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Irish literature set to song at Sembrich

2012-07-26T23:30:00Z Irish literature set to song at SembrichBy Doug Gruse--dgruse@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
July 26, 2012 11:30 pm  • 

Composer Richard Wargo feels a connection to the lyrical quality of Irish literature.

“I’ve always loved the storytelling and the language,” said Wargo, artistic director of The Sembrich. “More contemporary writing often has a cynical slant. No matter how extravagant the subject matter, Irish storytelling is done with a clear eye — that type of drama is a natural for music. The language is so colorful and the characters are so rich.”

Wargo’s Irish-inspired operas reflect the words of literary masters, including William Butler Yeats, John Millington Synge, John B. Keane and Brian Friel.

The composer adapted Friel’s play “Lovers” into the opera “Ballymore,” and he also set some of Keane’s words and works to music after meeting the playwright in the 1990s.

Wargo will offer a behind- the-scenes look at his compositions, as well as the writers who inspired him in “From the Bards of Ireland” on Saturday at The Sembrich in Bolton Landing.

The program, narrated by Erica Funke, will feature performances by soprano Sarah Asmar, tenor Joshua Kohl, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Berkebile and bass-baritone Adam Cannedy, with accompaniment by Michael Clement on piano and Edward Wargo on flute. A post-concert reception will include traditional Irish fiddle music and craft brews by Adirondack Pub and Brewery.

“A part of the program is not just the music itself but anecdotes of my meetings with Friel and Keane,” Wargo said.

Wargo has earned international accolades for his compositions, but locally he is known primarily for his work with the museum.

“I’ve talked to regular members who were not aware that I write music. They wanted me to present something of mine,” he said.

The presentation will serve as both an introduction to Wargo’s music and a glimpse into his creative process.

“In some ways, it’s very personal. It’s not the kind of thing I’ve done too often. It talks about my travels and meetings,” Wargo said.

Part of his stories include details of his discussions with Keane, whom Wargo found to be delighted to have his work transformed into music.

“I think it was the excitement of having his characters express themselves in opera. He was very excited with that notion,” Wargo said of Keane, whose work has been described by literary critics as operatic.

Although Wargo has become a public face at the museum, he admits feeling a bit nervous about being the center of attention.

“Any time I have a program of my works, I feel on the spot,” he said. “I’m actually very happy that I am able to share some of the other side of what I do with people who have been coming here for years — and people who are new to The Sembrich.”

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