Stephen Swanson, professor of voice at the University of Iowa, will present a guest recital at Northwestern College on Wednesday, Nov. 3, at 7:30 p.m. in Christ Chapel. The concert, entitled Animal Songs, is free, and the public is invited to attend.
Swanson is a baritone concert and opera singer, a teacher, and a stage director for opera. He earned degrees from North Park College and Northwestern University and interned with the International Opera Studio of the Zurich Opera. Swanson has performed in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands and has played 91 different roles in operas, operettas and musicals. His recital in 2008 with David Gompper was released to international critical acclaim by Albany Records, and, in 1995, Swanson recorded Victor Ullmann’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis.
David Gompper, who will accompany Swanson, is a pianist, conductor and composer. He serves as a professor of composition and director of the Center for New Music at the University of Iowa. In 2009, Gompper received an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City. His compositions are heard throughout the United States and Europe.
The concert will open with Maurice Ravel’s Histoires naturelles, which interprets five animal poems. In order to create a caricature of each animal, Ravel called for a conversational effect in the voice. French author Jules Renard, who wrote the poems on which the songs are based, said he hoped these miniature stories would “make the animals smile.” The concert will include selections from German composer Max Reger’s Schlichte Weisen, op. 76. This opus is comprised of 60 songs in six sets, including a set entitled From the World of Children and Virgin’s Slumber Song.
The concert will also include selections from Donald Swann and Michael Flander’s The Bestiary of Flanders and Swann. Flander and Swann were classmates at Oxford who made up funny songs and performed them for friends at parties. Their song about a hippopotamus was so popular they created an entire bestiary. The concert will close with The Animals, written by Gompper in 2009 and dedicated to Swanson. The piece includes sections entitled American Buffalo, Polar Bear, Camel and Peacock.