Blue Griffin recording presents a three-cd set of songs by acclaimed pianist and composer Logan Skelton, celebrating the writings of three American artists: Walter Anderson, George Ohr and Emily Dickinson.
Online PR News – 09-September-2013 – Lansing, MI – A new set of three CDs from Blue Griffin Recording offers the songs of American pianist/composer Logan Skelton, who sets to music the literary works of American artists such as Walter Anderson, George Ohr and Emily Dickinson, dedicating an album to each. An hommage to American poetry and the American artist in general, the three CDs feature baritone Stephen Lusmann and soprano Jennifer Goltz, with the composer himself at the piano.
Logan Skelton’s career as a pianist, teacher and composer has received much international acclaim. Prolific in his work, Skelton has produced well over a hundred songs, possessing a special affinity for the genre. His songs combine highly idiomatic vocal and piano writing with an unusual sensitivity to text. As Martin Katz, the great song accompanist, states, “Writing songs well requires many talents, and Skelton seems to possess them all. He has insight which allows him to get into the psyche of the mind behind the words… a superb and complete songwriter.” Notably, the song cycle included in this set – Anderson Songs: The Islander, received the Music Composition Award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters.
Each CD offers complete song-cycles dedicated to and based on the literary works of specific American artists. As Skelton writes: “Over the years I have found inspiration in… the lives of unusual, often intensely private artists. What seems to fire my imagination most is the private work they do … so much of it behind closed doors.” He goes on to say: “In my song cycles, I try to bring the authors to life. Through the expressive language of music and song, I invite you to peer with me into these magical and incandescent worlds, and into the lives of the individuals who made them.”
The three CDs are:
Walter Anderson: “The Islander” – Commissioned by the Walter Anderson Museum of Art as a contribution toward the centennial celebrating of 2003, the ANDERSON SONGS cycle pays tribute to an eccentric, reclusive American artist who was a brilliant painter, writer and naturalist. The texts used for ANDERSON SONGS come from journal entries as well as various fragments Anderson wrote during his extended sojourns on Horn Island off the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In addition to art songs, the cycle includes four spoken narrations over evocative piano writing that convey Anderson’s highly personal and quasi-religious purity of spirit. Infused with references to nature and Anderson’s deep understanding of it, the songs are paeans to flowers, animals and the unity underlying all of life. The CD includes additionally a smaller collection of songs, Skelton Songs: “Into Deep Waters,” movingly set to poetry of Skelton’s own father, Zan Skelton.
George Ohr: “The Mad Potter” – Another eccentric genius from the American South, Ohr referred to himself as “The Mad Potter of Biloxi.” A revolutionary ceramic artist, the likes of which the world had never before seen, Ohr was underappreciated in his own time, and a visionary artist in the truest sense of the word. The cycle includes humorous songs that evoke early 20th century America as well as Ohr’s larger-than-life, self-promoting personality (complete with a two foot long moustache, no less), lyric art songs that express his profound inner life as an artist, as well as solo piano interludes which represent the revolutionary, experimental and creative side of Ohr’s personality. The texts used for OHR SONGS come from various signs made by Ohr, writings he attached to photographs and other literary creations by the self-proclaimed “Mud Wizard.” The CD also includes a smaller cycle, Clyburn Songs: “A Kind of Weather,” set to colorful poetry of New Orleans native, Marshall Clyburn.
Emily Dickinson: “An Intimate Nature,” “The Unknown Peninsula” – Dedicated to the words of one of America’s greatest poets, Skelton’s DICKINSON SONGS divides into two books. The first set tells the story of a life progressing from the young innocence and excitement of exotic romance, to the darker and more troubled tones that follow. The second set is more reflective, as Dickinson looks back on her earlier relationship, retreating into an inner world in which nature itself becomes her most intimate and enduring companion. In the service of Dickinson’s poetry, Skelton here achieves an extraordinary concentration of expression. The songs, almost religious in their intensity, treat Dickinson’s poetry with reverence, each word set like glistening drops of precious metal. Skelton writes about his relationship with Dickinson’s work: “It has never ceased to amaze me how such a vast and powerful world of expression can be contained within the modest bounds of her poetic forms.”
The CDs were recorded at Blue Griffin’s Studio The Ballroom in Lansing, MI, and produced and engineered by Sergei Kvitko. It is available at www.BlueGriffin.com, iTunes, Amazon, as well as other online and physical retail outlets.
Logan Skelton, pianist/composer
Logan Skelton is a much sought after pianist, teacher and composer whose work has received international critical acclaim. He has concertized widely in the United States, Europe and Asia and has been featured on many public radio and television stations including NPR’s “Audiophile Audition,” “Performance Today,” “All Things Considered,” and “Morning Edition,” as well as on radio in China, and national television in Romania. To date he has recorded thirteen discs for Centaur, Albany, Blue Griffin, and Crystal Records in addition to performing on two pianos with composer/pianist William Bolcom on a disc for Naxos Records. As a composer he has a special affinity for art song, having composed well over a hundred songs, including numerous song cycles. Critics have noted the close fusion of text and music in Skelton's songs, how words are “…illuminated with brilliance and deep emotional power” AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE. Others have found “…joy-a nigh unto ecstatic joy…in word and sound-play” DIAL M FOR MUSICOLOGY. His works have been performed throughout the world by a variety of musicians in settings such as Carnegie Recital Hall and Merkin Concert Hall in New York City, Tblisi in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, Australia, Sorrento, Italy, as well as numerous cities throughout the United States including Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Tampa, New Orleans, Lincoln, Houston, Detroit, and many others. He composed the required work for the 1993 New Orleans International Piano Competition. His song cycle Anderson Songs: The islander, was a recipient of the Music Composition Award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. He is a regular guest artist at prestigious music festivals such as Gina Bachauer, Eastman, Tunghai, MTNA National Convention, Chautauqua Institution, New Orleans, EPTA World, American Romanian, Eastern, Indiana University, Amalfi Coast, Hilton Head Island, Poland International, and Prague International Piano Masterclasses. A devoted teacher, Skelton’s students and former students are prize winners in international competitions, and hold positions of prominence in music schools and conservatories throughout the world. He has served on the faculties of Manhattan School of Music, Missouri State University, and is currently Professor of Piano and Director of Doctoral Studies in Piano Performance at the University of Michigan.
Jennifer Goltz, soprano
Soprano Jennifer Goltz specializes in the performance of new music and art song. She is a founding member of the new music ensemble Brave New Works, performing regularly across the country including such works as Leslie Bassett’s Pierrot songs, William Bolcom’s Briefly it Enters, George Crumb’s madrigals, and Bright Sheng’s Three Chinese love songs, as well as numerous premieres, including Andrew Mead’s let the Air Circulate and far Cry, Robert Morris’s Channing fragments, and The Black sword of sappho by Forrest Pierce. In 2013 she premiered a monodrama for solo soprano by John Berners and a new opera by Kamran Ince. Her collaboration with composer-pianist Logan Skelton spans more than a decade, two continents, and seven song cycles. She performed Luciano Berio’s Circles with Klangforum Wien, at the invitation of the composer, at the Salzburg Music Festival’s Boulez and Berio Celebration. With French cabaret specialist Stephen Whiting she has given lecture recitals on early cabaret, most recently at the Chicago Humanities Festival. In recent years, Ms. Goltz has become known for her sensitive and elegant Mozart interpretations, including appearances as soprano soloist for the mass in C minor, Coronation mass, and requiem at the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt, Austria and Stephansdom in Vienna. She has recorded for Albany, Centaur, Blue Griffin and MSR Classics, was hailed by Gramophone magazine as “captivating” and “brilliant.... a voice full of subtle allure and sprightly energy.” Ms. Goltz holds Master’s degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Theory and a Ph.D. in Music Theory from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Stephen Lusmann, baritone
During the course of his rich operatic career, baritone Stephen Lusmann has sung over forty leading roles with major opera houses including the Oper der Stadt Bonn, Opera de Monte Carlo, Stadttheater Luzern, Washington National Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Boston Lyric Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Florentine Opera, Opera Carolina, Opera Columbus, Anchorage Opera, Utah Opera, Opera Birmingham, Connecticut Grand Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Dayton Opera, Artpark, and tours with the New York City Opera. He has sung with important conductors and directors including Leonard Slatkin, Christopher Keene, Bertrand de Billy, Franco Zefferelli, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Gian Carlo del Monaco. As an active concert soloist he has performed at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, the Anchorage Festival of Music, Chautauqua Institute, Hill Auditorium, the Music Festival of Pettoranello, Italy, the Romanian/American Music Festival in Timisoara, Romania, the Amalfi Coast Music Festival and with numerous symphony orchestras including the Buffalo Philharmonic, Sinfonieorchester Luzern, West Virginia Symphony, Little Orchestra Society of New York, Canton Symphony, and Shreveport Symphony. His concert repertoire includes Brahms’ Ein deutsches requiem, Beethoven’s ninth symphony, Dvorak’s stabat mater, Handel’s messiah, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Vaughn Williams’ sea symphony, Mahler’s rückert lieder, the Durufle requiem and numerous Bach Cantatas, Passions, and the B minor mass. On recording Mr. Lusmann may be heard in Richard Strauss’ opera der friedenstag recorded at Carnegie Hall on the Koch International label, Operngala recorded at the Konzerthaus Luzern, Switzerland on Tonstudio AMOS, and on E.E. Cummings: An American Circus, songs by Logan Skelton recorded on the Centaur Records label. Stephen Lusmann is Associate Professor of Voice at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance and is also the Fort Worth Opera Studio voice teacher and a member of the voice faculty at the Seagle Music Colony. His students are having great success performing professionally in opera, concert, musical theater, and young artist programs. They are also winning prestigious international vocal competitions and teaching in elementary, secondary and higher education.