Performers dominate the spotlight in the contemporary classical-music world; composers labor in relative obscurity. Many performers recognize this situation and feel they should reduce the imbalance. This Sunday, the performers who manage the Lyric Fest song series will devote an entire program to the songs of Lyric Fest’s current composer-in-residence, Philadelphian Benjamin C.S. Boyle.
Lyric Fest is directed by two of the art song enthusiasts who founded it 15 years ago: mezzo Suzanne DuPlantis and pianist Laura Ward. Boyle is a widely performed young composer whose output includes symphonies, operas, and chamber music; but DuPlantis and Ward feel he has a “special affinity” for poetry and songs.
The world premiere on the program will be Spirits in Bondage, a new song cycle that adds music to the love poems of C.S. Lewis, the British writer who created the Chronicles of Narnia series. The other songs include musical settings of texts by William Shakespeare, John Donne, Charles Baudelaire, and Edith Wharton. The themes running through his songs, Boyle says, are “beauty gained and lost, love in times of war or conflict, and human striving for transcendence.” The vocal trio for the occasion will be headlined by Sarah Shafer, a soprano who attracts Philadelphia audiences whenever her name appears on a program.
Lyric Fest will present Art Songs of Benjamin C.S. Boyle on Sunday, December 3, at 3pm at the Academy of Vocal Arts, 1920 Spruce Street, Philadelphia. Tickets are $25 online and $30 at the door (students $10).