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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 31, 2007

William Blake celebration to include concert, reading, exhibit and cake

In November the University of Iowa School of Music, the Department of English, the School of Art and Art History and UI Libraries will celebrate the 250th birthday of the visionary English poet and printmaker William Blake, who was born Nov. 28, 1757.

Free events will include a concert of musical settings of Blake's poetry, an exhibit of illustrated books, a reading of favorite Blake poems and a birthday party:

-- For approximately four months, from Nov. 12 through February, the UI Main Library will present "William Blake at 250," an exhibition focused on Blake's illustrated books, in the library's North Lobby.

-- At 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in Clapp Recital Hall, faculty and students from the UI School of Music will present a celebratory concert of musical settings of Blake's poetry. The concert will be followed by a reception with the performers and organizers of the Blake celebration.

-- At noon on Wednesday, Nov. 28 -- Blake's actual birthday -- the library will host a birthday party, with cake.

-- And at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 28, Prairie Lights bookstore will host a celebration of the release of the revised Norton Critical Edition of "Blake's Poetry and Designs," edited by Mary Lynn Johnson (Grant), special assistant emerita from the UI President's Office, and John E. Grant, UI professor emeritus of English. For the event, faculty from UI writing programs and the English department will read their favorite Blake poems.

The celebration grew out of early discussions among several UI faculty and staff members about the Blake anniversary. Mary Lynn Grant explained: "The idea began in conversations I had with Eric Gidal and Judith Pascoe in English, Dorothy Johnson in Art and Art History, and Sid Huttner in the libraries' Special Collections."

The exhibition at the UI Library will feature handmade facsimiles of Blake's illuminated books, fine reproductions of his illustrations of Milton and other poets, and first editions of books with his commercial engravings.

John and Mary Lynn Grant, Gidal, and Pascoe from the English department are curators of the exhibition, which will be coordinated by Gregory Prickman from UI Libraries.

The concert was organized by Katherine Eberle from the voice area of the UI School of Music. Performers will be Eberle, mezzo-soprano; John Muriello, baritone; Stephen Swanson, baritone; Kelsey Williams, soprano; Lynn Maxfield, tenor; Mark Runkles, oboe; and Rene Lecuona, piano. Eberle, Muriello, Swanson and Lecuona are members of the UI faculty; Williams, Maxfield and Runkles are students in the School of Music.

The program for the concert will include songs both well known to singers and obscure. As Eberle explained, a lot of the research turning up the songs was done by Marilyn Swanson, wife of baritone Stephen Swanson and a staff member of the UI Center for Disabilities and Development.

"Marilyn Swanson graciously searched the School of Music Library for every possible song settings of the poetry of Blake for low voice," Eberle explained. "She had the idea of us performing a group of songs on the poem 'The Lamb,' which has been set to music by several composers.

"Thanks to Marilyn we will have a very unique evening of songs which have not been frequently heard by Iowa City audiences. We also invited student performers to join us who will add their artistry to the faculty presentations. This collaboration with Rene Lecuona at the piano will be a treat to the ear!"

The complete program for the concert will comprise the following songs:

-- "Dream Valley," "The Wild Flower's Song" and "Daybreak" by Roger Quilter;

-- "Cradle Song," "Memory" and "The Lamb" by Theodore Chanler;

-- "Cradle Song" by Gustav Holst;

--  "Leave, O Leave Me to My Sorrows" from "An Island in the Moon" by Nicolas Flagello;

-- "In a Myrtle Shade" by Charles T. Griffes;

-- "The Divine Image," "Tiger! Tiger!" and "The Land of Dreams" by Virgil Thomson;

-- "Infant Joy," "The Piper," "The Shepherd" and "The Lamb" by Ralph Vaughn Williams;

-- "The Lamb" by Lee Hoiby;

-- "Little Lamb" by Robert Lindsey Nassif; and

-- "Jerusalem" by Hubert Parry.

UI faculty members participating in the Nov. 28 reading at Prairie Lights bookstore will include Mary Ruefle and John D'Agata from the Nonfiction Writing Program; Eric Gidal from the Department of English; Dean Young from the Writers' Workshop; and John and Mary Lynn Grant. Information about the Norton Critical Edition of Blake's works can be found at

Mary Lynn Johnson (Grant) is co-author of "Blake's 'Four Zoas': The Design of a Dream" (1978) and has contributed essays to the collections "Historicising Blake" (1994), "The Cambridge Companion to William Blake" (2003), and "Women Reading William Blake" (2007).

John E. Grant is co-editor and contributor to "Blake's Visionary Forms Dramatic" (1970) and "William Blake's Designs for Young's Night Thoughts" (1980), and is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters on Blake.

Gidal is author of "Poetic Exhibitions: Romantic Aesthetics and the Pleasures of the British Museum" (Bucknell University Press, 2001) and articles on eighteenth-century and Romantic period literature and culture. Read more on his Web page, at

Eberle joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in 1990 after five years of teaching at the University of Georgia. A specialist in art song, oratorio, chamber music and opera, she has performed in the United States and abroad, including more than 80 engagements with orchestras, choral organizations, and chamber music groups. For more information see or

Since joining the UI faculty in 1990, Lecuona has performed solo and chamber music throughout the United States and South America, in Mexico and in the Caribbean. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in Weill Recital Hall in 1993 with her UI faculty colleague mezzo-soprano Katherine Eberle and has also performed in the Goodman Hall at Lincoln Center with soprano Rachel Joselson, also from the UI faculty. For more information see

A singer whose work ranges from opera and operetta to concert and musical theater, Muriello joined the UI School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997. He has performed operatic and musical theater roles with Opera Carolina, the Banff Centre in Canada, L'Opera Francais of New York, Skylight Opera Theater, Ohio Light Opera and the Southeastern Savoyards of Atlanta, as well as singing numerous roles with the UI Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater. For more information see

Swanson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in 1994 after an extensive European operatic career that encompassed 91 roles in opera, operetta and musicals. He has sung on German, Austrian and Dutch radio broadcasts and has been a featured soloist in numerous European festivals. For more information, see

Maxfield is a second-year graduate student pursuing a master's degree in voice performance. A 2004 graduate of Albertson College of Idaho, he will appear in upcoming productions of Mozart's "Die Zauberflöte" and Donizetti's "Viva La Mama" with the UI Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater.

Williams is a senior with a major in vocal performance with a minor in German. She is active in the Martha Ellen Tye Opera Theater, having had roles in productions of Aaron Copland's "The Tender Land" and "The Fantasticks!"

Runkles is a graduate teaching assistant pursuing a master's degree in the School of Music. He has recorded on saxophone with the UI Latin Jazz Ensemble.

The Department of English, the Nonfiction Writing Program, the Writers' Workshop and the School of Music are all academic units in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Visit the UI School of Music web site at

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Mary Lynn Johnson (Grant),; Katherine Eberle, School of Music,; Peter Alexander, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0072 (office), 319-541-2846 (cell),