Many, Many Philadelphians

Lyric Fest took an inclusive view of who counts as a Philadelphia composer in preparing this past Sunday’s survey of the city’s contributions to song repertoire – natives, residents, those who studied here, even those who summered near here as a child (Sondheim). Barber and Rorem were represented, but also Rorem’s students, down to the second generation. There was a exquisite very early song by George Crumb, an intriguing multi-part setting of Stevens by Persichetti, a charming song by Kile Smith on a 17th century text, and much more (the full list of composers is here). I was there to hear my “Cinder” from the cycle Holy the Firm, and I was delighted by a powerful performance from soprano Randi Marrazzo and pianist Laura Ward. Their reading was a bit slower than some others I have heard, and the song seemed to thereby gain in expressive intensity. I think they connected strongly with the audience – there was that extra moment of silence after the piece ended.

Lyric Fest performs “Cinder”

I just found out that Lyric Fest, an organization here in Philly devoted to, as their website puts it, “connecting people through song”, will include my “Cinder” from the cycle Holy the Firm on their upcoming October 14th concert. The program is at 3:00 pm and will be held at the Academy of Vocal Arts here in Philadelphia. Under the title “Old City ~ New Song”, Laura Ward, Randi Marrazzo, and Suzanne DuPlantis, the artistic directors of Lyric Fest, have put together an array of songs by Philadelphia composers, including premieres by Allen Krantz and Thomas Lloyd.

“Cinder” is probably my most popular song. Dawn Upshaw, who premiered Holy the Firm, extracted the song from that set and toured with it. The piece has been sung at memorial services, at Songfest, and was featured at a presentation by the Joseph Campbell Foundation at an event called the Parliament of the World’s Religions several years ago. When I told Susan Stewart (the author of the text for “Cinder”) about the Parliament, she remarked “I thought that’s what happens when we die.”