2016-2017 season


HERE Theater - April 25, 3017

To purchase tickets, click here.

The Sparks & Wiry Cries songSLAM is a unique opportunity for emerging composer/performer teams to premiere new art songs and compete for cash prizes. This social event will take place at SOHO’s HERE theater on Tuesday April 25th at 8:30pm, and will be MC'd by tenor Paul Sperry and composer Tom Cipullo. Each team will present a new song of no more than 5 minutes for voice and piano in any language for the voting audience, who—in the poetry slam tradition—will then vote on their favorites and award $2,000 in prize money. 

$1,000 for first place, $600 for second place and $400 for third place

Click here to see a list of the 12 teams competing!

PAUL SPERRY is recognized as one of today’s outstanding interpreters of American music.   He brings to American music a conviction and an enthusiasm that has brought it to life for countless listeners.  Sperry has world premieres of works by more than thirty Americans to his credit. He premiered Leonard Bernstein’s “Dybbuk Suite” with the composer conducting the New York Philharmonic, Jacob Druckman’s ‘Animus IV”; for the opening of the Centre Georges Pompidou at Beaubourg in Paris in 1977, and Bernard Rand’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Canti del Sole” with the New York Philharmonic in l983 under Zubin Mehta.  Since 1987 he has been the Director of Joy In Singing, an organization dedicated to helping young singers and American composers. 

A passionate advocate for American music, Paul Sperry has complied and edited several volumes of American songs, and his recordings of American music include five CDs of American song available on Albany Records, as well as numerous songs and chamber works available on DG, CRI, Crystal, Musical Heritage, Summit and Nonesuch Records.

 Composer TOM CIPULLO has been hailed by the American Academy of Arts & Letters for music that displays “inexhaustible imagination, wit, expressive range and originality;” Cipullo's works are performed regularly throughout the United States and internationally. The winner of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2013 Sylvia Goldstein Award from Copland House, and the 2013 Arts & Letters Award from the American Academy, Mr. Cipullo has received commissions from SongFest, the New York Festival of Song, Music of Remembrance, the Mirror Visions Ensemble, Joy in Singing, Sequitur, Cantori New York, tenor Paul Sperry, mezzo-soprano Mary Ann Hart, the Five Boroughs Music Festival, pianist Jeanne Golan, soprano Martha Guth, the Walt Whitman Project, baritone Jesse Blumberg, and many others. He has received multiple fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and ASCAP. Other honors include the Minneapolis Pops New Orchestral Repertoire Award (2009) for Sparkler, the National Association of Teachers of Singing Art Song Award (2008) for the song-cycle Of a Certain Age, and the Phyllis Wattis Prize for song composition from the San Francisco Song Festival for Drifts; Shadows (2006).

Art Song: Reimagined

Stretching the boundaries of art song, Sparks & Wiry Cries presents a champagne fundraiser showcasing Grammy Award-winning singer Rhiannon Giddens' incredible talent in a concert of traditional German Lieder, African American art song and selections from Black Broadway.  She will be joined onstage by pianist Spencer Myer and a special guest artist, Broadway star Darius de Haas.

Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center

67th St., New York, NY 10023

September 12, 2016


Tickets can be pre-purchased here

Rhiannon Giddens: Originally envisioning a career in opera, Giddens graduated from Oberlin with a degree in vocal performance but quickly moved on to be the singer-songwriter and co-founder of the GRAMMY Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. She gained recognition as a solo artist, stealing the show at the T Bone Burnett–produced concert Another Day, Another Time at NYC’s Town Hall in 2013. Giddens’ elegant bearing, prodigious voice, and fierce spirit is abundantly evident on her critically-acclaimed solo debut album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, which masterfully blends American musical genres, showcasing her extraordinary emotional range and dazzling vocal prowess. Pushing the boundaries between genres has led to collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble, the Kronos Quartet, and the North Carolina Symphony. Through thematic programming and passionate research, Ms. Giddens has forged a brilliant career joining historical and contemporary song traditions to all her performances. (www.rhiannongiddens.com )

Lauded for “superb playing” and “poised, alert musicianship” by the Boston Globe, American pianist SPENCER MYER has been soloist with The Cleveland Orchestra, the Johannesburg and Cape Town Philharmonics, and the Indianapolis, Phoenix and Santa Fe Symphony Orchestras. His recital appearances have been presented in New York’s Weill Recital Hall, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center and London’s Wigmore Hall.  Mr. Myer is the winner of the First Prize in the 2004 UNISA International Piano Competition in South Africa, the 2006 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship from the American Pianists Association and the Gold Medal from the 2008 New Orleans International Piano Competition.  

An in-demand chamber musician, he collaborates regularly with partners such as cellists Lynn Harrell and Ralph Kirshbaum, clarinetist David Shifrin, the Jupiter and Pacifica String Quartets, the Miami String Quartet and the Dorian Wind Quintet.  The winner of the 2000 Marilyn Horne Foundation Competition, Mr. Myer's affinity for vocal collaboration has led to rich career in song recital.  Additionally, he is featured on several recent recordings, including "Intimate Masterpieces," a 2013 CD featuring faculty and alumni of the Oberlin Conservatory, and the upcoming Steinway & Sons label release of "Bolcom: Selected Rags,"  Spencer Myer is currently Artist-Teacher of Piano and Collaborative Piano at Boston’s Longy School of Music of Bard College. 

DARIUS DE HAAS is a Chicago born singer with "deeps roots in jazz and soul" (New York Times) and an award winning actor. He was part of the original Broadway productions of Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Carousel (revival), Rent, The Gershwins’ Fascinating Rhythm, Marie Christine, and the 20th anniversary concerts of Dreamgirls and Hair. Notable Off-Broadway, regional, touring and premiere credits include his OBIE Award winning leading performance in Running Man, Once On This Island, I Was Looking At The Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, and Jesus Christ Superstar- Gospel at the Alliance Theater. He is known to many musical theater fans for his role of Cain in the Stephen Schwartz musical Children of Eden in which he sang "Lost In The Wilderness".

His singular abilities and range in popular music, jazz, and musical theater have established him as a performer in a variety of settings as well as a guest with several orchestras and groups including the National Symphony, The Philly Pops, Baltimore Symphony, The Los Angeles Master Chorale,  London’s Royal Festival Hall, and The Kennedy Center.  His voice can be heard on the soundtracks of the films Anastasia, Martin and Orloff, and Chicago.

Celestial Refrains - Songs of Juliana Hall

The National Opera Center, Scorca Hall
November 6, 2016 at 8:00pm


Juliana Hall is primarily known as an American art song composer whose works have been described by the Boston Globe's Richard Dyer as "the most genuinely moving music of the afternoon" and the Washington Post's Joseph McLellan as "brilliant."  Her songs have been heard across America and around the world, including performances at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, the Library of Congress, the Ordway Theater, Wigmore Hall, and Théâtre du Châtelet, as well as the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, SongFest, Ojai Music Festival, and Tanglewood Music Center. Hall has composed song cycles and vocal chamber works for countertenor Brian Asawa, baritone David Malis, soprano Dawn Upshaw, the vocal duo Feminine Musique, the Mirror Visions Ensemble, and Lyric Fest. Hall was recently awarded a Sorel Organization Recording Grant for a song cycle CD sung by Grammy-winning soprano Susan Narucki and countertenor Darryl Taylor. After graduating from the Yale School of Music (studying with Martin Bresnick, Leon Kirchner, and Frederic Rzewski), she completed formal studies with composer Dominick Argento, and in 1989 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

 Noted for her “dazzling, virtuoso singing” (Boston Globe) Lucy Fitz Gibbon is a dynamic musician whose repertoire spans the baroque to the present.  Lucy has performed the U.S. premieres of works by Francesco Sacrati, Barbara Strozzi, Agostino Agazzari. Lucy has also worked closely with composer and animator Anna Lindemann to create three diverse multimedia performances: Bird Brain, Theory of Flight, and a new project knitting together long-form art songs by Schubert and Prokofiev.

Recent operatic appearances include Britten’s The Turn of the Screw (Miles) with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the workshop premiere of Sheila Silver’s opera One Thousand Splendid Suns (Laila) at the National Opera Center.  As a soloist, Lucy has appeared with the Tulsa Symphony, the American Classical Orchestra, and with the American Symphony Orchestra in her Carnegie Hall debut. Lucy was honored to be a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center during the summers of 2014 and 2015. She currently holds the position of Visiting Lecturer at Cornell University.    

 American Mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn performs in a wide range of styles and venues, from Purcell to Pierrot Lunaire, Cherubino to The King & I, J.S. Bach to P.D.Q. Bach. She was featured in the revival and tour of Phillip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach, performed at venues around the world from 2011–2014, and she is currently singing the role of Belle in Glass’s La Belle et la Bête, also on tour. She has performed with New York City Opera, The Wooster Group, OperaOmnia, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the Waverly Consort; and on the stages of Carnegie Hall, the Mann Center in Philadelphia, the Edinburgh Festival, the Verbier Festival, and London’s West End. She has premiered new works by Amy Beth Kirsten, Du Yun, Conrad Cummings, Stefan Weisman, Yoav Gal, and Matt Schickele. Hai-Ting is also an Artist in Residence at HERE arts center, where she is developing Science Fair, a staged solo show of science set to music.

Pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough has developed a diverse career as recitalist, concerto soloist, vocal and instrumental chamber musician, with a particular love for new music and collaborations with living composers.  As concerto soloist Ryan appears frequently with orchestra, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Sarasota Festival Orchestra, Colburn Conservatory Orchestra, Orange County Wind Symphony, and World Festival Orchestra.  Mr. McCullough has collaborated with the Mark Morris Dance Group, contemporary ensemble eighth blackbird, and has performed at such festivals as the Tanglewood Music Center, Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, Sarasota Festival, Nohant International Chopin Festival, and the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar. 

Mr. McCullough has worked closely with numerous composers, including George Benjamin, John Harbison, Hans Thomalla, Andrew McPherson, James Primosch, Carter Pann, and Michael Small.  In 2008, Ryan released a CD of solo piano music by 20th century Polish-French composer MiƂosz Magin on the Polish label Acte Prealable. Ryan has won prizes from the Milosz Magin Piano Competition, World Piano Competition, Virginia Waring International Piano Competition, and Bronislaw Kaper awards. 

Mortality Mansions

The James Room, Barnard Hall
March 30, 2017 at 7:00pm

In collaboration with The Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University, Sparks and Wiry Cries presents the world premiere of Mortality Mansions, a song cycle by Grammy® Award-winning composer Herschel Garfein and distinguished American poet Donald Hall, former Poet Laureate of the United States (2006-2007). The featured performers are tenor Michael Slattery (“elemental emotional force” –Financial Times; “sweet-toned tenderness” –New York Times), and Dimitri Dover, acclaimed pianist for the Metropolitan opera Lindemann Young Artist program.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford and National Book Award-winning poet Jean Valentine will read Donald Hall poems. Professor of Clinical Medicine and Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine Dr. Rita Charon will join the artists in reflections on poet Donald Hall’s guiding themes of love, sexuality and bereavement in old age, and trace the unprecedented adoption of Mr. Hall’s work into the curricula of medical schools across the country.  Mr. Hall himself will participate via remote video link from his farmhouse in New Hampshire.

Herschel Garfein is a GRAMMY® award winning composer, writer and stage director. He is the composer and librettist of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, a new opera. (“Garfein set the diamond-bright dialogue of the Tom Stoppard play with clarity and wit, heightening the comedy through skillful ensemble writing and characterization.” --Wall Street Journal) His jazz theater piece My Coma Dreams for composer/pianist Fred Hersch has played in San Francisco, Berlin and at the Miller Theater, New York under the auspices of the Program in Narrative Medicine, Columbia University. It was released on DVD in 2014 to rave reviews (Boston Globe "Best of 2014"). Recent recordings: An AIDS Quilt Songbook: Sing for Hope(GPR); The Brooklyn Art Song Society: New Voices (Roven Records) and Innocence/ Experience (GPR). His opera of Sister Carrie (based on the novel by Theodore Dreiser) will open the 2016-2017 season of the Florentine Opera, Milwaukee. Garfein teaches in The Program for Vocal Performance and in the Composition Department at The Steinhardt School, New York University, where in 2012-2013 he won the Teaching Excellence Award. 

 Donald Hall, 14th Poet Laureate of the United States (2006-2007) has been justly celebrated as one of our country's greatest living poets. He has published 50 books, including 22 volumes of verse. The New York Times, in reviewing his latest, Essays After Eighty, wrote: "For the treacle that usually infuses treatises on aging, he has substituted a seductive frankness and bracing precision." Mr. Hall is the past recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships, The Caldecott Medal and the Robert Frost Prize. Listen to our Sparks & Wiry Cries podcast interview with Hall here!

Tenor Michael Slattery made an unforgettable debut in 2013 when he stepped in at the last minute to sing the Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings for the New York Philharmonic’s celebrations of Benjamin Britten’s 100th birthday. The New York Times praised "the tenderness, directness and youthful beauty of his singing." Mr. Slattery's career highlights include the title role in Bernstein’s Candide at Royal Festival Hall in London; The Very Best of Lerner & Loewe with Kelli O'Hara, Paolo Szot, and the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall; Peter Sellars’ Tristan Project with Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Philip Glass’s Akhnaten with John Adams- both with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and Robert Carsen’s new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, 2015. Michael Slattery’s solo recordings include The Irish Heart and Dowland in Dublin, chosen by Opera News as one of the best recordings of 2012.

Dimitri Dover has performed at New York’s Alice Tully Hall, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, City Center, Symphony Space, and Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, as well as Warner Theater in Washington, Zipper Hall in Los Angeles, and throughout the USA, Canada, and Austria. Mr. Dover has performed in the composer’s presence the works of George Crumb, Jake Heggie, Libby Larsen, the late Nicholas Maw, and Morton Subotnick, among many others. Since 2011, Mr. Dover has held a C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellowship in Collaborative Piano at The Juilliard School. He is a member of The Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, and appears with its cooperation.

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