Featured This Month


The news needs to be let out of the bag! The second annual NYC songSLAM was a resounding success! The house was packed, the audience was electrified and the music was flowing. 11 thrilling teams gave birth to 11 new songs last Tuesday at HERE Arts Center, and we are SO excited to announce the winners:

In Third Place we had a tie! So we ADDED a SECOND 3rd place prize of $400

In first place, winner of $1,000 -
Team 11: composer Patrick Michael Wickham, John Glann, Baritone and Mark Wagner pianist

In second place, winner of $600 -
Team 7: composer Jason Weisinger and soprano Chloe Holgate

 In third place, winners of $400 - 
Team 5, composer Steven Crino, and soprano Casie Marie Girvin AND
team 10, composer Clint Borzoni, soprano Michelle Trovato and Pianist Jason Wirth

Thanks goes to the great Tom Cipullo who was a fabulous MC, The Casement Fund Song SeriesHERE Arts Center, our lovely Board and all the tireless people who helped put it together!

NOW..... on to the Ann Arbor SongSLAM at the Kerrytown Concert HouseNovember 28th! We can't wait to hear you guys BRING IT!

Registration for the Minneapolis songSLAM will open here Friday December 1st at 6pm!  

get ready - spaces will fill up quickly, and we can't wait to hear what will be premiered at 


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!

November 18

Today is apparently a great day for birthdays: Carl Maria von Weber, Louis-Jaques Daguerre (daguerreotype), William Schwenck Gilbert (Gilbert & Sullivan), Ignacy Jan Paderewski, to name just a few. But it is also Sojourner Truth's birthday, and this is a perfect occasion to refresh yourself on the life story of this history-changing woman. Truth was born into slavery near Kingston, NY, on this day in 1787, making today her 230th birthday. She devoted her life to fighting for equal rights for women and people of color, becoming the first African-American woman to win a court case against a white man, in order to secure the return of her son. After feeling the call of religion, she changed her name from Isabella Baumfree to Sojourner Truth, and became known for her speechmaking.
But there is one special moment in her life where she used song instead of speech, and this is why she is the perfect woman to honor in today's Song of the Day: She was preaching at a Camp Meeting in Northampton, MA, in 1844. An unruly mob threatened to disrupt the proceedings, and Truth first hid--afraid that she, as the only black woman present, would be attacked first. But her courage overcame her fear, and she went up to a hill and sang “in her most fervid manner, with all the strength of her most powerful voice, the hymn on the resurrection of Christ." The hymn was the first of an hour of songs and prayers that eventually succeeded in quieting the mob and sending them away.
Unfortunately, I can't find a record of this song--no recording, or even any other reference to it outside of contemporary accounts of her life. So we will end with the text and a continuation of the account above:
It was early in the morning--it was early in the morning,
Just at the break of day--
When he rose--when he rose--when he rose,
And went to heaven on a cloud.'
All who have ever heard her sing this hymn will probably remember it as long as they remember her. The hymn, the tune, the style, are each too closely associated with to be easily separated from herself, and when sung in one of her most animated moods, in the open air, with the utmost strength of her most powerful voice, must have been truly thrilling.

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)


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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Emily Ezust: Some Thoughts on the Gentle Art of translating

It can be disappointing to open an art song recital program and find no translations inside, especially these days when there can be such delightful variety in the languages offered in one concert. Perhaps many North American audience-members will know enough French or Spanish to get the gist of...

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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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