A Festival of Musical Decadence

January 22, 2014 |
Kelley O'Connor is a featured performer at the Tucson Desert Song Festival. photo: Zachary Maxwell Stertz

Kelley O’Connor is a featured performer at the Tucson Desert Song Festival.
photo: Zachary Maxwell Stertz

The second annual Tucson Desert Song Festival returns from Jan. 30 to Feb. 16 and unites Tucson’s exceptional arts groups with world-renowned performers to celebrate the power of song. The 11-day festival takes on the theme of French composition, as the work of beloved composers Debussy, Ravel, Berlioz, Poulenc and others will be performed by the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Tucson Chamber Artists, Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, Tucson Guitar Society and Ballet Tucson – all being paired with some of the best vocalists in the world.

If you’re tuned into the world of opera, you will easily recognize the names of the singers. If you’re not tuned into the opera world, you’ll experience being in the room with a great voice,” says Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director and Conductor George Hanson. “You respond to it in a very direct, almost physical way. When someone is a gifted and well-trained vocalist, it can start the air moving in a room in a way that it almost connects directly with everyone’s soul who shares that space with them. There are only a few hundred people in the world that can sing as such and that’s what we’re tapping into.”

Kelley O’Connor, William Burden, Jordan Bisch, Jennifer Johnson Cano, Christine Goerke and Maria Jette are some of the prestigious singers collaborating with the Tucson ensembles, and special accompaniments have been prepared to showcase the virtuosic prowess and the wide range of the vocalists. It is a rare feat for a music community in any city to assemble such a remarkably talented cast, but this festival series stands as a true testament to the uniqueness of Tucson’s art scene.

“We’re honored to be part of this festival, which is quickly gaining national repute. It’s so special to have so many powerful stars coming to Tucson at one time and we’re thrilled to be one of the acts in the lineup,” says Eric Holtan, Tucson Chamber Artists’ music director. “This is a particularly special performance for us because we’re also celebrating the 10th anniversary of TCA. The festival this year has a French theme, so we’re doing an all-French program. We’re calling the event ‘Decadence’ which signifies our decade of excellence, but also there’s no more decadent music than French composition.”

The festival was sparked by the efforts of the event’s president Jack Forsythe, who – along with fellow co-founder Cecile Follansbee – had a vision to bring in the best musical voices in the world to pair them with the talent that resides in our desert city. After a highly successful initial run last season, Forsythe decided to take this year’s festival to a larger scale by bringing in bigger acts, utilizing numerous venues (Tucson Convention Center, Leo Rich Theatre, Temple of Music and Art, Crowder Hall, Holsclaw Hall, Fox Tucson Theatre, Tucson Symphony Center and Catalina Foothills High School Theater) and pairing with Casino Del Sol as the corporate sponsor to bring the cultural music to attendees who aren’t versed or exposed to opera or orchestra.

“I was on the Arizona Opera board for some time, and I had an idea to do something like this for a long while. I met up with George Hanson and we talked about it and decided that to get the funding to bring in major world singers we’d need to have more than a symphony to attract that kind of attention,” explains Forsythe. “We decided on a 10-day period centering around vocal pieces that would be selected through larger themes. There’s such a demand for this type of performance here in town and we’re just happy to be able to supply it.”

The schedule of performances, tickets and more information about the festival are available at TucsonDesertSongFestival.org and by calling 1-888-546-3305.

Category: Arts, DOWNTOWN / UNIVERSITY / 4TH AVE, Entertainment, Events, MUSIC