese girls, imprisoned in their own homeland for months or years, as war raged throughout China. The music highlights an often-overlooked chapter in history that still has echoes today, as survivors continue to fight for justice, and sex trafficking and women’s rights are still a major global issue.
Stephanie Chou is a saxophonist, singer, and composer based in New York City. Her music combines classical and Chinese influences with jazz and pop harmonies and rhythms. Raised in Irvington, NY, Chou studied mathematics and music at Columbia University. In 2011, she released her first album, Prime Knot, a jazz quintet CD featuring trumpeter Marcus Printup (Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra). She has written for ballet and theater as well as for the concert stage. Her work “C for G” was commissioned and choreographed by American Ballet Theater principal ballerina Susan Jaffe, and features Kenny Wollesen on percussion and vibraphone.
Steph recently released a new album, Asymptote, which features jazz musicians Kenny Wollesen, David Binney, John Escreet, and Zack Lober, as well as viola and erhu virtuoso Andy Lin. She has performed her music in Taipei, Taiwan and Beijing, China. She has also performed throughout New York City at venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, B.B. King's, Joe's Pub, Miller Theater, and The Cutting Room, as well as in festivals in Italy, New Orleans, Chicago, Vermont (Discover Jazz Festival), and NY (Summer on the Hudson, Harlem Festival of the Arts, Sunset Jazz at Lyndhurst). In 2016, she released Compass, a duo CD with guitarist Octavia Romano.
She is a recipient of the 2016 Jerome Fund for New Music (JFund) - a grant from the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation to write, record, and premiere a new piece of music with China Institute. She is currently working on new projects with engineer/mixer/producer Roy Hendrickson, and also performs as a guest artist for workshops on leadership and jazz with the Columbia University Business School.
“…[Chou] hit upon a novel expression for her sax—and her vocals—by embracing her Chinese heritage and using its musical folk and pop legacy to create a unique blend of traditional Chinese, classical and jazz. She showcased this superbly at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium on Thursday, March 8 to a full house.”
“With her exquisite arrangements, she [Chou] led her quartet…on a rousing and lyrical set focused on her impressive album Asymptote.”
“What was so remarkable about Chou’s performance was its tasty diversity of styles....”
—Dan Ouellette, ZEALnyc
"Chou is a strong singer with an unadorned mezzo-soprano, a strong saxophonist and a brilliantly individualistic composer who’s shifting the paradigm, blending Chinese themes from over the centuries with jazz, classical and more than a little rock in places... Her music is relevant, and lyrical, and amazingly eclectic...”
-- New York Music Daily
Comfort Girl was made possible by a grant from the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation.
This performance of Comfort Girl is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by LMCC. LMCC empowers artists by providing them with networks, resources, and support, to create vibrant, sustainable communities in Manhattan and beyond.