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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 8, 2004

Swanson, Gompper Respond To War In Oct. 24 UI Concert

Baritone Stephen Swanson will sing the world premiere of "Mrs. Bixby's Sons" by his University of Iowa faculty colleague David Gompper -- who is also the accompanying pianist -- as part of a program they will present together of songs written during, or in reaction to war, at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Their recital will be free and open to the public. Flutist Tamara Thweatt will perform on one song. Swanson, Gompper and Thweatt are all members of the UI School of Music faculty.

The recital program, ranging from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" to satirical anti-war songs by comic Tom Lehrer -- and with plenty of variety in between -- represents a kind of personal exploration by Swanson. He will be entering unusual territory for a classically trained baritone, including cabaret songs and arrangements of popular music by Bob Dylan, among others. Swanson is also exploring a topic that has great personal meaning for him.

"This recital is very different from anything that I have attempted before," he said. "The songs I have chosen are primarily text-driven and, with the exception of the Ives settings and the closing song David Gompper wrote for this occasion, would not come under the category of 'art songs.' Most of the songs in the second half are cabaret or folk songs, and I realize that my performing them poses special challenges for a classically trained singer. Nevertheless, events in my personal life and in our national life have driven me to present this program.

"First of all, my son Lars has chosen a career in Air Force Special Operations. I do not oppose his career choice, but now that it is my child that will be in the very real position of dying in the service of his country, I see our government's use of military power in a very personal way.

"Second, I was very moved by my sister-in-law's stories of how her husband, an Air Force nose gunner in World War II, suffered recurring nightmares often weeping in his sleep or waking up screaming throughout the 50 years of his life after leaving the military.

"Third, the controversy over the publishing of pictures of flag-draped coffins being prepared for transportation back to the United States from Iraq and my disagreement with our official government policy that the loss of these young men and women is a private family affair with no recognition of a common national and societal loss."

Swanson's complete program will be:

-- "Battle Hymn of the Republic" by John William Steffe;

-- "Three Songs of the War" by Charles Ives;

-- "Voices from World War II" by Gene Scheer, a cycle that covers a wide range of personal experiences including "The German U-Boat Captain (Merchant Marine Ship, Gulf of Oman)" and "Omaha Beach (Normandy)";

-- "So Long, Mom (A Song for World War III)" by Tom Lehrer'

-- "The Ostrich" by Donald Swann;

-- "The Wild West Is Where I Want to Be" by Tom Lehrer;

-- "Merry Little Minute" by Sheldon Harnick;

-- "And the Band Played 'Waltzing Matilda'" by Eric Bogle, arranged for piano by Gompper;

-- "Masters of War" by Bob Dylan, arranged for piano by Gompper;

-- "Jimmy Newman" by Tom Paxton, arranged for piano by Gompper; and

-- the world premiere of Gompper's "Mrs. Bixby's Sons."

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 91 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 took part in the Viktor Ullman-Projekt 1998, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of a composer who died in the Nazi death camps. Swanson sang major roles in Ullman's operas "Der zerbrochene Krug" and "Der Kaiser von Atlantis" at performances in Europe, at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and at the Martyr's Museum in Los Angeles.

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 presented solo recitals, appeared in and directed UI Opera Theater productions, and performed with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City.

Gompper joined the music theory and composition faculty of the UI School of Music in 1991. He 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 "Hommage a W. A." and "Shades of Love" were recently premiered at the Wigmore Hall in London. The second movement of his violin concerto was premiered in Moscow, and his "An Elm We Lost" on poems by Marvin Bell premiered in Cedar Falls.

Gompper received a Fulbright Award for the 2002-03 academic year, when he taught at the Moscow Conservatory and performed and lectured throughout Russia. He works with Viennese violinist Wolfgang David, whose CD "Finnegan's Wake" (Albany Records) was just released. Next month they will embark on concert tour to Germany and Moscow, and to record a second CD of violin and piano music at the Gnessin Institute.

Thweatt joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in the fall of 2003. She was a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 2000-2002, following the completion of her doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1999. A busy orchestral musician, she has also performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and many regional ensembles.

Prior to coming to Iowa, Thweatt served on the faculties of Concordia College in Ann Arbor and the Interlochen Arts Camp. She has performed the Vivaldi C Major Piccolo Concerto with the Pontiac Oakland Symphony and the C.P.E. Bach Flute Concerto in A Major with the Bach Sinfonia. She also enjoys chamber music of all styles and periods, and has performed George Crumb's "Vox Balaenae" (The voice of the whale) at Interlochen.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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