Blog

WHITE HOUSE SONG BLOG

 White House image by Dan Kessler, kesslerart.com

2. Winter in the White House

This embedded YouTube clip is almost All-American.

An American President (Jimmy Carter) invites a world renowned American opera singer (Leontyne Price) to the White House and she sings a new song composed for her by an American composer (Dominick Argento) and the president had the concert filmed to be broadcast out to all you, the American people. But here is the rub: Does the American composer set an Emily Dickinson poem? Does he set a Robert Frost poem? Does he set a Walt Whitman poem?

He does not. 

He sets … Shakespeare. I suppose that will have to do.

On this Winter’s day, treat yourself to a fabulous song sung by one of the greats. And the president is not bad either, if you consider that he continues to be a spectacular force for good in the world.

Here is a two minute clip of the moment it happened.  THAT’S Music in the White House, for you.

Join us for more MUSIC IN THE WHITE HOUSE:

Saturday, January 28th, 2017 at 7:30 PM, at  St. David’s Episcopal Church

Sunday, January 29th, 2017 at 3:00 PM, at The Church of the Holy Trinity

TICKETS HERE

WHITE HOUSE SONG BLOG

    White House image by Dan Kessler, kesslerart.com

The Music of Richard Nixon and Pearl Bailey

What a time to be presenting Music in the White House! No, really… what BETTER time to be presenting Music in the White House?

Having spent the last few months immersing myself in presidential history and the story that music tells about us, I have been at turns amazed, grateful, proud, tearful, comforted and consoled… and I have laughed!

Time for you to laugh, too.

Who knew that Richard Nixon was a pianist. Okay, maybe not the best pianist in the world, but good enough to have the cheek to try and accompany Pearl Bailey. It almost makes you forget Watergate.

Ah, the good ol’ days…

Here is a two minute clip that proves it happened.  THAT’S Music in the White House, for you.

Join us for more MUSIC IN THE WHITE HOUSE:

Saturday, January 28th, 2017 at 7:30 PM, at  St. David’s Episcopal Church

Sunday, January 29th, 2017 at 3:00 PM, at The Church of the Holy Trinity

TICKETS HERE

Laura Ward and Chrystal E. Williams reviewed in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Lyric Fest cofounder Laura Ward and Lyric Fest previously featured singer Chrystal E. Williams received a glowing review in the Philadelphia Inquirer last Friday, written by Peter Dobrin. Here is a tiny quote to entice you to read the whole thing:

Williams, […], responded with great plasticity – of sound, stylistic treatment, of emotion. She is a singer of rare power and clarity. […] With pianist Laura Ward evoking orchestral sound […]

This review is just another reminder of the quality of music making Lyric Fest offers. Your next opportunity to enjoy this kind of music making is coming soon: on January 28 and 29, we present Music in the White House, in Wayne and in Rittenhouse Square. We’ll be delighted to see you there!

Lyric Fest Presents Music in the White House

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact
Lari Robling
larirob@gmail.com
215 978 6933
Lyric Fest Presents Music in the White House
A retrospective of the American spirit as seen through the music of our Presidents
In collaboration with Singing City, Lyric Fest offers a musical documentary detailing the development of the American spirit as reflected in the music played for the person occupying the highest and most honored position in the land. These two premier singing groups offer an eclectic program of music in the White House – an expression of the growing pains, tragedies and triumphs of our democracy, as well as the evolution and development of our own American music. Performances are Saturday, January 28th at 7:30 pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church on the Main Line and Sunday, January 29th at 3 pm at Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square.
“We began planning this concert 18 months ago, knowing only that we would be inaugurating the 45th President on January 20th,” said Founding Artistic Director, Suzanne DuPlantis. “Who knew we would find ourselves in such a contentious situation? I guess we need to realize that this is an opportunity for Lyric Fest to truly embrace its mission – to connect people through song.”

Continues DuPlantis, “I hope our audience will come away from the concert feeling renewed and consoled by the long arc of our history, and hopeful about more unified days ahead.”

“We know,” said Founding Artistic Director Laura Ward, “that music spoke to the hearts of various Presidents. Their choices of song tell us so much about who they were and what was going on in our nation.”

Through narration and song emerges a fascinating lens to view the history of our nation and the presidency. Jefferson and Truman, both accomplished musicians, made their own music. Lincoln was a great admirer of opera and brought in European opera stars. Edith Roosevelt presented American music to foreign diplomats who clamored for the harrowing setting of the Kipling poem, Danny Deever. Spirituals also found an audience in the White House, along with other genres such as jazz or the emerging styles of Scott Joplin or Duke Ellington. Presidential tastes run from high art to the popular tunes of the day. Pianos were a common gift to Presidents and singing around a piano in the parlour was entertainment before radio and our more modern electronics.
Notes DuPlantis, “We are thrilled to be working again with Singing City, formed in in 1948 as the first integrated chorus in Philadelphia and deeply rooted in the Civil Rights movement of the Sixties.”

Both DuPlantis and Ward note that what will come next in the White House is an unwritten score, but that surely music will tell the story in years to come.

Performances by Suzanne DuPlantis, Mezzo Soprano; Christine Lyons, Soprano; Steven LaBrie, Baritone; Matthew White, Tenor; Laura Ward, Piano; with Singing City Choir, Jeffrey Brillhart conducting; and Charlotte Blake Alston, Narrator.

Tickets for refreshments and concert are $25 for advanced purchase on the secure website and $30 at the door. Special student tickets are $10 cash at the door with ID.

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.

# # #

Tom Purdom reviews Letters to Santa

A few days ago, Tom Purdom wrote a review of our December 6 concert “Letters to Santa”, in a piece with two other short reviews, published in the Broad Street Review. A quick snippet, to whet your appetite the read the whole review:

The entire cycle is a compact little musical […] They all applied their operatic talent for musical storytelling and turned every song into a vignette.

Christine Lyons

Praised as “especially moving” by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, soprano Christine Lyons uses her fearless presence and creative approach to enthrall her audiences in Europe and America.

Lyric Fest Presents Letters to Santa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact
Lari Robling
larirob@gmail.com
215 978 6933

Lyric Fest Presents Letters to Santa
Kick Off the Holiday Season with a Happy Hour and Mini Concert
In a new concert format that combines a happy hour with a week night mini concert, Lyric Fest starts the holiday season Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 at 5:30 PM at The Academy of Vocal Arts with a quirky and touching performance featuring Sara Duchovnay, Keith Phares, Katharine Pracht and Laura Ward on the piano.
Letters to Santa is a  song cycle created by composer Logan Skelton after sifting through hundreds of children’s letters to Santa to find the perfect one for Lyric Fest’s 2016 Letters concert. With too much content to leave untouched, Skelton set letters dating from the 1800’s to the present.
Said Skelton, “I set out to compose one song! One thing led to another and before I knew it I had 17 songs. The end result is a cycle that invites the listener into the multi-faceted, often quirky and magical world of children.”
The set begins with an aphorism drawn from one of the most beloved works of children’s literature, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Together with the letters Skelton creates a story of the season’s hope and joy and children’s attempt to understand the adult world they inhabit.
Of the happy hour format, founding artistic director Suzanne DuPlantis says, “We were inspired to create a new concert format, to reach new audiences.” She continues, “We thought pairing drinks and small bites with a shorter concert on a weeknight might be perfect for commuters stopping by on their way home, or for those who are on their way to dinner reservations, who might be looking for a little bit of music to enrich their week.”

Tickets for refreshments and concert are $25  for advanced purchase on the secure website and  $30  at the door. Special student tickets are $10 cash at the door with ID.

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.
 # # #

Two reviews of I Hear America Singing

Two reviews of last weekend’s I Hear America Singing concert appeared today. One, written by Michael Caruso, [link] appeared in the Chestnut Hill Local. The other review, written by Tom Purdom, [link], appeared in the Broad Street Review. Both reviews make great reading and have many remarks that warmed our hearts. Here are some snippets, to whet your appetites to read the entire reviews by following the links we gave above.

From Michael Caruso’s review:

Suzanne DuPlantis was heard to great distinction in George Crumb’s “The Night in Silence,” […] was able to project it with unaffected intensity and delicate poignancy […] Loveliest of all was her rendition of local composer Kile Smith’s “There Is No Great and No Small,” […] Michelle Johnson sang some of the evening’s most disturbing songs […] with a glowing tone and imposing projection […] were sung as emotional catharsis as well as with musical artistry […] I was particularly impressed by Troy Cook’s rendition of Marc Blitzstein’s “Emily (The Ballad of the Bombardier)” […] Tony Boutte’s performance of “Sure on This Shining Night” by West Chester’s Samuel Barber reminded one and all what a true master the composer was […] Laura Ward offered exquisite accompaniment.

From Tom Purdom’s review:

Lyric Fest’s season opener ended with a new arrangement of Daron Hagen’s 2014 setting of Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.” Hagen created the arrangement for this event and it made a perfect finale […] a moving WWII “Ballad of the Bombardier”; a Charles Ives cowboy saga; and Ned Rorem’s beautiful arrangement of “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.” […] There were two other premieres on the program besides the arrangement of “I Hear America Singing.” […] Conahan did such a good job […] Kile Smith’s setting of a short, mystical text by Ralph Waldo Emerson […] for piano and mezzo-soprano, that was as light and sustaining as water […] The vocalists […] have impressive international resumes and voices to match […] Suzanne DuPlantis is an art song enthusiast who takes the texts of her songs very seriously […]

The last sentence of Tom Purdom’s review made us a little misty-eyed:

Lyric Fest’s quirky, unpredictable, beautifully executed programs have become one of the glories of my life.

May more and more Delaware Valley people have the chance to find us and see what glories we offer for their lives!

AMERICA SINGS – A Blog

Grunge dirty flag of United States of America

Coyotes by Ricky Ian Gordon, to a poem by Ray Underwood

“I understand you, coyotes.
I understand the way you croon.
I never did before,
Before I hungered for his kisses,
Underneath an amber moon…”

 

I love this song.

A century ago when I was a young singer I went to a music festival in California – The Strawberry Creek Music Festival – or something like that. We performed chamber music in the evenings for the public, and during the day we rehearsed, we look voice lessons, we coached with a pianist, and we “studied acting” with an actor.

The actor’s name was Ray. He was a young, handsome guy with a compact build and grey eyes. I might be making up the grey eyes part. Anyway, a mutual friend told me he had AIDS. These were the years where that black plague was mercilessly slashing through our ranks.

Ray had a raw vulnerability about him. Once, demonstrating an emotional scene, he burst into agonizing sobs, giving full vent to whatever was gripping his heart. We sat there stunned. He then pulled his character together, turned, and picked up an apple and started to eat it. “Grief comes in waves” he said, “when it passes, you do normal things.” I don’t know why, when I have forgotten so very many things, that I remember this so clearly.

Turns out Ray was a poet too, and when he died, his mother gathered his poems together and published them in a small volume called “All that hums.”  I wonder how composer Ricky Ian Gordon chanced upon Ray’s poem. I’m sure there is a story there. But he did, and he penned (as they really did back in the 80’s) a heart-on-your-sleeve Tango, full of pathos and camp. A perfect song, and Ray lives on.

Ain’t life grand?

COYOTES by Ricky Ian Gordon and Ray Underwood

 

AMERICA SINGS – A Blog

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!

04jplazarus2-jumbo

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

AMERICA SINGS – A Blog

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

seneca-tribe

 

 

 

 

 

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.

fullsizerender-88