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Published: Thursday, 6/21/2012

Art Song Festival at UT open to students, public

BY SALLY VALLONGO
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Denise Ritter Bernardini is founder of the Art Song Festival and Workshops. Denise Ritter Bernardini is founder of the Art Song Festival and Workshops.
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Three years ago, soprano Denise Ritter Bernardini organized what she calls an art song festival -- an intensive week of study, practice, coaching, and performance designed to help college-level classical singers advance their careers.

At the time, she was teaching music at Grace College, a small evangelical Christian college and seminary in Warsaw, Ind., due west of Fort Wayne.

"The students had no clue what recitaling is," Ritter Bernardini explained recently, turning the noun for formal musical performances into a verb, and revealing her deep devotion to the formative practice.

With six students and three faculty, the experiment worked. Ritter Bernardini, who has a doctorate in cabaret performance from the University of Oklahoma, where she studied with Marilyn Horne, started planning for the next year.

Unfortunately for the festival and its students, Grace College shifted direction and eliminated its music program. So, for 2010, Ritter Bernardini, a spirited self-starter and self-proclaimed "musical entrepreneur," had to take her show on the road.

She wound up in a church in Fort Wayne, where the festival continued for two seasons, growing and developing.

Then, a new opportunity in Toledo sparked one more move.

Now in its fourth season -- but first here -- the Art Song Festival and Workshops has landed at the University of Toledo, part of the package Ritter Bernardini brought with her when she joined the College of Visual and Performing arts last fall as assistant professor.

The event starts Monday and wraps up July 1.

Toledoans can share in some of the experiences of the 24 enrolled students, who will live on campus and study and sing in the Center for Performing Arts.

This year's staff comprises 11 experts who represent various musical disciplines. The roster includes Nigel Foster of the Royal Academy of Music, a Baroque specialist; diction expert Timothy Cheek from the University of Michigan; collaborative pianist Clara Cheng, and UT faculty including musicologist Christopher Williams and pianist Michael Boyd.

Also on the faculty will be Don Bernardini, an internationally renowned operatic tenor whom Ritter Bernardini met when he was a visiting artist at University of Oklahoma and later married.

At 7 p.m. each evening in the CVA's Recital Hall, students and faculty will be recitaling in a series of clever themed programs inspired by this year's festival theme, technology in text and musical aspects of song. Opening the week Monday will be a solo recital by Annie Gill, winner of the festival's student competition. Williams will discuss song and technology.

On Tuesday, Schubert's beloved song cycle "Die Schone Mullerin" (The Old Mill) will be sung by 10 singers with accompaniment by four pianists. Other programs will feature female students singing music inspired by machines -- spinning wheels, carousels, boats, and more, and an all-British program.

The June 30 program will include music by UT composer Lee Heritage and a work inspired by Craigslist. The closing program will be an all-sing with each student performing personal favorites.

Tickets for individual recitals are $8 at the door, with a full week pass for $35. Daily 4 p.m. master classes also are open to the public. A full pass for $50 covers all recitals and the master classes.

Information: www.artsongfestival.com.

Musical events at Olander Park in Sylvania begin today, with Toest, a fund-raiser for the Toledo Ballet, on the big deck of the Nederlander Shelter overlooking the pond. On hand will be spirits, appetizers, and performances by ballet school students from 6:30-9 p.m.. Tickets at the door are $35.

The Toledo Polish American Concert Band will be tuned and ready to play at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the same scenic spot. Concerts are free to park members and $3 per car. In case of rain, the show will go on inside.

Another outdoor concert is set for Wednesday, when the 122nd Ohio National Guard Band will perform at 7:30 p.m. in Riverside Park, Findlay. On Sunday, hear the North Coast Concert Band in a 7 p.m. show at Birchard Park in Fremont.

Items for News of Music should be sent to svallongo@theblade.com at least two weeks ahead of the event.



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