The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 29, 2003

(Photo: Pianists Michael Barrett, left, and Steven Blier, right, co-artistic directors of the New York Festival of Song)

'At Harlem's Height' Celebrates Harlem Renaissance In Song Feb. 19

The New York Festival of Song will present "At Harlem's Height," a celebration of the vocal music of the Harlem Renaissance, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19 in the University of Iowa Clapp Recital Hall, presented by Hancher Auditorium. The event is part of the celebration of Black History Month at the UI.

Every once in a while the fortuitous confluence of personalities, talents, energy and ideas explodes into a golden era of culture in some location. It happened in Florence in the 15th century, in Vienna at the end of the 18th and 19th centuries, and in Paris around the turn of the 20th century. And it happened in the Harlem neighborhood from the end of World War I through the early 1930s, when a flowering of art, music, literature and entertainment gave New York City's black community a feeling of a mythic time.

In the Harlem Renaissance the children and grandchildren of slaves, barely a half-century after emancipation, helped awaken the world to the creative and intellectual power of black America.

The "At Harlem's Height" concert features music of Eubie Blake, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Harry T. Burleigh and William Grant Still, with lyrics drawn from Langston Hughes, Andy Razaf and many others who led the Harlem Renaissance.

A review in the New York Times saw the production as much richer than a concert: "The New York Festival of Song brought such a wealth of character and information to 'At Harlem's Height' . . . that the lingering impression afterward was of having seen a work of theater."

The New York Festival of Song was founded in 1988 by its co-artistic directors, pianists Michael Barrett and Steven Blier. With a far-ranging repertoire of art songs, concert works and theater pieces, its thematic recitals and recordings have included programs from Brahms to the Beatles, from Russian art song to Argentine tangos, from 16th-century lute songs to new music.

Barrett and Blier assemble groups of top-notch singers appropriate to each project. The "At Harlem's Height" concert will feature tenor Darius de Haas, soprano Dana Hanchard and baritone James Martin.

A New York Times article described the New York Festival of Song as an organization that "has luxuriated in the richness of the song recital for 15 years now, shrugging off stuffy conventions and charming audiences with programs that combine meticulous research with an infectious strain of vocal hedonism."

In addition to co-founding and co-directing the New York Festival of Song, Michael Barrett is the co-founder and artistic director of the Moab Music Festival in Utah. A protege of Leonard Bernstein, he has been the conductor of major orchestras in the symphonic, operatic and dance repertoire. From 1994 to 1997 he was the director of the Tisch Center for the Arts, and he is also music adviser to the Leonard Bernstein Estate.

A faculty member of the Juilliard School, Steven Blier co-hosts the New York Festival of Song radio broadcasts on WQXR in New York City. In his career as an accompanist and vocal coach he has partnered with prominent artists including Frederica von Stade, Jessye Norman, Dwayne Croft, Roberta Peters and Cecilia Bartoli.

The sponsor of the New York Festival of Song concert is Scheels All Sports, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for "At Harlem's Height" are $30; UI student $12; senior citizen $24; youth $15.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to 319-353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website:

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail:

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,

PHOTOS are available at