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Concert honors prize-winning composer

More than 100 people attended the six-part tribute to Ned Rorem at the Granoff Center

Ninety years of singing, songwriting and musical poetry are surely deserving of a birthday party. Four well-known opera singers and pianists from the New York Festival of Song gave Ned Rorem, the famed American composer and Pulitzer Prize-winner, such a celebration Friday.

In a concert in the Martinos Auditorium at the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, sponsored by the Department of Music and Visiting Artist Musician Fund, Kate Lindsey, a mezzo-soprano, and Andrew Garland, a baritone, sang in Rorem’s honor, accompanied by Steven Blier and Michael Barrett on the piano.

The concert included “highlights from (Rorem’s) half-century career as a songwriter, along with music by his friends and inspirations: Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, Theodore Chanler, Aaron Copland, Noel Coward, Francis Poulenc and Virgil Thomson,” according to the program.

The recital was divided into six sections — “Setting Out,” “Inspiration,” “Lovers,” “Friends and Teachers,” “War,” “Intimates” and “Envoi.” Each segment consisted of compositions embodying the theme implied by its title.

Lindsey and Garland have appeared in some of the world’s most renowned opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Seattle Opera and the Santa Fe Opera. Garland is also a teaching associate in the Department of Music.

“I chose this group (of performers) because I had seen some of their productions in New York City and really liked how they structured song recitals to bring together a couple of different singers to showcase solo pieces and duets,” said Fred Jodry, director of choral activities. “Rorem is a composer who has written all kinds of songs, and I do think that he is one of the most interesting and expressive American song composers.”

Pianists Blier and Barrett often engaged with the crowd, making casual remarks about Rorem’s life between songs.

At least 100 people attended the hour-and-a-half-long performance, which included compositions by Rorem such as “The Lordly Hudson” and “Life in a Love.” The crowd, an even mix of professors, students and outside guests, including music teachers and students from the Boston area, gave a standing ovation after the final song.

Caroline Miller, a Princeton student in attendance, said she found the concert both “comedic and enlightening,” adding that she “loved Lindsey’s expressions during more playful songs like ‘Sigh No More, (Ladies)’ and ‘(Good) March, come in!’”

Blier, who teaches at the Juilliard School, and Barrett, who directed at the Tisch Center for the Arts, formed the New York Festival of Song together in 1988.

“I gravitated towards music when I was very young,” Blier said. “I had a xylophone, and I would start playing songs on the piano from my xylophone. When I was 13, I played for my first professional.”

As follow-up to Friday’s concert, Blier and Barrett taught a master class for those interested in Grant Recital Hall Saturday. “The purpose was to expose our voice students to a very high level of voice singing,” Jodry said. “To hear one or two singers sing in a small, intimate space is a kind of storytelling.”


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