Letter from the Editors

Sparks & Wiry Cries has some big news: we have received our tax exempt status and are now an official 501c3.  Even more important, we are growing by leaps and bounds! You will notice that our header now has three different pull down screens that will house the three arms of Sparks & Wiry Cries.  Our online presence will remain the same, bringing you insightful articles, fun blog posts, and interviews through podcasts and print, housed now under The Art Song Magazine. Adding to this online presence are the very successful NYC based Casement Fund Song Series, now entering it's fourth season, and a commissioning program for new song, seeking those who enjoy a collaborative process between composer and poet.  This next year will be one of transition as we grow our board, our advisory board, and begin to raise funds. We are also beginning our process of creating new performance opportunities for the bounty of worthy artists.  There are more exciting things on the horizon, but at this point, we aren't ready to share all of the developments just yet! You will just have to wait to see what else is in store for Sparks & Wiry Cries... 

And as ever...if you missed it before, our very first CD has been made available in digital form through iTunes, Amazon, CDbaby and other digital distributors. We hope you enjoy!  Many thanks again to Colin Mills at Aberration Photos for our stunning cover art, and to the musicians and production team.  We are really proud of this first release - so what are you waiting for?  Click that link!

Co-Editors in Chief,

Martha Guth and Erika Switzer

Featured This Month

Applications for songSLAM 2017 are now closed and full up!  

See you there - soho's HERE theater April 25th at 8:30pm

New 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!

March 25

Happy birthday, Béla Bartók (1881-1945)! Today, we share Bartók's Op. 16, a collection of five settings of fellow Hungarian Endre Ady's poetry. Bartók believed Ady to be the most important poet of his generation; interestingly, while Bartók took inspiration from the folk music of his homeland, Ady broke against those traditions within the literary community and wrote in a distinctly modernist style.

Boosey & Hawkes describes Bartók's Op. 16 songs somewhat amusingly as follows: "Set to words of despair by iconoclastic Hungarian poet Endre Ady, this set of five songs for medium voice and piano unveils some of Bartók’s most unrelievedly dark and melancholy writing. The songs are suited to a mezzo-soprano and a pianist of virtuoso temperament."

Composer Profile: Juliana Hall

The music for Celestial Refrains: Songs of Juliana Hall was chosen directly by its featured composer.  In this article, composer Juliana Hall discusses her musical roots, her compositional process, and the inspiration behind the music chosen for Celestial Refrains.


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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"Why Song" Lynne McMurtry, contralto

Singing as a profession is famously difficult to sustain. Any one of us who has walked a few steps on this path knows how difficult it is to find representation, to endure the endless rounds of fruitless auditions, to land enough gigs to make it possible to keep going… frustrations abound. But what about when you’ve finally gotten the gig (hurrah!), yet after all the work it took you to get there, it just feels... somehow… unsatisfying?

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Magnum Opus Tasting Concerts: Matthew Burns, Founder

Did you know that the terms used by sommeliers and wine aficionados to describe the layered characteristics of fine wines directly parallel those used by opera professionals to describe the subtleties of the voice? Magnum Opus Tasting Concerts is a brand-new, salon-type event combining wine tasting and song recitals. We produce curated recitals that feature world-class singers matched with world-class wines whose descriptions parallel one another...

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Baltimore Lieder Weekend: Daniel Schlosberg, Director

I suppose I was predisposed early on to starting an art song festival. I played Schubert’s wonderful, expansive D Major Sonata, D. 850, in high school and was familiar with the more famous Schubert songs before I arrived at Peabody for my undergrad.  It was there that I met baritone Ryan de Ryke and his mentor, the great John Shirley-Quirk... 

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