ARGENTO Song Blog – “Winter” from Six Elizabethan Songs


In 1958 Dominick Argento was 31, he had just landed his first job teaching theory and composition at the University of Minnesota. Did he celebrate by writing a few songs? He did. Since this was long before the allure of setting prose, letters, and diaries set in, Shakespeare would suffice…


Here are Jessica Lennick and Laura Ward performing Argento’s “Winter” from the Six Elizabethan Songs. 


You’ll hear it live on Lyric Fest’s Happy Hour and Mini Concert program DOMINICK ARGENTO TURNS 90, on Friday, October 27th, 2017 at Philadelphia Ethical Society Auditorium, Rittenhouse Square. Join us at 5:30 PM for a glass of wine and warm, Itanianate hors d’oeuvres. The forty minute Mini Concert starts at 6PM.


Now, since synchronicities have always fascinated me, I can’t resist leaving you with a few songs from that same year. Here is a sampling from my 1958 Playlist.  Enjoy!


Britten wrote one of my favorite song cycles, his Nocturne, for tenor, 7 obbligato instruments, and strings. Here is the beguiling 

“Encinctured with a twive of leaves.” 


Meanwhile, John Cage wrote his “Aria,” for solo voice and all the sounds that said solo voice might ever be able to make. (The score’s notation is color-coded.)


Peggy Lee came out with a classic: “Fever.”  


Under-appreciated song composer, Castelnuovo-Tedesco offered the world his 3 Songs, sung here exquisitely by Eileen Farrell.


And the eternal Édith Piaf recorded “Milord,” featured here on the Ed Sullivan show. 


I’d say it was a very good year for song!


Stay tuned for more Argento coming soon…

– Suzanne

Happy Birthday Irving Berlin

Raise a glass to a great American musical treasure, Irving Berlin. Part of the newly established Music for Midsummer Nights Series,  this short concert features his timeless songs and a brief biography of Berlin’s amazing life story. With Suzanne DuPlantis, Mezzo Soprano; Randall Scarlata, Baritone; and Laura Ward, Piano. Free-Will offering at the door



Lyric Fest Announces Argento Concert

Lyric Fest Announces Argento Concert
Media contact: Suzanne DuPlantis,    215 432 5946
Lyric Fest Announces its first of two Happy Hour and Mini Concerts
~ The songs and biography of living composer, Dominick Argento ~
celebrated on his birthday.
Friday, October 27th, 2017 at 5:30 PM
at Philadelphia Ethical Society Auditorium, Rittenhouse Square
with Jessica Lennick, soprano, Claire Shackleton, mezzo soprano and Laura Ward, piano
Lyric Fest celebrates the 90th birthday of an acclaimed American treasure, composer Dominick Argento. A concert of Argento’s art songs serves as the first of the season’s two mini concerts, a concert series programmed by Lyric Fest to make it easier to put music in daily living for downtown Philadelphians.
Inspiration comes to the artist in many forms, but when it comes to a composer as a vocal muse, a soprano, it may change the course of a lifetime of composing. Such was the case for a promising young composer from York, Pennsylvania, Dominick Argento, who first began composing songs on his own, around the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Argento met his wife-to-be at Peabody in the 40s on a blind date. The real purpose of the “date” was to secure a soprano to premiere his “Songs about Spring.” Just like that, the composer met and went on to marry his muse, Carolyn Bailey, thus foregoing symphonies, string quartets and piano sonatas, and instead dedicating himself to a lifetime of works for the voice.
“Argento’s pianistic writing is very orchestral, in fact, most works have both piano and orchestral versions,” reports pianist and co-founding artistic director, Laura Ward, “And his choice of texts, as time went on, skewed toward prose, letters and diary entries.“ “He must have enjoyed the challenges of setting conversational writing and had a great interest in the inner life of the individual,” says Lyric Fest’s co-artistic director, Suzanne DuPlantis, “and he had a great sense of humor.”
A swath of his work will be presented, from excerpts of his fresh and lyrical Elizabethan songs, to the humorous “Miss Manners on Music” to the sombre songs in “From the Diary of Virginia Woolf.” The program will be filled out with Argento’s “Songs of Spring,” settings of e.e. cummings.
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.”
# # #
Dominic Argento and wife, Carolyn Bailey

Review of Pedals, Page-Turns, and Postludes

Michael Caruso published his review of our season opener in the Chestnut Hill Local yesterday, October 2, 2017. Click here for the review. Some tidbits from the review to whet your appetite to read the whole thing:

“The center of gravity for Lyric Fest’s concert was Chestnut Hill pianist Laura Ward … co-director Ward oversaw a series of performances of art songs composed across the generations and in many different styles … She also adeptly explained the many tricks of the trade … All four vocalists projected the words of their songs with personal conviction and sang with consummate vocalism. Ward proffered a level of pianistic collaboration that left piano playing behind in favor of musical artistry of the highest order.”

Pedals, Page-turns and Postludes – A Blog

I’m not complaining, but…
September 10, 2017

…It’s time. It’s time that Laura tells you all about what she does: her craft, her art, her technique. And while she’s at it, she’s going to tell you all about our songs, too. In this program, Laura is going to do the talking! Now this reminds me a bit of the inimitable Gerald Moore, pianist to singers, and a rare bird who, from the 1930s to the 60s, stepped from behind the keyboard and into the spotlight to talk to the audience about all the songs he plays for singers. He played for the likes of Nicolai Gedda, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; Christa Ludwig, Janet Baker, Hans Hotter, Joan Sutherland… I could go on. Gerald Moore’s book and recorded series “The Unashamed Accompanist,” is an incredibly entertaining romp through his world of being a collaborative pianist for singers…about whom he only rarely complains.

And speaking of complaining, here is Gerald Moore himself, in Robert Schumann’s masterpiece: “Ich grolle nicht” or “I’ll not complain.”  He is not playing but singing, sort of, and he is accompanied on the piano by the great Spanish soprano, Victoria de los Angeles. A singular performance!

Should you wish to hear more, please find here that the performers have assumed their righted positions on either side of the piano, and no one is complaining.

Join us for Page-turns and Postludes 

Thursday, September 21st, 2017 at 6 p.m. Reception and Mini Concert
at The Community House, Moorestown, NJ

Friday, September 22nd, 2017 at 8 p.m. (wine and cheese reception at 7:30)
at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA

Sunday, September 24th, 2017 at 3 p.m.
at the Academy of Vocal Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Lyric Fest Presents Pedals, Page-turns and Postludes

Media Contact: Suzanne DuPlantis
Lyric Fest Presents Pedals, Page-turns and Postludes
– a view from the bench –

Thursday, September 21st, 2017 at 6 p.m. Reception and Mini Concert
at The Community House, Moorestown, NJ
Friday, September 22nd, 2017 at 8 p.m. (wine and cheese reception at 7:30)
    at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA
Sunday, September 24th, 2017 at 3 p.m.
    at the Academy of Vocal Arts, Philadelphia, PA

PHILADELPHIA, PA – September 1, 2017
To inaugurate its 15th season, Lyric Fest looks at the art of art song from a different vantage point: the bench. Pianist Laura Ward, one of Lyric Fest’s founding directors who has made a career of performing with singers, has created an informative and entertaining program to shine lights on the art, craft and tricks of the trade of the collaborative pianist.
“I’ve chosen from my top-40 art songs to demonstrate what it is that I do. There is a lot going on from the bench, and most of it executed without anyone knowing… kind of like making sausage!” Ward focuses on the handling of this king of instruments, actually a member of the percussion family, and the demands of the vocal repertoire.
The program opens with three important Schubert songs: Gretchen am Spinnrade, Die Forelle and Im Frühling. “The history of art song shifted dramatically with the composition of Gretchen am Spinnrade by 17-year-old Franz Schubert. All of a sudden the writing for the piano becomes completely enmeshed with the storytelling, and is elevated to equal importance with the voice,” says Ward. The program then moves from orchestrated song to opera, premieres and pop, before closing with four songs of the composer who brought piano writing in art song to full flower, Hugo Wolf. The concert ends with Wolf’s grand waltz on the piano from his Abschied, as a self-proclaimed critic is kicked out of the door and bounced down the stairs by an unappreciative recipient of his criticism, a character song with a masterful postlude by one of the best.
Ward will introduce Dr. Benjamin C. S. Boyle, Lyric Fest’s Composer-in-Residence for the 15th-anniversary season, and will premiere his Lullaby, a setting of a Sara Teasdale poem for mezzo-soprano and piano composed specifically for Artistic Directors Suzanne DuPlantis and Laura Ward.
The four vocalists, Jennifer Aylmer, soprano; Suzanne DuPlantis, mezzo-soprano; Jonas Hacker, tenor; and Randall Scarlata, baritone, are longtime collaborators and close friends with pianist Laura Ward, who will share personal stories about each of these artists.
The concert will be given in shortened form with Ward and two of its singers, Jennifer Aylmer and Randall Scarlata, at The Community House in Moorestown, NJ. A wine and cheese reception starts the event at 6 p.m. and the concert begins at 6:30.
On Friday, September 22nd, the season will officially open with the full-length program at 8 p.m., (following a wine and cheese reception at 7:30) at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, and will be given in Lyric Fest’s main venue, the Helen Corning Warden Theater at the Academy of Vocal Arts on Sunday, September 24th, at 3 p.m. It will be followed by a reception with wine and hors d’oeuvres, and an opportunity to meet the artists.
Concert running time: 1.30
# # #
Lyric Fest’s mission 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.
Lyric Fest (LF) was founded in 2003 by three Philadelphia-area musicians: mezzo-soprano Suzanne DuPlantis, soprano Randi Marrazzo and pianist Laura Ward, with the shared goal of celebrating and revitalizing the song tradition. It has produced and presented over 70 concerts and recitals featuring more than 200 local, regional and national artists, actors, dancers and choral groups. Currently LF is run by Artistic Directors Suzanne DuPlantis and Laura Ward.
Commissioning and performing new works has become integral to LF’s mission and programming philosophy. Since its founding, LF has commissioned and premiered over 80 new works of local, regional and nationally recognized composers. LF enjoys working in partnership with composers, providing them with opportunities for creating and mounting performances of their work.
Lyric Fest is one of very few voice-recital series of its kind in the region. Its reputation for excellence and innovation is growing nationally and LF has begun to receive invitations to bring concerts to Pittsburgh, PA, Princeton, NJ, and Washington, DC. LF has received critical acclaim and has also been noted in a number of national publications, such as Opera News.
Lyric Fest remains committed to access through affordable ticket prices, to broadening its audience, and to expanding the region’s interest in and knowledge of song as an important and relevant art form.

A word from Suzanne and Laura about Magic…

“You know, it is probably time to remove that phrase ‘young organization’ from your Lyric Fest materials,” said a friend recently with a congratulatory smile.
How did that happen? Perhaps magic had something to do with it, the kind Benjamin Britten wrote about in the Saturday Review in 1964:
The magic comes when the written note turns into sound. It comes most intensely when the listener is one with the composer; in active sympathy.
Simply to read a score in one’s armchair is not enough… Indeed, the magic is the music which is NOT in the score. For music needs three human beings at least; a composer, a performer and a listener. Unless these three take part together, there is no musical experience.
And so it is that you have been that listener, and you have enabled Lyric Fest to make magic, 70 distinct programs presented in Philadelphia and other cities and states; a roster of 200 vocal artists, actors, dancers, choral groups; more than 80 newly commissioned songs…
I guess you could say (to quote my GPS) we have arrived.
We hope you can help celebrate our coming of age in this truly remarkable 15th Anniversary Season…
  • Six amazing concerts: Four full-length concerts and two Happy Hour Mini Concerts for after work. (More here.)
  • New works by Benjamin C.S. Boyle, our Stasiuk & Farion Composer-in-Residence. (More about Benjamin here.)
  • A Candlelit Cabaret Fundraiser of Rodgers and Hart (More here, Tickets)
  • Grand Finale Concert with international operatic stars, Bryan Hymel and Irini Kyriakidou in concert with Laura Ward on May 6, 2018, with a special opportunity for preferred seating, and to meet the artists at an elegant reception. Tickets here. LF gratefully acknowledges the concert sponsorship of the Apgar-Black Foundation
“Good listeners, like precious gems, are to be treasured.” (Walter Anderson)
Thanks for being ours.
Yours with a song,
Suzanne and Laura
Season Tickets are on sale now.

Lyric Fest Announces 2017 – 2018 Season

Media contact: Peter C. Phillips, M.D., 215-808-1963 (mobile)

Lyric Fest Announces 2017 – 2018 Season

In celebration of its 15th year of concerts, Lyric Fest continues its fresh and innovative approach to art song performance, showcasing song in an intimate and glorious expression.

Laura Ward, Lyric Fest’s Co-Founder and internationally recognized collaborative pianist, together with a distinguished cast of singers, inaugurates the season with a pianist’s unique perspective on vocal collaborations. The birthday festivities continue into October as Lyric Fest celebrates the 90th birthday of an acclaimed American treasure, composer Dominick Argento, in a concert of his art songs for the first of the season’s two mini concerts.
December continues Lyric Fest’s celebration of newly-commissioned works with a presentation of stunningly beautiful, new art songs of Benjamin C. S. Boyle, Lyric Fest’s Composer-in-Residence. February adds another edition to the ever-popular Lyric Fest Biography Series with “Claude Debussy – Biography in Music,” an exploration of the composer’s tempestuous life and loves as revealed by his own letters and music. The second Lyric Fest mini concert series welcomes Spring with “Humming and Strumming,” a concert featuring Philadelphia’s premier guitarist Allen Krantz, in music for the voice, from early, classical, folk, jazz, and modern traditions, where all have equal footing. The 15th Anniversary season is brought to a climactic finale by international opera stars Bryan Hymel (tenor) and Irini Kyriakidou (soprano) in a special concert with pianist Laura Ward, featuring a program of songs of Vaughan Williams, Ravel, Benjamin C. S. Boyle, and includes some operatic favorites.
With programming designed for the art song aficionado and newcomer alike, Lyric Fest occupies a unique place in the Philadelphia’s musical Artscape. Co-Directors Suzanne DuPlantis and Laura Ward seamlessly combine scholarship and entertainment by weaving together performance insights, cultural history, music history, and the highest level of musical performance. By championing the songs of contemporary composers, they bring the genre of the song out of the museum and into the lives of 21st century audiences.
“Lyric Fest’s artistic directors have a genius for picking themes that generate unpredictable variety…” Tom Purdom, Broad Street Review.

2017 – 2018 Lyric Fest Program Descriptions
Pedals, Page-turns and Postludes – A View from the Bench



Laura Ward reveals the trade secrets of the collaborative pianist in a new concert format combining features of a “master class” with those of a “master performance”. Laura shares what it means to perform with singers: the art of attending to the word; the breath; and the composer. Featuring Jennifer Aylmer, Randall Scarlata, Jonas Hacker and Suzanne DuPlantis, with insights from the bench by Laura Ward on playing art song, opera and premiering new works.

Dominick Argento Turns 90
Happy Hour and Mini Concert

Lyric Fest celebrates Dominick Argento’s 90th birthday with a concert of his songs. This Pulitzer Prize awarded, living American composer, born in York, Pennsylvania, has dedicated nearly his entire career to composing for voice. Come to experience a short concert of his beautiful art songs and learn about the life of this American musical treasure, Dominick Argento, with Jessica Lennick, Claire Shackleton, and Laura Ward at the piano. Put a little music into your work week with Lyric Fest’s happy hour mini concert series.

Art Songs of Benjamin C.S. Boyle – Lyric Fest’s Composer-in-Residence

To commemorate our 15th Anniversary Season, Lyric Fest is proud to present the Stasiuk & Farion Composer-in-Residence, Benjamin C.S. Boyle. Boyle has produced a stunning body of art song that brings together his lyric and pianistic gifts with an affinity for exquisite verse. Repertoire including “Ophelia,” “Songs of Virtue and Loss,” and a world premiere of Lyric Fest’s newly commissioned song cycle, “Spirits in Bondage,” settings of the early love poetry of C. S. Lewis. In concert with Daniel Teadt, Sarah Shafer, Hannah Ludwig and Laura Ward at the piano, with commentary by the composer.

Claude Debussy – Biography in Music


The latest in our biography series, this program features the fascinating life, tempestuous times and sublime songs of one of the greatest song composers, Claude Debussy. Narrating and reading from the composer’s letters will be Lyric Fest’s composer-in-residence, Benjamin C. S. Boyle. With Amy Burton, Suzanne DuPlantis, Thomas Meglioranza, Rebecca Myers, and Laura Ward at the piano.


Join Lyric Fest for a sparkling evening with round table seating, fine wines, appetizers, desserts… and the unforgettable songs of Rodgers and Hart, with Suzanne DuPlantis, Richard Troxell, Harold Evans, piano and Ron Kerber, sax. Tables at $1500, half-tables $750, individual seats $150. Join us for a spectacular evening that supports Lyric Fest!
Humming and Strumming – Guitar Songs with Allen Krantz
Happy Hour and Weekday Mini Concert


A winsome and fun program inspired by the art of the guitar and the songs it has tenderly accompanied through the years. Classical, folk, jazz and modern songs stand side by side in a program featuring Philadelphia’s premiere guitarist, Allen Krantz, with Suzanne DuPlantis, and Emily Drummond. Put a little music into your midweek with Lyric Fest’s happy hour mini concert series.

Bryan Hymel and Irini Kyriakidou in Concert with Laura Ward
SUNDAY, MAY 6, 2018 AT 3PM

Lyric Fest is thrilled to present international opera stars, tenor Bryan Hymel and soprano Irini Kyriakidou in a special concert with pianist Laura Ward. Featuring a program of Vaughan Williams, Ravel, Benjamin C. S. Boyle, and operatic favorites, in the couple’s first-ever recital performance in Philadelphia. Join us for this grand finale to Lyric Fest’s 15th Anniversary Season! Priority Seating and elegant reception with Bryan Hymel and Irini Kyriakidou Hymel at the Academy of Vocal Arts following the concert, for ticket price of $150. General seating $35.
The appearance of Bryan Hymel and Irini Kyriakidou on Lyric Fest’s 15th Anniversary Season is made possible through a generous gift from the Apgar Black Foundation.

Jessica Lennick

Soprano Jessica Lennick –is a complete package, including a terrific smile and stage presence to go along with her pleasing voice,” according to The Baltimore Examiner.

Ron Kerber

Ron Kerber is one of Philadelphia’s first call musicians, with a career that has crossed genres and styles. He was formerly saxophonist, composer and producer for Blue Note recording artists “Pieces of a Dream.”