Featured This Month

Casement Fund Song Series

Memories Near and Far:
Stephanie Blythe In Concert

Merkin Concert Hall
Thursday, January 18, 2018

Click here to purchase tickets!

Newest Podcast with composer Herschel Garfein

An insightful interview with Herschel Garfein in his Park Slope home where we discuss song as a genre, his own compositional style, and the delights of setting the poetry of Donald Hall for his newest song cycle Mortality Mansions.  Interested in our world premier through the Casement Fund Song Series? Find more info about it here!  

Herschel Garfein’s opera of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, based on the Tom Stoppard play, will receive its piano-vocal staged premiere this summer at the Seagle Music Colony in the Adirondacks. He wrote and directed My Coma Dreams for composer/pianist Fred Hersch, available on Palmetto DVD. Garfein won the 2012 GRAMMY® award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for his “wildly operatic libretto” (–BBC Magazine) for Robert Aldridge’s Elmer Gantry (Naxos).  His songs and other works are available on Naxos, Roven Records and GPR labels. 

Podcast with Poet Donald Hall

In preparation for our world premiere performance of Mortality Mansions on March 30th, Sparks Co-Artistic Director Martha Guth interviews  poet Donald Hall in his farm house in New Hampshire. 

Donald Hall has written over fifty books including more than two dozen books of poetry, as well as children’s books, art criticism, essays, plays and other edited volumes. His many honors include two Guggenheim fellowships and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry. He served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2006-2007 and in 2010, he was awarded the National Medal for the Arts by President Obama.

Song of the Day: a new feature!

February 2

Today, baritone Donnie Ray Albert and pianist Polli Chambers-Salazar perform "3 Songs for Baritone and Piano," by the late Robert Owens. The harrowing texts for this cycle, dedicated to the memory of activist/author George Jackson, are by Claude McKay.
Albert, born in 1950, is best known for his operatic career, performing not only in major US houses but also appearing in leading roles in such renowned venues as La Scala.
Owens was a remarkable musician. His artistic life began as a pianist, studying with his mother, but Owens took up composing by the age of 10 and premiered his First Piano Concerto with the Berkley Young Peoples' Symphony at 15. His service in WWII allowed him to pursue further musical studies in Europe, where he faced considerably less racism than at home in America. He did briefly return to the US to teach at Albany State College, but after two years returned to Germany, where he remained for the rest of his long career as a pianist, composer, and actor. Owens passed away last January at the age of 92, but left behind a wealth of vocal music. Some works, like the songs below, directly confront the America that refused to accept him and his artistic gifts.

Honoring Rudolf Jansen

It takes the words of a generous, masterful teacher to fully praise another endowed with the same qualities. Thus do we reverently present this citation by Deen Larsen, renowned educator, founder, and director of the Franz-Schubert—Institut to his colleague, pianist Rudolf Jansen, on the occasion of a celebration of his life and career.

The Cartoonery of Tyler Duncan (Baritone)


Dr. Minnita Daniel-Cox: The Establishment of the Dunbar Music Archive

 Dr. Minnita Daniel-Cox is Assistant Professor of Voice and Coordinator of the Voice Area at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. Her collaboration with Herbert Martin, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings": A celebration of Paul Laurence Dunbar has been performed across the U.S. and has lead to the establishment of the Dunbar Multicultural Series and the Paul Laurence Dunbar Music Archive. In this article, Dr. Daniel-Cox discusses what lead her to the creation of the Dunbar Music Archive.

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Susan Youens: Of cannibalism, the abolitionist movement, and Brahms:  An unlikely conjunction  

For those of us who love Brahms’s songs, our first encounter with “Kein Haus, keine Heimat” (No house, no homeland) was probably a shock—it certainly was for me. Published in 1884 when Brahms was fifty-one years old, this work is twenty measures of undiluted bitterness, over almost before...  

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Michael Musgrave: Brahmsian Sea Pictures

It is often observed of Brahms’ songs that they emphasize rounded melody and harmony at the expense of textual nuance. Three ideas lie behind this view: that Brahms’ devotion to folksong as an ideal of self- sufficient melody limits his response to words both rhythmically and in imagery; and that this ideal also tends to an instrumental character that prioritizes musical development over poetic text; and... 

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Deen Larsen: Another Side of Elly

Deen Larsen’s extraordinary words stop me in my tracks.  My tracks, so often hasty and restless, at first resist the meditative depth of his thoughts, but then, slowing out of curiousity, welcome the provocation.  Thank you, Deen, for... 

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Eapen Leubner: Denver Art Song Project

Founded in 2015, the Denver Art Song Project (DASP) presents innovative, themed art song programs. Below is an interview with co-founder Eapen Leubner about DASP and the many ways in which the project fulfills its mission of creating and sustaining an art song community in Denver, CO. 

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Laura Strickling: Hurricanes Irma & Maria

"How do you prepare to lose everything?" Soprano Laura Strickling speaks openly about her family's experience surviving Hurricane Irma on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and her recital on Oct. 18th to raise funds for Puerto Rico and the US virgin Islands. 

Click here to donate to hurricane recovery efforts in the US Virgin Islands.

Click here to donate to hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.


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Profile: Cincinnati Song Initiative

In 2016, the Cincinnati Song Initiative began bringing relevant and moving art song programs to the greater Cincinnati area.  We asked the founder and artistic director for the Cincinnati Song Initiative (CSI), pianist Samuel Martin

 to talk a bit about the founding of CSI and the organization’s collaborative mission, as well as some of the lessons learned during CSI’s inaugural season...

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Letter from the Editors

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