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Intimate Verses: Ohio Song Project Performs Music By Contemporary Women Composers

color photo of Scott Ewing and Debra Rentz
Hannah Roberts
Ohio Song Project
Ohio Song Project Artistic Director Scott Ewing rehearses with soprano Debra Rentz.

Imagine a vocalist singing heartfelt words and beautiful music directly to you.

That’s the kind of intimacy that Columbus’ organization devoted entirely to performing art song aims to create later this month in its first-ever public concert. 

Ohio Song Project presents Become the Sky: Songs Composed by Women in the 21st Century, 6 p.m. Saturday, March 9 at Downtown's Angela Meleca Gallery, under the auspices of the Johnstone Fund for New Music and the Greater Columbus Arts Council.

The concert’s program celebrates Women’s History Month with performances of music by Lori LaitmanLibby LarsenMelissa Dunphy and Otterbein University faculty composer Jennifer Merkowitz. Admission is free.

I had a chance to chat with Ohio Song Project Artistic Director Scott Ewing about his passion for this most intimate musical genre and his vision for the Ohio Song Project and art song in Columbus. Listen in on our conversation, above.  

We live in a song culture, in which popular-music radio stations serve up song after song around the clock. 

Our song culture is thus a fertile field for art song, which has had a harder time gaining a foothold among public performances of classical music – quite possibly in part because other larger musical genres, like opera, have eclipsed it.

“Opera, of course, is as wildly popular as classical vocal music can be,” Ewing said. “And art song being so much smaller and less spectacular, I think it just doesn’t quite get the attention from the classical industry, as it were, that it should and could.”

As a soprano and poet, I am passionate about art song and will be performing during Ohio Song Project’s March 9 concert, along with tenor Kerry Jennings, soprano Debra Rentz, harpist Jeanne Norton, violinist Devin Copfer and Ewing as collaborative pianist. 

Ohio Song Project presents Become the Sky: Songs Composed by Women in the 21st Century, 6 p.m. Saturday, March 9 at Angela Meleca Gallery in Downton Columbus. Admission is free.

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Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.