Corbell: Sonnets


Songs with 14 lines

The Cult of Orpheus Sonnets project is a fusion of poetry, music composition, and intimate performance. In a set of songs that will become a full-length album in 2016, the familiar structure of folk and pop is replaced by a through-composed approach, informed by classical composition, unified by a common poetic form.

Jen’s Wings

Your wall-ascending wings of glass and steel
were steps my old-crow heart hopped up. To view
the arc of all your hours, and to feel
your steady will’s ascent toward someplace new,
to note the shadows that shook from your eye,
to want to touch your textured artifacts
and to abstain, in reverence of their wry
and bold fragility, the poet’s facts
you fixed to time’s expanse – these brought me peace
through welcome restlessness. What are we here
in nature’s rich decay, in this brief lease
of body, if not flight, as dark as dear?
Our wings in buoyant crucifixion spread
and carry us in love, in light, in dread.

Corbell’s artistic voice is at once crafted and organic, supported by adroit guitar work and arrangement sensibilities honed in chamber music, art-song, and opera as well as indie-acoustic and rock bands. Far from formulaic (in either a pop or academic sense), each song’s music becomes itself, drawing unique musical themes out of the original text. The recordings on this page are a true record of live group performance (no separate tracking).


Come to me, I say when I’m alone
with every chance of love I might have missed.
Come to me, I say when I’m alone
and you, the one I call, do not exist.
And you, the one I call, rise up imagined
like some Greek muse, ambrosia on your lips,
eyelids painted black in Stygian pageant,
Orphic snake encircling your hips.
Sing to me, I ask – as if a song
were something that a shadow could achieve.
Sing to me I plead, when all along
it’s I who sing to you, to make believe
that I might be imaginary too…
that I might be as beautiful as you.

Live performances of Sonnets focus on the fusion of text and music, often supported by reciting of the poem in addition to performance of the songs. This makes performances from Sonnets engaging for a wide variety of audiences, from indie acoustic scenes to poetry circles to chamber music audiences to other literary and fine arts communities.

In addition to small-group performances, Cult of Orpheus is available for:

  • Fully curated and promoted main event productions, with supporting compatible acts, from poets to opera singers to indie bands
  • Licensing of vocal compositions to other art-song and ensemble projects
  • Master classes and public lectures by Christopher Corbell on topics related to songwriting, vocal composition, indie opera production, cultural community-building, and in support of of outsider/non-academic composers.

Please join the mailing list to stay up to date on performances, and for booking send an email to booking (at)


The crows are on the wing. The people stream
into the streets awash with sweat and beer.
The deep nocturnal river shows the gleam
of Carnival. Ash Wednesday’s almost here.
The king and queen are drunk. The jester jests.
The serpent booms. The drums thrash every ear.
The masqueraders bear their moonlit breasts
and ghost-like dance. Ash Wednesday’s almost here.
All our frenzied lessons have been learned.
All our heat has melted frigid poles.
All our shining ecstasies have burned
and turned our hearts to diamond-ready coals.
The year ascends. The crocus shows no fear
so bloom, sweet sins. Ash Wednesday’s almost here.

Album campaign

Our indiegogo album campaign – please donate! A portion of all donations made through the campaign is tax-deductible.



Corbell at the Jade Lounge, Dec. 2015. Courtesy Arthur Ruckle Photography.

Jade Lounge, Dec. 2015
Arthur Ruckle Photography

Cult of Orpheus Sonnets performances feature singer/guitarist/composer Christopher Corbell and cellist Sonja Myklebust (Portland Cello Project, Pacific Cello Quartet). Some performances may also feature other guest art-song vocalists, poets, and chamber musicians.

As a performer, Corbell has been part of the Portland indie scene for over a decade, performing his original songs and compositions at a variety of venues including Mississippi Studios, The Waypost, The Star Theater, Vie de Boheme, The Jade Lounge, Valentine’s, The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, The Someday Lounge, Acme, and The Towne Lounge.

Corbell has also performed with local indie and rock bands on many Portland rock stages including Berbati’s, Doug Fir, E.J.’s, The Fez, Kelly’s Olympian, The Know, and The White Eagle Saloon.

As a producer Corbell has realized ambitious underground-classical performances including Viva’s Holiday: An Opera in One Act at the Star Theater (a three-night premiere run) and ticketed Classical Revolution PDX performances at Holocene (“A Marriage of True Minds”), The Star Theater (“Decomposer’s Night” and “Summer Showcase”), and Vie de Boheme.


booking email: booking (at)