News & Discographies

      The venerable and much-loved composer Jean Berger died May 28, 2002 of a brain tumor. His longtime friend Billye Brown Youmans was instrumental in bringing him to Tidewater three times, most recently in January of 2002. Karen Scott, who corresponded with him during the last year of his life, and this writer are working on a tribute to Jean for a future newsletter.

      On August 22, 2002 William Warfield "The velvet-voiced American bass-baritone" died in Chicago of complications from a fall." The Chicago Tribune goes on to say that his last recital, a little more than a month ago at age 82, "brought down the house" when he sang his signature song Ol' Man River from Showboat. Many of us know him form the 1963 RCA Victor recording (5234-2RG) in which he is Porgy to Leontyne Price's Bess. He and Miss price were married for 20 years.

      This week we received our signed copy of a just-released CD Dreams: A Portrait of Langston Hughes with Darryl Taylor, tenor and William Warfield, narrator. These performances are form July and December of 2001.

      Each set of songs opens with a Langston Hughes poem read by the redoubtable Warfield who breaks into song in the poem "The Weary Blues." It's wonderful. He catches the song-like cadence of a sermon in "Sunday Morning Prophecy." The last of the seven poems "Still Here" ends the album and the text is a fitting tribute to this pioneering African-American singer and teacher.

Still Here

      I've been scarred and battered,
      My hopes the wind done scattered.
      Snow has friz me,
      Sun has baked me.
           Look like between 'em
           They done tried to make me
      Stop laughin', stop lovin', stop livin' -
           But I don't care!
           I'm still here!

Complete Poems of Langston Hughes,
published by Alfred A. Knopf

      On the same recording Darryl Taylor sings Jean Berger's (1909-2002) Carolina Cabin from his cycle Four Songs of Langston Hughes. His excellent lyric tenor voice has a natural sound, clear diction and first class powers of expression. The very able pianist is Maria Corley. This is the only solo art song by Berger that we have found on CD.

      On this CD are Musto's Island and Litany. There is a treasure trove of African-American art songs commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Langston Hughes. I will save these for another review. To order your copy of this CD, send $10 to Darryl Taylor, The University of Northern Iowa, School of Music, 110 RSL, Cedar Falls, IA 50614. He will autograph it if you ask.

      Other CD's of Musto songs: Paul Sperry Sings an American Sampler from Billings to Bolcom, Irma Vallecillo, piano. Albany Records (Troy 081). Complete four-song cycle Shadow of the Blues. Paul Sperry and his label have provided a great service to the art song community by making available so much otherwise unrecorded American repertory.

      A Vocal Collection on New World (NWR 80369) includes Requerdo, a three-song cycle composed for William Sharp, baritone,and Steven Blier, pianist, who perform it here. The CD also has songs by Bowles, Hundley, Hoiby and Eric Klein.

      Ravel: Complete Songs on EMI Classics-Allegro (ECA 569299) Dalton Baldwin, piano. A two-CD set on a budget label; various well-known singers, including Gabriel Bacquier and José van Dam.

      Frank Bridge: Complete songs Hyperion (HYP 67181/2) a two-CD set. Includes Three songs for viola sung by mezzo-soprano Louise Winter. Roger Vignoles is pianist for all 45 songs.

      Beethoven: Op.98 (To the distant beloved). There are several recordings: tenor Nicolai Gedda, is fine. Though the cycle was originally written for tenor, baritone Thomas Hampson, is excellent.


Anthony Colossimo Sings on Bocelli Program

      When popular vocalist Andrea Bocelli sang without amplification in the new Symphony Hall at the Ferguson Center at CNU last fall, tenor Anthony Colossimo, a local favorite of ours, sang La Serenata by Paolo Tosti (1846-1916) during the program. We heard him do this piece on his senior recital last spring. The song has a low tessitura and fits the singer's voice extremely well.

      Mr. Colossimo, who is working on his master's degree at CNU this year, was presented a scholarship from the National Italian American Foundation by Bocelli while he was here. We were sorry not to hear Mr. Colossimo but ticket prices from $175-$300 were not in our budget. We congratulate him all the same.


On Hampton Roads

      Check out onhamptonroads.com. We did and found an online magazine that aims for a younger audience than other arts magazines in Hampton Roads. Their online events calendar is growing and would welcome your upcoming events. Though there seems to be an especially strong emphasis on local theatre, there are interesting reviews of other upcoming community events. They publish reviews of new restaurants as well.

      We learned about OnHamptonRoads by email, how else! P.J. Freebourn found Artsong Update on the web. He wrote "I would love to sit down with one or both of you and talk about artsongupdate.org." We called and invited him to dinner. In conversation we learned that when a friend decided to give up what had been a computer business site and he was offered the domain name "onhamptonroads.com" he and a group of six fellow artists came together to create an online magazine.

      It is a labor of love by a group of fifteen or so volunteer writers. The site welcomes reviews by readers on any of the arts. When I have time I would like to review non-musical events for them. The interactive events calendar, where anyone can post events, includes a growing list of classical and popular performances. OnHamptonRoads reaches a different audience than we do at Artsong Update. Check them out!


Jennifer Barker's Geenyoch on iTunes

      Jennifer Barker, who is currently on sabbatical from the University of Delaware, tells us that her CD Geenyoch (see AU issue #45) is now on iTunes. To access it you need to do a search for 'Jennifer Margaret Barker'. It has also been on CDBaby for a few months.


"The world's funniest woman is dead at 94"

      Anna Russell (1911-2006), famous for her comedic 30 minute synopsis of Wagner's Ring Cycle in which she sang all the roles, died at the age of 94 on October 18, 2006. Born in Britain, most of her career was in Canada but she died in the coastal town of Bateman's Bay, New South Wales, Australia. She is also known for her send-up of the all-too-familiar operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan titled "How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera." Her first show of musical parody was staged in Toronto, Canada in 1942. She came to Carnegie Hall in 1947 and made several records and appeared as the witch in Hansel and Gretel in New York and San Francisco and the Duchess of Krackenthorp in the Canadian Opera Company's production of Daughter of the Regiment in 1977. I know her from The First Farewell Concert VHS tape (VAI 6909) and a CD The Anna Russell Album on Sony (MDK 47252).

Happy Birthday Marilyn Horne

      Happy Birthday to Marilyn Horne, 73 on January 16th. We want to share some excellent news from Barbara Hocher, Executive Director of the Marilyn Horne Foundation: "Marilyn is doing extremely well. She is now officially cancer free, following her surgery of November 8. We are all elated"!

      The Song Continues…2007, a four-day festival of six musical events celebrating song, with Marcello Giordani, Barbara Cook, Evelyn Lear, Marilyn Horne, & artists of the Marilyn Horne Foundation begins January 23rd in New York City. Visit the Artsong Update Calendar Page or the Marilyn Horne Foundation website for details.

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