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Release: Immediate

UI School of Music presents an evening of music by Sondheim as a scholarship benefit

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Center for New Music and faculty from the UI School of Music will present "Stephen Sondheim: A Musical Celebration," featuring performances of selected songs by the composer/lyricist of some of the most sophisticated Broadway shows of the past four decades at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 1 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The performance will be a benefit for School of Music scholarships.

Singers for the concert will be Katherine Eberle, Rachel Joselson, John Muriello and Stephen Swanson, all voice teachers at the School of Music. Pianists and arrangers will be David Gompper, director of the Center for New Music, and Thomas Christensen, an associate professor of music theory at the UI.

In addition to selected pieces by Sondheim, the concert will feature a brand-new song written in Sondheim's style by Gompper, with lyrics by poet and Writers' Workshop faculty member Marvin Bell.

Known for the wit, intellectualism and bittersweet irony of his texts, Sondheim has shown an uncanny ability to recreate the compositional styles of the classic American musicals by composers such as Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin, as well as a variety of more contemporary musical styles.

Over the years and a series of musicals, he has developed a large and committed following. While some of his shows -- particularly "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" in 1962 and "A Little Night Music" in 1973 -- have been commercial successes, others have become virtual cult classics, including "Follies," the Kabuki-musical "Pacific Overtures" and "Assassins."

For the April 1 concert, the School of Music faculty performers have selected songs, duos and ensemble numbers from a variety of Sondheim's shows. It includes both familiar songs, including "Move On" from "Sunday in the Park with George" and "No One is Alone" from "Into the Woods," as well as numbers that are virtually unknown, including "What More Do I Need" from the unproduced 1955 musical "Saturday Night"; "Uptown Downtown," which was cut from "Follies"; and "I Remember" from "Evening Primrose," Sondheim's 1966 foray into television.

Other songs numbers will be familiar to Sondheim's fans, including the hilarious "Invitation and Instructions to the Audience" adapted by Sondheim from Aristophanes' "The Frogs"; "Broadway Baby" from "Follies"; the dead-on Andrews Sisters parody "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" and "Being Alive" from "Company"; and "It Would Have Been Wonderful" and the "Night Waltz" from "A Little Night Music."

"You're Not Dead Yet," Gompper and Bell's homage to Sondheim, resulted from a class on words and music that they teach together. Designed to give poets and composers a chance to learn to collaborate, the "Words and Music" class was given the challenging assignment to create a piece in the style of Gershwin or Sondheim.

"Since we did not deem ourselves exempt," Gompper explains, "I asked Marvin for words and he asked on what subject. We began talking about parents, grandparents, nursing homes, the trials of growing old and our mortality. This song was the result."

Bell's poetry and essays have been widely anthologized for three decades, and he is highly regarded as a reader, lecturer and teacher. Bell's volumes of poetry include "Iris of Creation," "A Probable Volume of Dreams" and "Stars Which See, Stars Which Do Not See." His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, Antaeus, and many other periodicals and journals.

Among other honors, Bell has held senior Fulbright appointments in Australia and Yugoslavia. He has been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. He has received American Academy of Arts and Letters' Award in Literature.

Gompper joined the music theory and composition faculty of the UI School of Music in 1991. His teaching experience includes two years at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka and a faculty position at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Gompper has received numerous awards for his academic and musical achievements, including the Charles E. Ives Prize for composition from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and a Composers Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His "Transitus" was premiered at Carnegie Hall and his "Flip" was premiered by the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Eberle has performed internationally in opera, concert and solo recitals. She has performed with the opera theater of Lille, France, the Academy of the West, the Carmel Bach Festival, the Aspen Festival Opera Theatre, the American Institute of Music Studies in Graz, Austria, and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.

Her solo compact disc of songs of women composers, "From a Woman's Perspective," has been issued by Albany Records on the Vienna Modern Masters Label. She was also soloist on a CD of the Mozart "Requiem" released by the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Eberle made her New York debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in 1993. In 1994 and '95 she toured as a musical ambassador for the United States Information Agency, performing in South American and Korea.

Before joining the School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997, Joselson spent more than 10 years in Europe performing operatic roles in guest appearances and engagements at theaters in Darmstadt, Hamburg, Essen and Basel. As guest she performed as soloist with opera companies and orchestras in Aachen, Barcelona, Berlin, Bilbao, Bonn, Braunschweig, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Essen, Brussels, Kiel, Gelsenkirchen, St. Gallen, Trier, and New Brunswick. For the 1995-96 season, she had her first engagement at the Metropolitan Opera, and was engaged by London's Covent Garden for their 1992 Japan tour. This coming season she will debut with Madison Opera.

A singer whose work has ranged from opera and operetta to concert and musical theater, Muriello joined the UI School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997. His work in operetta and musical theater has been extensive. He has most recently performed in the off-Broadway production of "Terra Incognita" by Roberto Sierra and as Alidoro in Rossini's "La Cenerentola" (Cinderella) with Skylight Opera Theatre in Milwaukee. He also appeared as Miss Sylvia Bills with the satirical La Gran Scena Opera di New York on tour in Australia and Germany.

Muriello has performed operatic and musical theater roles with Opera Carolina, the Banff Centre in Canada, L'Opera Francais of New York, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Ohio Light Opera, Seaside Music Theater and the Southeastern Savoyards of Atlanta. This roles have ranged from Guglielmo in Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" to Jupiter in Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld" to Voltaire in Bernstein's "Candide."

Swanson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in 1994. For nearly 20 years before that date he had an active operatic career in Europe. During that time his repertoire grew to more than 70 roles in opera, operetta and musicals. He has sung on German, Austrian and Dutch radio broadcasts and has been a featured soloist in European festivals including the Berliner Festwochen, the Days of Contemporary Music in Dresden and the Festa Musica Pro in Assisi, Italy.

Swanson has also had an extensive career as a concert singer, appearing as featured soloist with many U.S. orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony under Sir Georg Solti, Raphael Fruehbeck de Burgos and Margaret Hillis. He has recorded Mendelssohn's "St. Paul" and Ullmann's "Der Kaiser von Atlantis." Since coming to Iowa City, he has appeared in UI Opera Theater productions and performances of the Chamber Singers of Iowa City.

Christensen teaches music theory at the School of Music. He holds graduate degrees from Yale and the University of Michigan. Before coming to Iowa, he taught at Vassar College and the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of an award-winning book on the French composer and music theorist Jean-Philippe Rameau, a recent book on "Aesthetics and the Art of Musical Composition in the German Enlightenment," and more than 20 other articles on music theory, history and aesthetics.

Although his primary area of research has been historical music theory and aesthetics, Christensen has been a life-long devotee of musical theater. He has served as musical director, accompanist or composer for more than 20 musicals since he was an undergraduate student at Boston University and was musical director of several professional theater companies before he entered graduate school.

Tickets to "Stephen Sondheim: A Musical Celebration" will be $8 ($5 for students, youth and seniors) and may be purchased at the door before the performance.