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November 14, 2011

An encore from baritone William Sharp

The last Baltimore Symphony program showcased American music, including Aaron Copland's nostalgic "Old American Songs" with soloist William Sharp. I heard (and read) grumblings after the performance I attended about difficulty hearing the baritone in Meyerhoff Hall.

I heard grumblings after Renee Fleming sang there, too, one more reason why I chalk it up to the acoustics, not the vocalists. I don't think Meyerhoff is so great for solo violin, either, by the way. That said, I had no trouble getting the impact of Sharp's performance, even if a few words were swallowed up by the accompanying orchestral fabric.

I have always been impressed with his interpretive vibrancy, his ability to connect deeply with both words and music. I'd say his students at Peabody are damn lucky.

I thought a little encore from the baritone would be in order, especially for the benefit of anyone who didn't hear the BSO program -- or didn't hear him well enough at one of the performances. Here's a song by ...

Paul Bowles, an unjustly neglected composer, with a text by Tennessee Williams: "Heavenly Grass." This recording easily captures the many qualities that make Sharp such an admirable artist:

Posted by Tim Smith at 9:15 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: BSO, Clef Notes


Absolutely exquisite. Thanks, Tim, for posting this.

So glad you liked it. That song was new to me, one of those thanks-to-YouTube discoveries. It grabbed me right away, especially, of course, being so fabulously sung. TIM

One of my college roommates linked me to William Sharp's "Heavenly Grass" above. It is wonderful to hear his voice again. My roommate (Kathleen Vandekieft, at the time) and Bill were among students of Mari Taniguchi at Lawrence University. "Miss T" passed away last week. I was a French major, not a vocal student. Even so, I enjoyed participation in music studies with Lawrence Conservatory students, like Bill, Kathy and so many others. Now and then, too rarely, the airwaves bring their talents to inspire me anew. Thank you, Tim, for this one.

And thank you for the most welcome comments. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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