Grunge dirty flag of United States of America

Lady of the Harbor    by Lee Hoiby
(from The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus, as it appears on the Statue of Liberty)

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

And, Oh, give me words like this to sing!


Emma Lazarus’s The New Colossus
Richard Perry/The New York Times

In case I haven’t given myself away before now, let me just say clearly for the record – If it weren’t for the words I wouldn’t be a singer. I am fully aware of how dumb and dumber that sounds… I’m letting it stand. For, as I often say to my students, “if you do not care about what your words mean, and conveying them, you might as well be a flute.”  Not that there is anything wrong with being a flute… but if one wants to hear beautiful sounds that have their own independent meanings – listen to instrumental music.

A singer, however, sings words and tells stories.

On “I Hear America Singing” I’m the lucky singer who gets to sing Emma Lazarus’s nation-defining words, and Lyric Fest gets to tell the story of a young Jewish poet, fourth generation or more, whose ancestors welcomed George Washington to the Newport Congregation in 1790, who somehow befriended Emerson, who visited Waldon Pond, and inspired the praise of Walt Whitman, and more to the point, who penned the words that are engraved and mounted into the lower pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. 

And in 1985, Lee Hoiby set them to music to celebrate the Centennial of the Statue of Liberty. And that word-smith himself!… here is what he had to say about his song, and I quote:

“Lady of the Harbor…  It’s only a minute long, but it’s a kick-ass piece.”

Hear it HERE

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Grunge dirty flag of United States of America

The White Dawn Stealing 
from “Four American Indian Songs” by Charles Wakefield Cadman (1881 – 1946)

September 17, 2016







Okay, how’s this for a life?

The year is 1851. You are born in NYC. You study business. No, wait, you really are a musician at heart. You study organ.

Eh, no. Turns out, that’s not exactly your thing. You, against all odds, are intrigued by ethnomusicology. (Think: indigenous folk music.)

You’re young and it’s 1878. You move to Germany to study musicology. But lo, in your mind’s ear, you Hear America Singing. So, you return home to research the music of the Seneca Indians. You don’t just hang around the periphery, you move in, you are quite literally initiated as a member of their tribe, you spend your hours transcribing all their songs and melodies. No matter that the “American Indian Wars” are still going on.

I must say, Dr. Theodore Baker, you are So Interesting.

And you are not alone in this quirky pursuit. Composer Charles Wakefield Cadman is a kindred spirit. He himself travels around the US collecting native American music for the Smithsonian. Your lives intersect and we have the song to prove it!  “The White Dawn Stealing,” featured on our upcoming concert, is Cadman’s arrangement of an Iroquois love song, transcribed by Theodore Baker, with a pseudo native American poem penned by Nelle Richmond Eberhart, (who wrote librettos for the Metropolitan Opera.) It takes a village…

Here is a fun Contemporaneous YouTube recording of this song from 1911. On Lyric Fest’s concert, you will hear it in the beautiful, sonorous baritone of Troy Cook.

Now to close, I can’t resist sharing this video that appeared in my facebook feed yesterday. And I can’t help musing that this young child could be the great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Baker and Cadman’s “Indians.” Here she is, dancing to the ancient drums of her people. A big Soul in a tiny body, and she never misses a beat.

Now, your turn to follow the beat of your own drum.



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I Hear America Singing – Press Release

Media Contact
Lari Robling
215 978 6933

Lyric Fest Presents I Hear America Singing
Throughout history American song has given voice to our rich cultural heritage

PHILADELPHIA, PA – September, 2016

Lyric Fest’s fourteenth season, Song for America, begins with a look at the richness and variety of American music. I Hear America Singing is a concert celebrating our cultural identity through the works of an all­-star American roster of composers. Performances are Saturday, October 8, 2016 at 7:30 pm at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church and Sunday, October 9, 2016 at 3 pm at The Academy of Vocal Arts, 1920 Spruce Street.

The heritage of American song is stitched together like a patchwork quilt from regions as far-­flung as Appalachian mountains, the whaling north, westward expansion and Faulkner’s south. In venues as diverse as tent revivals, cotton fields or concert halls, American song expresses ideas, hopes, fears and everyday life.

In the signature style of Lyric Fest concerts, the program juxtaposes musical styles and expression from Bob Dylan’s poem Chimes of Freedom about the down and out, set by John Corigliano, to Stephen Foster’s famous Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair beguilingly arranged by Ned Rorem, or the dark ugliness in Strange Fruit by Lewis Allan to Harold Arlen’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Co­-founding artistic director Suzanne DuPlantis said, “When people raise their voices in song, you get a sense of who they are. Whether it is the purity of shape note singing as communal expression, a patriotic strain or the art music of our most revered composers, there’s a lifting up of the American spirit.”

In addition to works including Stephen Foster, George Crumb, Charles Ives, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, I Hear America Singing will also feature an Iroquois tribal melody, The White Dawn is Stealing, set to music by Charles Wakefield Cadman.

“The program captures the beauty, humor, compassion, divisiveness, passion, and zeal that is evident throughout America’s colorful musical history,” said co-­founding artistic director Laura Ward.

In keeping with Lyric Fest’s commitment to supporting established and emerging composers, the program includes a newly commissioned work by Kile Smith to an Emerson text, a newly commissioned arrangement by John Conahan of the great American hymn tune How Can I Keep from Singing, and a premiere finale by Daron Hagen.

Says DuPlantis, “Our mission at Lyric Fest has always included supporting newly composed works through our commissioning initiative. As we focus on songs of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we thought it particularly important to also represent the twenty-­first century. Kile Smith, Daron Hagen, and John Conahan give an exciting expression to this new millennium.”

Performances by Tony Boutté, Tenor; Troy Cook, Baritone; Suzanne DuPlantis, Mezzo Soprano; Michelle Johnson, Soprano; and Laura Ward, Piano.

Lyric Fest offers reasonable and affordable season subscriptions as well as single tickets online and at the box office.

About Lyric Fest
“Compulsively enterprising…” (David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Lyric Fest was founded in January 2003 as a 501 c.3 and is currently led by two of its founders, Artistic Directors Suzanne DuPlantis and Laura Ward. Dedicated exclusively to the voice recital, Lyric Fest occupies a singular place in the Philadelphia artscape and expands the definition of the song recital by jointly featuring regional and internationally recognized artists. Together they produce a happening that is more than just a concert of songs. The mission of Lyric Fest is “to bring people together through the shared experience of song by offering to diverse audiences lively, theme-­oriented voice recitals designed to edify, educate, stimulate dialogue, and foster community.”

# # #

You can find a PDF of this press release for our upcoming concert, I Hear America Singing, here!

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I Hear America Singing

Saturday, October 8, 2016  at 7:30 pm at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church
Sunday, October 9, 2016 at 3 pm at The Academy of Vocal Arts, 1920 Spruce Street  

Lend an ear to Lyric Fest’s rich celebration of America singing. Hear our “strong melodious songs,”  of Appalachian mountains and tent revivals, of concert halls and cotton fields, the west, the east, the whaling north, and Faulkner’s south. An all American roster of composers including Stephen Foster, George Crumb, Ives, Barber, Copland and more. Featuring a commissioned work by Kile Smith, a commissioned new arrangement by John Conahan and a premiere finale by Daron Hagen. With Tony Boutté, Troy Cook, Suzanne DuPlantis, Michelle Johnson, and Laura Ward, Piano.

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A Neighborhood of Friends — a world of song

Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 3 pm at Main Line Reform Temple (Open to public)
Monday, November 14, 2016 at 10 am at Girard Academic Music Program (Invitation only)

Actor Jake Miller and Student-Actor Mia Rosof-Mallory take our young audiences on a song journey across the backroads and highways of this patchwork quilt country we call America. Songs of immigrants new and old, songs of our native people and early settlers. Artists include: Jean Bernard Cerin, Cristina Nassif and Laura Ward, Piano.

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Letters to Santa — Happy Hour and Mini Concert

Tuesday, December 6, 2016 at The Academy of Vocal Arts
5:30 pm for refreshments, 6 pm music

After sifting through hundreds of letters to Santa to find the perfect one for Lyric Fest’s 2016 Letters concert, composer Logan Skelton was inspired to create his Letters to Santa, a hilarious, quirky and touching new song cycle that sets letters dating from the 1800’s to the present. Interspersed with aphorisms on childhood, this work speaks to all ages, especially “grown-ups.”  With Sara Duchovnay, Keith Phares, Katharine Pracht and Laura Ward, Piano.

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Music in the White House — a collaboration between Lyric Fest and Singing City

Saturday, January 28, 2017 at  7:30 pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church
Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 3 pm at Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square

Just in time for the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, this entertaining and historical concert is a timely retrospective on the American Presidency and the role that music has played in shaping the American spirit. Featuring music performed in the White House from the early 1800’s to the present and narration of presidential history. With Suzanne DuPlantis, Stephen LaBrie, Christine Lyons, Matthew White, Laura Ward, Piano; Singing City Choir, Jeffrey Brillhart conducting and Charlotte Blake Alston, Narrator.

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It’s Elementary — Songs of Earth, Wind, Fire and Water

Friday, March 31, 2017 at 7:30 pm at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church
Sunday, April 2, 2017 at 3 pm at The Academy of Vocal Arts

An eclectic program of songs about the natural world—earth, wind, fire and water— and featuring mostly American song, premieres two newly commissioned song cycles by Michael Djupstrom and John Musto. With Jonas Hacker, John Moore, Olivia Vote, Meryl Dominguez and Laura Ward, Piano.

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Happy Birthday Irving Berlin — Happy Hour and Mini Concert

May 11, 2017 at The Academy of Vocal Arts
5:30 for refreshments, 6 pm music

Raise a glass to that great American treasure, Irving Berlin. This mini concert features his timeless songs and a brief biography of his amazing life. With Suzanne DuPlantis, Randall Scarlata and Harold Evans, Piano.

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Review of Sincerely Yours in the Broad Street Review

Tom Purdom, the instigator of the theme for this program in a comment made to Suzanne some eleven years ago, enjoyed the program very much and wrote a review in the Broad Street Review. Some tidbits to entice you to follow the link above to read the entire review (and while you are at it, don’t miss the comment by Kile Smith below the review):

The composers all managed to handle the problems created by my idle thought. They all chose interesting letters — a good start all by itself — and they created music that added to the impact of the text or enhanced it some other way.

No review of a Lyric Fest concert should omit Laura Ward’s work at the piano. … With Ward’s accompaniments added to the royal work contributed by the four vocalists, the composers should have felt their missives received the best premieres a hardworking creative personality could ask for.

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