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Aviva Players to Open Season with 'Songs, Piano Rags & Chamber Music by Women Composers', 10/16

The Aviva Players will begin its 40th season on October 16 with "Songs, Piano Rags & Chamber Music by Women Composers, including the Piano Trio by Fanny Mendelssohn," the first installment of a three-part concert series at Opera America, 330 Seventh Ave. The concert will include piano rags by May Frances Aufderheide, Irene Giblin and Adeline Shepard; songs by Mira J. Spektor, and "Vocal Duets" and "The Piano Trio" by Fanny Mendelssohn. The evening is presented in conjunction with Downtown Music Productions.

The Aviva Players, dedicated to the rich repertoire of chamber music and songs by women composers of the 12th to 21st Centuries, was founded in 1975 by Mira J. Spektor and has brought a new perspective to music programming.

The evening will be performed by Mimi Stern-Wolfe (Music Director/Piano), Hillary Schranze (Soprano), Darcy Dunn (Mezzo Soprano), Lynn Bechtold (Violin) and Mary Wooten (Cello).

Subsequent installments of the Aviva Players' 40th Anniversary Series will be "A Double Feature of Chamber Opera Films" (November 4) and "That Certain Age: Short Operas about Aging with Grace & Humor" (December 1). For info on these other concerts, see:

Mimi Stern-Wolfe (Pianist, Conductor) worked with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and was conductor-vocal coach at Lake George Opera and at the Aspen Music Festival. She is founder of Downtown Music Productions and its performing ensemble, the Downtown Chamber & Opera Players, specializing in socially provocative repertory and challenging scores of American composers. She is featured in a musical documentary film on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, "All the Way Through the Evening" by Australian filmmaker Rohan Spong, which describes her presentation of the annual Benson AIDS Concerts since 1990. Her "Composers of the Holocaust" and "Sudden Sunsets" are DMP award winning recordings. She has received two ASCAP-CMA awards for "adventurous programming," a Laurel Leaf for "fostering American Music" and the Mayor's Very Special Arts Award in Music for her "exceptional contribution to the arts and multicultural life of NYC." In May 2014, she received the "Lower East Side Community Hero Award" from the Steering Committee of Lower East Side History Month. Most recently she was awarded the Clara Lemlich award for her musical concerts that encouraged social activism.

Hillary Schranze (Soprano) appears in opera and musical theater. In 2012 she originated the role of the Maid in Mira Spektor's "Villa Diodati" at the York Theater. Her theatrical credits include "The Wizard of Oz," "Frog and Toad" and "Blues Clues Live." She has also appeared in "Le Nozze di Figaro" as Susanna, "Cose fan Tutte" as Fiordiligi and "Carousel" as Carrie Pipperidge. She is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy, Westminster Choir College and the Manhtatan School of Music.

Darcy Dunn (Lyric Mezzo) performs opera, chamber music and cabaret. She is a frequent singer with the Aviva Players, Downtown Music Productions, Chelsea Opera, Bronx Opera, Magic Circle Opera, Theater for the New City and the Windham Chamber Music Orchestra. Recent appearances include Cherubino, Hansel, Pippo (Rosinni), Meg (Adamo), Mrs. Mister (Blitzstein) and Lizbetta (Cohen) and premieres/productions of works by contemporary composers including Robert Manno, Michael Cohen, Richard Wargo, Seymore Barab, Lee Hoiby and Mary Carol Warwick, in addition to chamber concerts of traditional and new music. She is a graduate of the Magic Circle Training Program and a student of Ray Evans Harrell.

Lynn Bechtold (Violin) has been noted for her 'virtuosity and technical expertise' in All About Jazz, labeled 'up-and-coming' by Time Out, and called 'dynamic' by Classics Today. The violinist/composer is active in all genres and has appeared in recital throughout North America and Europe. She has premiered solo/chamber works by Carter Burwell, Gloria Coates, George Crumb, John Harbison, Alvin Lucier, and Morton Subotnick. She is a member of Zentripetal, Miolina, Bleecker StQ, and SEM, and her performances have been broadcast on "30 Rock," "CBS Morning Show," "Good Day NY," CBC, NHK, and WNYC.

Mary Wooten (Cello) is known for her versatility and flair for improvisation. She is a founding member of the Soldier and Sirius string quartets. As a quartet cellist, she has premiered new music with Martin Alsop's Concordia Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall, at Lincoln Center's Serious Fun! Festival, in live broadcast on NPR and in concerts at Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She has collaborated with John Zorn and Philip Glass, appearing at Tonic, The Knitting Factory, The Kitchen and festivals in Europe.

Mira J. Spektor (composer) was born in Europe, graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and then studied at Mannes & Juilliard. In 1975, she founded The Aviva Players. She has composed the chamber operas "Villa Diodati," "Giovanni The Fearless," "Lady of the Castle," "The passion of Lizzie Borden" and "The Housewives' Cantata." Her film scores include "Double Edge" with Fay Dunnaway and music for the PBS-TV documentaries "Art in its Soul" and "Serious Comics" and the new Bank Street Films' opera-film "Villa Diodati." She has written many English, French and German Songs heard in the US, Europe & Israel. Ms Spektor has recorded on Westminster, Concert Hall, Guilde International du Disque, Original Cast Records, Capstone and AirPlay. Her memberships include BMI, Dramatists Guild, Opera America, League of Professional Theater Women and NYWC. Her poems are in many small presses and include two poetry collections, "From Seaside Houses" and "The Road to November." ( and

Fanny Mendelssohn (Composer, 1805 - 1847), later Fanny [Cäcilie] Mendelssohn Bartholdy and, after her marriage, Fanny Hensel, was a German pianist and composer, sister of the composer Felix Mendelssohn and granddaughter of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. She was the grandmother of the philosopher Paul Hensel and the mathematician Kurt Hensel. Fanny composed over 460 pieces of music, including her piano trio and several books of solo piano pieces and songs. A number of her songs were originally published under Felix's name in his opus 8 and 9 collections. Her piano works are often in the manner of songs, and many carry the name Lied ohne Worte (Song without Words). This style (and title) of piano music was most successfully developed by Felix Mendelssohn, though some modern scholars assert that Fanny may have preceded him in the genre.

May Frances Aufderheide (Composer, 1888-1972) is probably the best known among female ragtime composers. She trained in art music and visited Europe on a grand tour, yet decided to compose in ragtime. Aufderheide was a member of the Indianapolis ragtime community that included Paul Pratt, Cecil Duane Crabb, J. Russel Robinson, Will B. Morrison, Julia Lee Niebergall, and Gladys Yelvington. The popularity of her first published rag, "Dusty", convinced her father, Indianapolis loan broker John H. Aufderheide, to enter the music publishing business forming the firm J. H. Aufderheide Music Publisher.

Irene M. Giblin (Composer, 1888-1974) had just graduated from high school when she got a job as a salesperson/pianist in the music department of a St. Louis department store. There, she showcased new music - rags, etc. - for the store's customers. She wrote and published nine rags, starting in 1905 with "Chicken Chowder" (her favorite). Like many other women ragtime composers, Giblin gave up her career in music to raise a family. However, she never lost in music nor stopped playing the piano. According to her son, Ed O'Brien, "She was an extremely talented pianist and played all types of music extremely well, but it was obvious that the ragtime type of music was her first love."

Adaline Shepherd (Composer, 1883-1950) spent most of her life in Milwaukee, beginning to compose in her early 20's and published the enormously successful "Pickles and Peppers" in 1906. She married Fred Sherman Olson, an insurance company executive, in 1910 and dropped out of sight several years later. The Olsens had three children and lived very comfortably. Adaline continued to play the piano even with arthritis, but, "there was the opinion among the family that her music was not important or any good."

The Aviva Players, an acclaimed chamber ensemble, was founded in 1975 by Artistic Director Mira J. Spektor to research, present and perform the rich repertoire of Chamber Music and Songs by Women Composers of the 12th to 21st Centuries. The ensemble has been heard in concert halls, churches, temples and universities in New York City, the tri-state area and Palm Beach, FL, and has produced three half-hour TV documentaries on Women Composers that are shown frequently on Cable TV and are now available for VCR. (

Downtown Music Productions and its mixed ensemble, the Downtown Chamber & Opera Players, were founded by Mimi Stern-Wolfe in 1979. Awards include Chamber Music America/ASCAP awards two times for "Adventurous Programming." Through its thematic concerts, hundreds of new, traditional and affordable programs and chamber operas for adults and children have been presented. Noted productions include its twenty year Benson AIDS Series, which offered the music of over fifteen composers lost to the HIV/AIDS plague, and a series of performances dedicated to composers of the Holocaust. (

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