Hodgson School faculty series recital explores 100 years of American art song

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Despy Karlas Professor of Piano Martha Thomas and associate professor of voice Stephanie Tingler will examine a century of art song in America for the Hugh Hodgson Faculty Series' March recital in Ramsey Concert Hall on Thursday, March 23, at 8 p.m.

Thomas and Tingler’s UGA performance, titled “Made in America: An Evening of Art Song,” is the culmination of a four-city tour the duo began in January and is, in fact, something of a sequel to a previous recital.

“We almost called it ‘Made In America 2.0,’” said Tingler. “The program is similar to the first one we presented in 2013, a brief overview of American art song featuring composers who were primarily pianists.”

Another common theme runs through the program—female composers. Thomas and Tingler knew the recital would happen in March, Women’s History Month, so they made an effort to feature women composers in the program. Over half of the composers on the program are female.

The program is a fairly comprehensive survey of American art song, with connections to so many familiar styles, regions and time periods that listeners are likely to find their own unique, personal connections to the music. The performers are no exception to this. 

Libby Larsen’s “Margaret Songs”—from Larsen’s “Eric Hermannson's Soul,” which was based on a Cather short story—calls back to Tingler’s graduate studies in Cincinnati, when she first came to learn of Willa Cather.

John Jacob Niles was another favorite from her time in Cincinnati, but her connections to Niles’ folk music have roots that stretch far into Tingler’s past.

“As a child, I was surrounded by amateur musicians in my immediate family,” said Tingler. “I had uncles who would play guitar, banjo, fiddle and piano, would take a break, and switch instruments.”

In fact, some of the folk song on this program falls so well in line with Tingler’s past, she calls it “a mini-history of [her] family.” 

Celius Dougherty’s “Come All You Fair and Tender Maidens” was collected by English musicologist Cecil Sharp in Virginia in the early 20th century. After researching Dougherty, Tingler learned that the composer’s later career was spent arranging and collecting folk tunes, including “Maidens,” which he discovered in Kentucky.

“My ancestors settled in Virginia, and later moved into Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap,” said Tingler. “How cool is that?”

This kind of historical context, so important to a program as expansive as Thomas and Tingler’s, is provided in the recital notes by a Hodgson School colleague of the duo: Kevin Kelly, supervisor of the Hodgson School’s music library.

“He has a great love for American music, its history, development and trends,” said Tingler. “He also wrote the liner notes for our upcoming compact disc, ‘American Art Songs and Their Poetry,’ which is being produced by Centaur Records and should be available shortly.”

Tickets to the concert are $12 each or $6 with a UGA student ID and can be purchased at pac.uga.edu or the PAC box office. Those unable to attend can watch the concert live on the Hodgson School’s website: music.uga.edu/streaming.

The UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music sponsors more than 350 performances each year. To view the performance calendar, subscribe to the weekly email concert listing, and to learn more about the School of Music, go to music.uga.edu.