Batik artwork by Laura Pritchard

So many thanks to soprano Jessica Lennick, tenor Eric Rieger, baritone Michael Adams, and pianist Laura Ward for the rousing Lyric Fest premiere of Mark the Music, a trio using Shakespeare’s text from The Merchant of Venice, which includes the words “The man that hath no music in himself, / Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, / Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils.” Complete text, notes, and a sample of the score are here.

This was my musical introduction to Lyric Fest audiences as Composer in Residence.

The song was the closing piece for “Much Ado about Shakespeare,” a concert at Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, Pa. We’re repeating it on Friday November 21st at the Girard Academic Music Program School in Philadelphia.

The actor Jim Bergwall wrote a script which he and Charlotte Blake Alston recited and acted (with the singers and audience) to create a moving look into songs written on Shakespeare texts. Jim and Charlotte are inventive actors, narrators, librettists, and storytellers, and crafted a thoroughly engaging program.

The singers were entertaining and powerful, throughout the music of Britten, Blitzstein, Hoiby, Quilter, Schubert, Vaughan WIlliams, and others. Little surprises of meaning met me in my scena, in which I was delighted to hear new discoveries, brought out by these wonderful musicians. Jessica is busy with lots and lots of singing, Eric, who also teaches at Westminster Choir College, brought his wife and two young children to the concert, and Michael is in the middle of L’italiana In Algeri performances these two weeks at the Academy of Vocal Arts. They were exquisite on Mark the Music. And Laura, well, she just makes the piano sing every time; what a thrill, I can never say enough about her.

[Update: Friday morning’s concert on Nov. 21st at GAMP was given in front of almost two hundred students from there and, brought in for the occasion, Central High. A crew recorded and videotaped the concert, and interviewed the musicians and composer, for a future documentary about the residency.]

Thanks to Laura and to Suzanne DuPlantis for creating this program! Thanks also to the American Composers Forum, Philadelphia Chapter, for supporting these concerts, and to Main Line Reform Temple for hosting us. I can’t wait to get started on the Waxing Poetic song cycle; Lyric Fest premieres that in March.

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