GERMAN LIEDER LED BY ENTERTAINING TEACHER - The Coast Reporter January 27, 2006

When Shelley Dillon, local voice teacher, saw the work of Rena Sharon at a recent International Congress of Voice Teachers held in Vancouver this past summer, she became fired up to ask this veteran performer of the Coast Recital Society to give a workshop on the Coast.

Dillon, who is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and Tom Kellough, piano teacher and music director of St. Hilda’s Anglican Church, have been coaching their students towards working with Rena Sharon, who specializes in a genre of German Lieder, particularly the collaborative aspect of voice and piano supporting one another.

Sharon will give a workshop and recital, Learning to Love Lieder, that will include an audience of the public, on Feb. 11 at St. Hilda’s Anglican Church in Sechelt starting at 1:30 p.m., sponsored by the Coast Recital Society and Strait Coffee Traders.

Sharon is one of Canada’s foremost chamber musicians who has collaborated with the world’s finest artists. She is currently a professor of Collaborative Piano Studies at the University of British Columbia where she specializes in art song.

At first sight, German Lieder, also called art song, might not appear to be an exciting genre, but Sharon makes it accessible and very entertaining. A Winnipeg newspaper noted she sold out a workshop performance of 240 seats and taught the audience much about Lieder to help them become better listeners. She told the stories behind the poems and demonstrated on the piano while voice students performed many of the songs. “This was music coming to life,” said the Winnipeg Free Press.

Lieder have been described by Lois Phillips, in Lieder Line by Line, as “a most sublime form of musical expression. The singer and the accompanist must understand every word and phrase, so close do the words lie to the music flowing from them.” Some Lieder composers are Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Wagner, Brahms, Wolf, Mahler and Strauss. The planned workshop features a variety of composers and styles.

Another term one encounters in the field of Lieder is accompanist. Usually that is a pianist or collaborative pianist.

There is sometimes the perception that the piano is just a voice in the background to support the singer. In good art song, this isn’t the case. The composer expects a duet of sorts between the piano and voice. The pianist provides the chordal significance of the sung melody, and there is an interplay between the singer and the pianist on many levels.

The pianist may set the scene as in an introductory section or complement what the singer does with the voice.

The ages of the participants in the February workshop range from 15 to 72. Sarah Powell, 15, and Danica Tardiff, 17, open with Wie Melodien zieht es Mir by Johannes Brahms. The concert closes with another Brahms selection from Nan Seward and Connie van Swieten, Schon war, das ich dir weihte.

- Jan Degrass, Arts & Entertainment Writer