The Fishergirl

Hilarie's composing debut

Development History

The birth of "The Fishergirl"

The Fishergirl is a coming-of-age story of Dannie Trescott, a modern-era “Everywoman” who faces the same issues most women, if not all people, encounter today. The story’s central theme is universal, one’s desire to be truly known, past our ethnicity, gender, social standing, occupations and more. Set in the early 1900s, Dannie, a fishergirl from Castine, Maine, navigates the treacheries of gender bias, class distinction, greed, mental illness, and violence while finding her way in life. As we should all aspire, she finds truth, love, and family by trusting her heart. The story is uplifting, fresh, and surprising with unexpected twists and turns.

In the fall of 2014, Hilarie Clark Moore began writing the story, music, and lyrics for The Fishergirl. Her inspiration for the story came from three sources: historical family artifacts, which influenced her choice of geographical and historical settings, her home on the Connecticut River which influenced the imagery of water, and her reflections on issues present in today’s society. Family letters from the Civil War and other historical artifacts inspired the settings of Castine, Maine, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans during the early 1900s with a backstory set during the Civil War.  Dr. Moore’s love of the Connecticut shoreline and the Connecticut River inspired the strong themes of water.  She incorporated some of her reflections concerning the challenges we all face in today’s American society.

After receiving positive feedback from music colleagues on her music, she formed a creative team that includes Ron De Fesi, Gwen Gunn, and Zoila Savale. Ron De Fesi, artistic director of the Hudson Opera Theatre and musician extraordinaire, ensured that the vocal lines would showcase the beauty of the voice. He added his talents to the production with his masterful and creative orchestrations. Gwen Gunn, feminist playwright, wrote the dialogue and contributed to the backstory for The Fishergirl.  Dr. Zoey Savale edited the project and provided guidance to the creation of the story.

We believe that this magical work, with its intriguing plot and characters and overarching messages, can be successfully realized in a piece for musical theatre and / or opera which will resonate with a diverse audience of all ages and backgrounds.

The Fishergirl is a beautiful marriage between opera and musical theater.

The Synopsis

Dannie Trescott, the daughter of a Maine fisherman, faces significant trials as she steers through dangerous straits to find her true course in life.  Although Dannie’s story takes place in the early 1900s, she is a modern-era “Everywoman” facing the same issues most women, if not all people, encounter today. As she navigates the treacheries of gender bias, class distinction, greed, mental illness, and violence, her challenges in finding her path in life are universal and ageless. She finds truth, love, and family by trusting her heart and choosing to look past discrimination and slander.

 “I appreciate the individuality of your voice and the way you infuse a sense of the past into an expression that is contemporary without being trendy. Your music and your vocal lines create an emotional atmosphere that I felt directly.”

– James Kuslan, contributing writer at Opera News.

The Creators

Hilarie Clark Moore

 Composer / Lyricist / Storyteller

has blended music academia and performance in her education and career. She earned a Bachelor of Music degree in French horn performance from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. in music theory from Yale University. She has taught at both Yale University and the State University of New York, Orange County Community College.  As a professional freelance musician on the French horn, she has performed in both local and international symphony orchestras and opera companies.

As an orchestral conductor, Hilarie Clark Moore has over 20 years of experience conducting community orchestras.  Presently, she conducts the New London Community Orchestra and the Cheshire Symphony Orchestra in her home state of Connecticut. In addition to conducting, she is the founder and principal coach of Chamber Music by the River, a chamber music festival she runs from her music studio.

In her first major work, The Fishergirl, she expresses her unique voice, “an alluring musical language” in her “Post Romantic” compositional style.

Gwen Gunn


Gwen was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. She attended Duke University and graduated from Antioch College. After moving to New York, she married actor Moses Gunn, worked in child development research, and earned an M.A. from The New School for Social Research. She cofounded The Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective in 1971, and her plays have been produced at The Theater for the New City, Westbeth Theater, The Joseph Jefferson Theater, and The East Fourth Street Theater in New York. She and her husband and two children moved to Connecticut in 1975 where she studied poetry with poet Richard Raymond and Professor Mark Johnston and co-edited the poetry magazine Embers. Gwen has had poems published in national and international journals and recently won two firsts in the Confederation of State Poetry Societies contests, one of which was the national Winners Circle Award. Her latest book of poetry is Tastes. She also worked as an editorial assistant and writer of theatrical bios for Sachem Publishing, and started a company, VideoTakes, for which she wrote, filmed, and edited video scripts.

Ron De Fesi


Ron De Fesi has been the artistic director of the Hudson Opera Theatre since its founding in 1977 (yes, 44 years)! A student of world-renowned conductor Sixten Ehrling while at the Juilliard School, Maestro De Fesi also attended the Hochschule für Musik in Munich, Germany where he completed specialized study in Baroque and Classical performance practice. Additionally, he has a bachelor’s degree in pre-med from Manhattan College, and a graduate degree from New York University in music performance. As well as having been a guest conductor for numerous orchestral, choral, ballet, and opera companies, he has been artistic director and principal conductor for several organizations over the years including the Tri-State Regional Opera, the Family Opera of New Jersey, the Delaware Valley Opera, the First Coast Opera and the Ballet Theatre of Westchester. He has directed and/or conducted over 350 productions over the years and figures he has about 350 more to go.

In his career as a basso cantate, he has sung over 100 different roles, of which his favorites are Phillip II in Verdi’s Don Carlo, Schicchi in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Fiesco in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, Zaccaria in Verdi’s Nabucco, and Boris in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. Alas, this last only having been done in concert. Before losing his voice, he hopes to add staged performances of Boris to his repertoire as well as an Amonasro (Aïda) and a Scarpia (Tosca), and maybe a few more Fiescos, Phillips, Villains (Les Contes d’Hoffmann) Guardianos and Melitones (La Forza del Destino).

Also, a gifted arranger, his operatic and ballet reductions continue to be heard globally as well as his arrangements for numerous instrumental ensembles of everything from classics to pops, waltzes to tangos, opera to ragtime, and Bach to Broadway.

He also plays the cello and the piano and teaches voice. He is the musical director of the Laudamus Children’s Chorus in New York City and is the Organist and Director of Choristers at the First Presbyterian Church of Monroe, NY. …and no, he doesn’t sleep much!

the fishergirl song samples and lyrics

A Whiff

In “A Whiff,” our heroine Dannie Trescott senses that change is in the air for her. She understands that new technologies and people from out of state are challenging the set ways of Maine’s “downeast” folk. She wonders whether she is strong enough to ride the currents of change.

The Song



A whiff, a puff, a breeze whispers into the sails.
A gust of air, the wind gently fills the canvas sails
And sends the sailboats by.
I sense, I feel that change is in the air for me.
How do I trim my sails for change
And take an uncharted course?

Our world is a-changing.
We can’t stop the tide that comes our way.
New things and new ways keep shifting
Everything we know, transforming our lives.
The voice of change must be heeded,
Not silenced or restrained.

My Beautiful Lily

Dannie’s father William Trescott is a widower who is asked why he doesn’t date in the song, “My Beautiful Lily.” It is a sweet, poignant love song.

The Song



Lily, my beautiful Lily.
My lovely dear Lily.
My candlelight in the dark,
My warmth in the cold and the stark.
She was my love, my dear Lily, Lily.

Chasing the sea’s bounty every day.
I know the pull of the sea for me.
Though I go out there to fill my nets,
It’s the pull of her heart brings me home again.
My heart was full with my love for her.
My life was complete with her love for me.

Lily, my beautiful Lily.
My lovely dear Lily.
My candlelight in the dark,
My warmth in the cold and the stark.
She was my love, my dear Lily, Lily.

The River's Journey

The River’s Journey” is a spiritual sung by the spirit of Dannie’s grandmother, Danielle Déchambeau. In a letter, Grandmère tells Dannie that “life is a river finding its true course” and advises her to forge her own path. She reveals that she took “dangerous measures to change the course of bloody waters” as her life had been “carved from the yoke of slaves, chiseled by whips and chains.” Grandmère prays “that the river’s course has changed from the past and no longer flows with bloody waters.” It is a powerful message for all.

The Song



From the first drops of water,
Trickling down from the mountain tops
To the blending of the fresh with the salt,
Life is but a river’s journey.
Life is a river finding its true course.

I was born to a life of privilege and wealth.
The sun danced on ev’ry small ripple of my gentle birth.
But that life, it was carved from the yoke of slaves,
chiseled by whips and chains.

Like a turbulent waterfall
Plummeting down onto the rocks below.
Dangerous measures were taken
To change the course of bloody rivers.

I was beaten beaten for my defiance.
Beaten for my convictions!
Hurt but never, never broken for I found the river
That erased my brutal waterfall from my dark past.

Our Storybook

The secondary leads, Emma Dandridge and Carlos Navarro, form an unlikely romantic relationship.  She is the coddled and overprotected daughter of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and he is a Spanish immigrant who comes to D.C. after serving the Spanish army in the Spanish American War. In “Our Storybook,” they vow to write their own romance, and are ready with “pen in hand.”

The Song



I want to live. I want to love.
I want to feel alive inside.
I see you there your eyes on me.
I’m all a glow when you are near.

My head’s full of romance from stories and books.
But the pages of my life are empty or boring.
So here I am with pen in hand.
We’ll fill those pages of our love story.
So here we are to write our story.
Together, together we’ll write one for the ages.