Musical Club of Hartford

Music of Composer Elizabeth R. Austin - Apr 7, 2016

Musical Club of Hartford Celebrates the Music of Composer Elizabeth R. Austin on April 7 in West Hartford

A choral setting of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” will have its premiere performance on Thursday, April 7, 2016, at 10:00 am on a concert dedicated to the compositions of Elizabeth R. Austin. Austin’s work has been described as “glorious ...a sonorous landscape of individualistic sounds that blend beautifully together…”

About the work of setting poetry to music, composer Elizabeth R. Austin has written … “The poetry that I couple to the music is highly charged. I use ‘radical tonality’ to get to its essence. I work like a sculptor with sound surfaces, chipping away until there is a correspondence, a proportion that resonates.”

In 1958, French composer Nadia Boulanger granted Elizabeth Austin a scholarship to study at the Conservatoire Americaine in Fontainebleau, France, after hearing Austin’s setting of Rilke’s poems, Drei Rilke Lieder, one of the pieces to be presented on this concert by soprano Miriam Kennedy.

The concert will be held in the sanctuary of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, at 2080 Boulevard, West Hartford, CT, as part of the 125th anniversary celebration of the Musical Club of Hartford.

This concert is in memory of Viola Vanderbeek, a distinguished member of Musical Club for eighty-two years, who worked alongside many other members of the Club to find ways to contribute to the musical life of Hartford. She helped establish the Fund for Gifts and Scholarships for young artists.

Viola Vanderbeek lived over 100 years.  In 1961, she shared her memories of the beginnings of the club with historian Priscilla Rose during the Musical Club’s  70th Anniversary Year. They were published in a book called “In Pursuit of Music.”

Admission to the concert is $5 for the general public. It is free for students and members.

The church is wheelchair accessible from the entrance near Mountain Road. For more information call 860-561-1588.

About the Music

A composer known for her ability to draw inspiration from both the natural world and the musical and literary traditions of the past, Austin has described her music as based in pantonality, and mentions her recent exploration of geometric forms found in the natural world as a basis for her  adventures in musical form.

About the Program

The April 7, 2016 concert will begin with the premiere performance of Elizabeth R. Austin’s setting of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” performed by The Road Travelers Ensemble. 

Directed by Mattie Banzhaf, the Ensemble consists of singers Mark Child, Martha Child, John Church, Helen Douglas, Lydia McClain, Jane Penfield, Joe Scott, Tema Silk, and Howard Sprout. Stacy Cahoon will be their accompanist.

For this concert Deborah Robin, recorder player, will play Austin’s Sonata for Solo Recorder, written in 1991.  The three movements are titled  “…a caged bird”, “Alma Redemptoris Mater” and “ … a singing bird.”

Soprano Miriam Kennedy, accompanied by the composer, will perform Austin’s settings of poems by e.e. cummings and Christina Rossetti in a piece entitled A Birthday Bouquet.

Ms. Kennedy will also sing two song cycles written by Austin in 1958: Three Rilke Lieder, settings of poems by Rainier Maria Rilke, and The Heart’s Journey, a setting of a poem by Siegfried Sassoon. 

Four poems by Johannes Bobrowski, a German poet who had been imprisoned by the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1949, were set by Austin in 1995 as her Lithuanian Lieder. On this program, baritone Christopher Grundy will perform the four sections of that piece: The Jura, The Lithuanian Well, The Horses and From the East, accompanied by the composer.

Elizabeth Austin will join pianist Carolyn Woodard to conclude the program with selections from Austin’s A Child’s Garden of Music.

About the Composer

Elizabeth R. Austin was born in Baltimore in 1938. She received her early musical training at The Peabody Conservatory. 

Austin has taught composition and theory in Hartford, Connecticut. Her association with The Hartt School (University of Hartford), where she earned an M.M., included the establishment of a faculty/student exchange with the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik Heidelberg-Mannheim.

 During her Ph.D. studies (University of Connecticut), she won First Prize in the Lipscomb Electronic Music Competition (Nashville).   Other awards have included a Connecticut Commission on the Arts grant, First Prize in the IAWM’s 1998 Miriam Gideon Competition, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, and an American Music Center grant.

Performed in Europe, Scandinavia, South Africa, as well as in The United States and the Caribbean, Elizabeth Austin’s music has been received with distinction and has been broadcast worldwide, especially featured on Germany’s Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk. GEDOK Mannheim (Germany) has sponsored many portrait concerts of her music. 

A composer known for her ability to draw inspiration from both the natural world and the musical and literary traditions of the past, Austin has described her music as based in pantonality, and mentions her recent exploration of geometric forms found in the natural world as a basis for her adventures in musical form.

She serves as organist/choir director at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Windham Center.


About the Performers

The Road Travelers Ensemble”

Mattie Banzhaf, director, is currently music director at South Congregational Church, Granby, and directs the Madrigal Sightsingers, or Madsingers, in West Hartford.  She accompanies Suzuki string classes at Hartt and lives in Tariffville.

Stacy Cahoon is an independent piano teacher in West Hartford, accompanist for the Travelers Chorale, Citysingers of Hartford, and active in the Hartford area as a freelance accompanist.

Lydia McClain, soprano, is on the voice faculty at The Ethel Walker School and lives in Simsbury, CT, where she maintains a private studio and performs locally.

Jane Penfield, soprano, of Coventry has worked professionally as a choral director and nonprofit executive, in addition to being a visual artist. 

Tema Kaiser Silk, soprano, lives in West Hartford.  She is a member of the news department at New England Public Radio. 

Martha Child, alto, of Windsor, works as a piano teacher and a music therapist, in addition to being a member of the Hartford Chorale and the choir at Grace Episcopal Church.  

Helen Douglas, alto, is a piano teacher in West Hartford and enjoys singing with CitySingers of Hartford.

Mark Child, tenor, a resident of Windsor, is the Director of Music Ministries at Grace Episcopal Church in Windsor, and sings with CONCORA.

John Church, tenor, of West Hartford, works as an investment analyst, and currently sings with St. John's Episcopal Church, the Trinity Episcopal Compline Schola, and MadSingers.

Joe Scott, bass, lives in South Windsor, and sings with the Vernon Chorale, the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Chorus, and the choir of Immanuel Congregational Church, Hartford.

Howard Sprout, bass, of Bloomfield, is a voice consultant and baritone soloist, currently serving on the CONCORA Board of Directors.

Deborah Robin has been a recorder player for 50 years.  As a teen, she was regularly featured as a recorder soloist with Alison Fowle, Glenn Giuttari and others in the Providence Recorder Society's performance ensemble under the direction of Ilse Schaler. 

Ms. Robin recorded and performed with the period orchestra Aston Magna under the direction of Albert Fuller in the late 1970’s and performed with viola da gamba player Grace Feldman in the 1980’s. In the 1990’s, Ms. Robin performed regularly with the Center for Old Music in the New World, in Lexington, KY. 

Ms. Robin studied recorder with Ilse Schaler, Bernard Krainis, and Frans Brueggen.  She received a BA in Art from Yale and an MBA from UCLA and is currently working as a market research consultant.

Christopher Grundy, baritone soloist for this program, is a passionate advocate of song and chamber music. Christopher has given frequent recitals across the United States of repertoire spanning seven centuries. He is currently collaborating with composer and pianist Neely Bruce in a series of recitals of the songs of Neely Bruce, and will premiere "The North Ship," Bruce's new work for baritone, flute and string quartet. Christopher has a particular interest in music of the 20th Century, and champions the vocal works of Ferruccio Busoni, Alban Berg, Othmar Schoeck and Georgii Sviridov.

Christopher holds an M.M. from Indiana University, where he studied with Wolfgang Brendel, and a B.A. from Yale University, where he was the Assistant Conductor of the Yale Russian Chorus and the Yale Glee Club.

Before attending graduate school, Christopher was a professional helicopter pilot and flight instructor. He has experience in Sikorsky, Eurocopter, Bell and Robinson helicopters.

A member of The Musical Club of Hartford for more than forty years, soprano Miriam Kennedy sings annually on member programs and has performed as soloist with the Club’s Chamber Orchestra.  She has also served as the president of the Club.

Ms. Kennedy has appeared as soloist with the Farmington Valley Symphony Orchestra, as well as in a Travelers Choral Club concert in the Bushnell’s Mortenson Hall.  A 38-year member of CONCORA, now retired, she sang numerous concerts and cabarets as both chorister and soloist.

Ms. Kennedy also sang in the Connecticut Opera Chorus and served as soloist and section leader for choirs at The Universalist Church of West Hartford and South Church, New Britain, where she continues to sing as a member of the Chancel Choir.

Carolyn Woodard, pianist, received a Bachelor of Music Degree from the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music and a Master of Music Degree from the Hartt School of Music.  She studied with William Harms, Edward Steuermann, and Raymond Hanson.

Ms. Woodard was a founding member of The Camerata Ensemble and has also performed with the Connecticut String Orchestra, the Hartford Symphony and the New World Ensemble.


She has given solo piano recitals in Pennsylvania and throughout New England. A well-known piano teacher in the area, Ms. Woodard has taught for both the Hartford Camerata Conservatory and the Hartt School of Music Community Division.