Desert Song Festival celebrates the American voice

Courtesy Kathy Zavala | The Daily Wildcat Richard Danielpour isan award-winning composer and will be the Artist-in-Residence in the eighth annual Tucson Desert Song Festival.

Music will soon echo throughout the desert when the eighth annual Tucson Desert Song Festival commences on Jan. 15, lasting until Feb. 16. This year’s festival theme is “Celebrating the American Voice.” It will feature prominent artists, composers, professors and students showcasing music at various venues across Tucson.

The Tucson Desert Song Festival is an annual month-long music event that collaborates with local performing arts centers to feature world-class vocalists from around the world. 

This year’s theme will celebrate the diverse and vibrant musical culture of the country with some of the most prominent singers in the world. This includes, but is not limited to, the voices of Renée Fleming, Thomas Hampson and Mavis Staples.

According to Kathy Zavala, the operations director of the festival, the concept of “Celebrating the American Voices” sprouted from the proposals by the creative team and discussions about how different organizations around town would feel about having that theme in their winter season lineup.


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In the press release, George Hanson, the festival coordinator, commented on the importance of the “Celebrating the American Voice” theme.

“America’s singers and composers bring a special perspective to their art — a particular blend of influences from the world’s diverse cultures," Hanson said. "This year’s Festival celebrates that special American ‘voice,’ an American perspective that brings together many voices."

Zavala said that part of “Celebrating the American Voice” is the venture to include as many voices in the local arts community as possible in the festival.

“We are very keen on collaboration,” Zavala said. “That’s the main basis of this festival. It’s collaborating with each major arts organization in town.”

According to Jeannette Segal, the president of the festival, one of the main purposes of the festival was to create a lineup of vocal music that performing arts establishments would include in their programs for one month during the winter season.

Hila Plitmann is a Grammy award-winning vocalist and Israeli soprano featured in this year's Tucson Desert Song Festival. She will perform alongside the Artist-in-Residence Richard Danielpour.

One of the main events at the festival is the world premier of the Artist-in-Residence, Richard Danielpour’s composition of songs, “Songs of Love and Loss (Five Songs on Poems of Rumi).”

The premier is set to take place on Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. According to the press release about the festival, he wrote this work for his friend and Israeli soprano, Hila Plitmann.

According to Zavala, the performance will have supertitles in English so the audience will understand the Farsi lyrics, which are based on ancient Persian texts. The concert will include Plitmann, the Arizona Woodwind Quintet and Fred Fox School of Music string faculty and students.

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Zavala also discussed how Danielpour’s work was commissioned through the Wesley Green TDSF Composer Project. According to Zavala, Green — a patron of the Fred Fox School of music — is vital in the process of commissioning work.

“At the Tucson Desert Song Festival, our mission is to bring high quality and world-class singers to the winter season,” Zavala said.

Danielpour and Plitmann will be hosting a seminar, “Composer and Performer: The Creative Process,” the day before the concert on Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. This event will be free and open to the public, and attendants can even feel free to peek behind the scenes to witness the composer’s creative process.

“For the Desert Song Festival, with the outreach and educational projects and the collaboration with the UA School of Music, it becomes a truly remarkable thing,” Zavala said. “I am just so proud of the work that everybody does to bring this to town.”

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