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Brancy. Polenzani. Deshayes. Cargill. NYFOS.

2014-15 Season

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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RoseOct 19, 2014
Matthew Rose
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YendeNov 6, 2014
Pretty Yende
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Vocal Arts DC
PO Box 42423
Washington, DC 20015
202-669-1463
info@vocalartsdc.org


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University of Maryland Opera Studio
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Wednesday Evening, December 10


John Brancy, Baritone
and
Peter Dugan, Piano

Even before receiving his graduate diploma from The Juilliard School in 2013, baritone John Brancy made debuts at both Carnegie and Avery Fisher Halls and at the Caramoor Festival with New York Festival of Song. Operatic engagements have taken him to Dresden's Semperoper and the Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris. During the 2013-14 season, he has added debuts with Frankfurt Opera, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and Stuttgart's Hugo Wolf Akadamie, and returned to Carnegie Hall for a solo recital.
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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.

A Southern California native, Don Atkins works on food and agriculture policy and advocacy at the Biotechnology Industry Organization. He holds a Bachelor's of Music in Piano Performance with a minor in composition from Northwestern University, and studied in Vienna, Austria at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst under a Fulbright Fellowship. A former piano teacher, accompanist, master class clinician, and music director, Don is a collaborative artist, ever working to increase appreciation of music and culture in the community.

Franz Schubert: "Das Wirtshaus"

Seated comfortably in an increasingly bare living room, I returned recently to Franz Schubert's masterpiece of a song cycle, his Winterreise. The objects that once livened the space and made it a home now slowly make their way to my former roommate's new house, the one in which his journey begins afresh in marriage. A fitting time for this Reise, it seems.

It is evening. Late summer. The room faces west, and the hues of dusk march from yellow ochre to muted orange, through blue-gray and on into darkness. On this particular journey, I bring with me a pad, the score, and a heavy glass with a solitary cube of ice chilling a well-moderated pour of Washington, D.C.'s Green Hat Gin, their Spring/Summer seasonal. An ironic choice for this Reise, it seems.

You cannot really talk about a Lied from Winterreise without talking about Winterreise, and you cannot really think about Winterreise without thinking about the whole experience: the room around you, whether Frank Gehry's wooded hollow or your own living room, what you drank and who poured it, the color of the walls... all those physicalities and banalities of life into which Winterreise imparts depth. And so the author asks the reader to graciously forgive him for his utter refusal to begin talking about the song with anything so much as resembling a sense of haste.

A few thoughts, scribbled on a pad as I listened:

Coldness to the playing
     dryness of staccato, use of pedal

Each song so distinct

...those technical elements of the playing which, taken together, comprise the artistry of the musicians and tell with unerring earnestness the story that unfolds in the minds of poet Wilhelm Müller and composer Franz Schubert. The renewed sense of awe as the first few songs play sinks in. The eminence of Gerald Moore, the noted accompanist and regular collaborator with many of the world's finest singers, continues to inspire in this recording with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau-an obvious choice, perhaps, but not a bad one.

The cycle is both a physical and a psychological journey for our protagonist, but in a remarkable span of just a few songs, I would posit that we are witness to a philosophical journey, too; this is where I should like to direct our considerations for today.

Here, Müller and Schubert presage grand moral and religious developments and condense them into a short span. The seeds are planted in the first lines of the first song: "A stranger I came/As a stranger I depart." By the twentieth song, Der Wegweiser, our Wanderer has already dreamed under the shadow of the linden tree into which he carved many a word of love; chased a will-o'-the-wisp; considered the fleeting nature of joy and sorrow, an Ecclesiastical notion viewed through that typical German lens of nature; cursed his own youth; and pinned his hopes to a dying leaf, watching as it fell to the earth...

...the warmth of this unique D.C. gin's brilliant florals tethers me
to this place and juxtaposes violently with the Winter of my
Thoughts as I walk in increasing lock-step with our Wanderer...

...his hopes along with it. He finds himself avoiding the towns, delving further into the mountainous chasms of isolation. And in this isolation he sees before him a signpost luring him to travel a road from which no one ever returned. And where does this sign point?

In the song that follows, Das Wirtshaus, our Wanderer comes upon a graveyard: "To a graveyard/Has my path brought me;/Here I'll stop,/I thought to myself." So shall we all. Schubert sets the scene for this graveyard with a hymn-like tune. Certainly such a religious musical setting is an obvious choice for a cemetery, but the dense, warm...

...biting coldness of the spirit as it reaches an empty stomach
concerns itself not with the vernal freshness upon my palate
above...

...E-flat major chords in the piano serve not just as reference to the hymn-like nature of the song, but portray for us the calm the Wanderer finally feels: at home in a graveyard, where isolation is completed. And so, when he finally perceives the endpoint of his grueling journey, he looks for a room at the local inn, Das Wirtshaus. But when he inquires of the inn for a place to stay, the rooms are all full-can we here disregard such a religious reference? We think back to the snow-muted footsteps of the first song: "Love loves to wander/God made it that way" and remember too that the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. "Now onward then, only onward,/My loyal walking staff." And so he leaves.

In the next song, though, he finds his courage in the wintry weather and quickly concludes that "If there's no God upon the earth/then we ourselves are gods!" An old sentiment in the history of mankind, perhaps, but it feels here, at this point in his journey, distinctly Nietzschean. Staring into three suns, this perfectly chosen, other-worldly phenomenon, he confronts the last of himself, and abandons all blissfully into a chorale of calm.

So at last, as if awakening from a delusional fog, he meets Der Leiermann, the hurdy-gurdy player, singing his simple tune. Or does he? Perhaps he is here running into his future self, such a Schubertian Doppelgänger, the character society rejected, but in whom the song is not silenced.

"Shall I go with you?" our Wanderer asks of the old man. Perhaps he already has.

Why Das Wirtshaus? The simple rising and falling, yearning and release-the clarity of the melody's purpose; the right balance in the classically-dense chords, Bach-like part-writing woven through; the utter exhaustion in Fischer-Dieskau's voice. It's almost strophic, but even here, Schubert, no stranger to the strophic Lied, continues to reframe the tableau by letting in different amounts of light upon his carefully-crafted vocal line, as if opening and closing the aperture onto the glass plates of the Wanderer's bucolic scene. And the climax is as satisfying for the pianist as the singer: full-blooded German chords, poignancy pulled from passing tones, the singer almost dragging the weighty harmonies forward with his resolute legato.

Perhaps it's the hymn that tolls my own religiosity, that strikes deep the bedrock of my belief, the flickering filament of my faith. Perhaps it's that pervading reliance on nature: his loyal Wanderstab is certainly a stick, a dead tree, a piece of nature upon which he literally leans. Or perhaps it's his determination to go onward in his weariest state, the inextinguishable spark of humanity within him that represents what we all wish for ourselves in our darkest depths.

When, in college, I rehearsed and performed Winterreise with a young baritone, I found myself suddenly able to sing a G, the top of the first chord of this song, at will; deep into the rehearsal process, the song found a new home, resonating vibrantly within me, as if the G, that first G, carried with me in each step I took, and reminds me still of the way in which sometimes it is precisely those things that weigh us down that also propel us to carry on.

A trite sentiment, perhaps, but look inward and think back to those moments when, in a rush of clarity, you knew this to be true.

For your consideration, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore perform this hymn to, and for, the Wanderer: Das Wirtshaus.

[Author's Note: This recording presents the song in the original key of F Major, hence the cognitive dissonance those of you with perfect pitch may experience relative to my descriptions above. A recording in the key so described can be found here.]

Click here to view previous month's submission.

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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.
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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 >
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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

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

school
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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