Rose. Yende. Brancy. Polenzani. Deshayes.

2014-15 Season

RoseOct 19, 2014
Matthew Rose
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YendeNov 6, 2014
Pretty Yende
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Brancy Dec 10, 2014
John Brancy
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PolenzaniJan 14, 2015
Matthew Polenzani
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DeshayesFeb 3, 2015
Karine Deshayes
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CargillApr 7, 2015
Karen Cargill
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NYFOSApr 30, 2015
New York Festival of Song
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Vocal Arts DC
PO Box 42423
Washington, DC 20015



University of Maryland Opera Studio
Wagner Society DC


2014-2015 Season

With six outstanding singers, ranging from established stars to those still on the brink of international fame, all making Washington, DC recital debuts, plus the return by popular demand of New York Festival of Song, we are delighted to introduce our exciting 2014-2015 season. As our nation's only subscription concert series dedicated exclusively to the presentation of classical song recitals, we are proud to offer our patrons extraordinary quality at exceptional value, as well as enough variety in programming to provide something for all tastes. A superbly gifted singer, fully immersed in great music and poetry, accompanied only by piano or chamber ensemble, can transport us and make the world seem a better place, lifting our spirits, offering solace, providing catharsis. As an audience, we share in the visceral and emotional immediacy of that experience together. The Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, with its marvelous acoustics and unmatched intimacy, is an ideal venue in which to enjoy every vocal and interpretive nuance.

Single tickets are now on sale through the Kennedy Center box office for all seven concerts. Full season subscriptions and mini-series subscriptions are also available directly from Vocal Arts DC.

2013-2014 Season Brochure

Click here to purchase a Full Season Subscription.

Click here to purchase a Mini-Subscription.

Click here to purchase Individual Tickets.

More Information (Season Brochure PDF) ..........................................................................................................................................

'My Favorite Song'

Welcome to the monthly feature of the Vocal Arts DC web site in which guest contributors select one song that has a special, personal meaning for them, sharing specific reasons about why they find the music and lyrics irresistible, and choosing a performance that they feel ideally captures the spirit of that song.

Welcome to the monthly feature of the Vocal Arts DC web site in which guest contributors select one song that has a special, personal meaning for them, sharing specific reasons about why they find the music and lyrics irresistible, and choosing a performance that they feel ideally captures the spirit of that song.

From Peter Russell, General Director of Vocal Arts DC.

Gussie L. Davis: "In the Baggage Coach Ahead"

Although I vowed, upon beginning this My Favorite Song feature nearly a year ago, that we would have a different contributor every month in perpetuity, I hereby exercise "Editor's Prerogative" to pay tribute this month to a unique artist and dear friend who left us much too soon earlier this summer, mezzo-soprano Dana Krueger. The song I've selected to commemorate her is one that she not only performed beautifully, but one that brought her good fortune, In the Baggage Coach Ahead, with music and lyrics composed by Gussie L. Davis in 1896.

A native of Ohio, Gussie L. Davis was the first African-American to achieve financial success as a songwriter, eventually finding his way to New York's Tin Pan Alley. Perhaps his most famous song was, Good Night, Irene, but at the turn of the last century, In the Baggage Coach Ahead was nearly as popular, selling well over a million copies. Davis wrote that the song came to him as an inspiration while he was working for the Ohio railroad, based on a true story of an incident similar to that depicted in his song as told to him by a porter. While the concept of a "baggage coach" transporting coffins may seem quaint, the song's emotional core is timeless. Tired passengers today respond with the same kneejerk irritation as those in Davis' narrative to the presence of a screaming child. When we trouble ourselves to dig deeper and learn the circumstances, sometimes tragic, behind the child's distress, anger mutates into understanding and compassion. The lilting melody of the song's refrain understatedly captures both the train's steady motion and the wistfulness of the lyrics.

Dana collected songs of this era, and put together a recital program of them in 1989, titled Love's Old Sweet Song, which she performed with Stephen Crout as her accompanist at the Cosmos Club, presented by Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, our June contributor to My Favorite Song. This performance was recorded "live" on that occasion, but Dana had been performing In the Baggage Coach Ahead for some years before that. At the Central City Opera in Colorado, where Dana was a favorite on the roster from the late 1970s through the late 1990s, there is a post-performance tradition, known as "Après Opry," of the festival's principal artists singing spontaneously for patrons at the historic Teller House Hotel. The summer of 1980, while appearing there as the Old Lady in Bernstein's Candide and the Lady with a Hat Box in Argento's Postcard from Morocco, Dana sang In the Baggage Coach Ahead one night at The Teller House. The Associate Editor of Opera News, there to review the festival's opera productions, came up afterward and introduced himself, saying that he was collaborating as librettist with Leonard Bernstein on a new opera, and that he thought that Dana should audition for the great maestro, because he felt that Dana was "the kind of singer Lenny would really like." At his insistence, Dana auditioned for Maestro Bernstein by singing In the Baggage Coach Ahead, thereby rendering him completely verklempt. The net result is that Dana inspired Leonard Bernstein and his librettist, Steven Wadsworth, to create the role of Susie in their opera A Quiet Place, specifically with Dana in mind. She not only sang it at the Houston Grand Opera world premiere in 1983, but stayed with the cast for later runs at the Kennedy Center Opera House and Milan's Teatro alla Scala. To the best of my knowledge, Dana was the only artist to serve as muse to both Leonard Bernstein and Peter Schickele's PDQ Bach (an extraordinary comic actress, she also created the roles of Susanna Susannadanna and Mama Geno in the latter's Mozart spoof The Abduction of Figaro, nationally telecast in 1984 and available on DVD). What makes her rendition of this ballad so moving is the sense that it is so palpably a story being told to us, with an infinite well of compassion, by someone haunted by a remarkable episode she had once experienced on an overnight train, and therefore eager to share it with us. Her words are not only perfectly clear-which itself is rare enough-but vividly inflected, and her voice is warm, dark, and tinged with an "Earth Motherly" hue.


Music & Lyrics by Gussie L. Davis (1863-1899)

On a dark stormy night
as the train rattled on,
all the passengers
had gone to bed.
Except one young man
with a babe in his arms,
who sat there with a
bowed down head.

The innocent one
began crying just then,
as though its poor heart
would break.

One angry man said
"Make that child stop its noise,
for it's keeping all of us awake".

"Put it out" said another,
"don't keep it in here -
we've paid for our berths
and want rest"

But never a word
said the man with the child
as he fondled it
close to his breast.

"Where is it's mother,
go take it to her"
a lady then softly said.

"I wish that I could"
was the man's sad reply,
"but she's dead
in the coach ahead."


While the train rolled onward,
a husband sat in tears,
thinking of the happiness
of just a few short years.

For baby's face
brings pictures of
a cherished hope
that's dead. But baby's cries
can't waken her,
in the baggage
coach ahead.

(end of refrain).

Every eye filled with tears
when his story he told,
of a wife who was faithful and true.

He told how he'd saved
all his earnings for years,
just to build up a home for two.

How when heaven
had sent them
this sweet little babe,
their young happy lives were blessed.

His heart seemed to break
when he mentioned her name,
and in tears
tried to tell them the rest.

Every woman arose
to assist with the child.
There were mothers
and wives on that train.

And soon was the little one
sleeping in peace,
with no thought of
sorrow or pain.

Next morn' at a station
he bade all "Goodbye" ,
"God Bless You"
he softly said.

Each one had a story
to tell in their home,
of the baggage coach ahead.


While the train rolled onward,
a husband sat in tears,
thinking of the happiness
of just a few short years,
for baby's face brings pictures of
a cherished hope that's dead.

But, baby's cries
can't waken her,
in the baggage coach ahead.

In the Baggage Coach Ahead, sung by Dana Kreuger [MP3]

Click here to view previous month's submission.


Peter Russell Named General Director of Vocal Arts DC

Peter Russell, a noted figure in American opera, has been named as General Director of Vocal Arts DC (incorporated as The Vocal Arts Society). In his new position, Russell will assume responsibility for both the artistic and business management of Vocal Arts DC, working closely in the field of artistic programming with the organization's founder and President Emeritus, Dr. Gerald Perman, who is stepping down as Artistic Director to become Artistic Director Emeritus.
More Information > 

maltman About Vocal Arts DC

Hear world-renowned singers
and discover tomorrow's stars

You’ll hear them here first!  Vocal Arts DC has given Washington recital debuts to many of the great singers whose names are familiar to lovers of vocal artistry throughout the world.  We pride ourselves on identifying and bringing to Washington singers -- often already celebrated on the European opera and concert stage -- who are on the cusp of attaining world-wide fame and achieving sensational success on the US opera scene.  

Our 22nd season begins with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and pianist Warren Jones giving an "American Songbook" program. This is followed by New York Festival of Song, a longtime favorite of Washington audiences, who bring their delightful, and timely, arrangement of three Broadway shows of the 1930's to town in "Mr. Gershwin Comes to Washington." Following NYFOS, soprano Christine Brewer returns and she and pianist Craig Rutenberg give an October 31 recital of Spanish and American song. Baritone Russell Braun and pianist Carolyn Maule traverse Schubert's Winterreise on November 7. DC favorite, tenor Vinson Cole performs on December 12, and he is followed by British tenor Toby Spence, a Washington debut, who rounds out the season, on January 16.  More Details >

what video What's an Art Song?

Watch a video, hosted by Elizabeth Daniels, of young singers presented in recital by Vocal Arts DC at the Kennedy Center this past spring as part of the America Sings in the Nation's Capitol. Click here >

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Education Programs

Art Song Discovery Series Winners of the Vocal Arts DC competition appear in free recitals at various venues in the community each Spring. More >

Take Song to our Schools Classroom programs presenting young professional singers and song to students around the region inspire the singers and audience of the future. More >

young artists
Young Artists Competition
An annual, juried competition for singers in the greater Washington area. Find more information here. More >


"My Favorite Song"

Archive of Past Selections

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