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Sparks & Wiry Cries Presents Virtual 2021 SongSLAM Festival


The festival will take place January 11 – 22.

Sparks & Wiry Cries Presents Virtual 2021 SongSLAM Festival

From January 11 - 22, 2021, the New York-based global art song platform Sparks & Wiry Cries will present their flagship songSLAM Festival with twelve days of song. The Festival will include the annual songSLAM competition for up to fifteen emerging composer/performer teams to present new art song compositions. Because audiences cannot meet in person at this time, all songSLAM teams will be professionally recorded in November at the Blue Building in New York City, with performances available online beginning January 11. Audiences will text to vote for as little as $1 per vote, and the top three teams to generate the most funds will win cash prizes.

Two additional prizes have been added for the songSLAM awardees this season. Firstly, the composer for the team earning the most unique votes will receive mentorship from "one of New York's favorite song composers" (The New Yorker), Tom Cipullo. Second, a panel of judges will choose their favorite composer from the pool of submissions and commission an additional 15-minute work for voice and piano to be premiered during the 2022 songSLAM festival. The panel will include mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, bass-baritone Eric Owens, composer Reinaldo Moya and Sparks' Co-Artistic Directors Erika Switzer and Martha Guth.

On January 22 at 9 PM EST, as the twelve day songSLAM concludes, Sparks & Wiry Cries will share the second program of the festival, three world-premiere performances of compositions that focus on stories representing aspects of the wholly unique human experience in 2020.

In Ciudad Perdita, composer Reinaldo Moya sets the poetry of Adalber Salas Hernández to conjure a profound sense of place for Caracas, the city of Moya's youth, before his migration and immigration to the United States. The work is performed by soprano María Brea and pianist Howard Watkins.

Detroit Slam Poet Jessica Care Moore explores the relationship between life, faith, race, and death in the time of COVID in her Ramadan 20 VS. COVID 19, set to music by Andrew Staniland and performed by soprano LaToya Lain and pianist Erika Switzer.

Finally, composer John Glover and baritone/poet Michael Kelly take on themes of love and loss through the lens of the queer community in After Him.

This diverse cast of performers, poets, composers, singers, and pianists will come together under the guidance of songSLAM Festival Executive Producer Matthew Principe to envision these song cycles for a virtual audience. All three premieres will be released for free to audiences worldwide. Accompanying PDFs of each score will also be available for purchase for those who may wish to immediately access the music and keep the stories alive for future performances.

Over a decade ago, Soprano Martha Guth and pianist Erika Switzer co-founded Sparks & Wiry Cries as a podcast and online magazine with a vision to contextualize art song in the sharing of recordings, interviews, and articles by prominent artists and scholars. Since then, the organization has grown to include an art song recital series, co-produce world-wide songSLAM competitions, present the annual songSLAM festival, and regularly commission and premiere new works. The organization's online publication, Sparks & Wiry Cries: Art Song Magazine, actively engages conversations through insightful publishing, programming, and commissioning initiatives. In 2020, the organization published their first volume of the songSLAM Songbook, a curated anthology of sixteen pieces debuted at songSLAM competitions past.

"Sparks & Wiry Cries promotes the advancement and preservation of art song by providing opportunities to its creators and performers," says Switzer. "With this virtual festival we are advancing critical human dialogue around contemporary issues of equity, health, and inclusion and preserving these dialogues for future reflection. Sparks cares deeply about giving voice to matters of human conflict. Through art and the sharing of songs, we connect our deepest insights to the communities around us."

Regional songSLAMs are also being co-hosted by Sparks & Wiry Cries virtually throughout the 2020-21 season with art song organizations in four cities, including Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Vancouver (Canada) and Chicago and live songSLAM events are in the works for late spring of 2021 in Ljubljana (Slovenia) and London, U.K.

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