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Sun, Sep 20


Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Michael Kelly, baritone & David Leisner, guitar

One of the most beloved pieces of music ever written, Franz Schubert's Die Schone Mullerin - a 20-song cycle about unrequited love originally for voice and piano, is performed by the duo in Leisner's apt arrangement for voice and guitar.

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Michael Kelly, baritone & David Leisner, guitar
Michael Kelly, baritone & David Leisner, guitar

Time & Location

Sep 20, 2020, 4:00 PM

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 50 N Prospect St, Akron, OH 44304, USA


About the Event


Q: Who or what inspired you to take up your instrument or the art of composition?

David: Guitar: Failure on the violin, Andres Segovia, Julian Bream, John Williams

Composition: The urge to create and say things that could not come out in words, Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky, Charles Ives

Michael: I was most inspired by a curiosity for operatic singing. I was a saxophone player before I began singing and hit the ground running when I discovered I had a natural singing ability.

Q: Why have you pursued a career in music?

David: Because there's nothing else I could do better.

Michael: I knew I would end up in the arts in some way or another. I began as a ballet dancer at the age of 4, but music quickly became my biggest passion. I can’t imagine a life in any other field.

Q: How many hours a day do you spend alone studying, composing, arranging and/or practicing?

David: 2-4 hours of practice daily, about a month a year composing, 1-4 weeks a year arranging, 1-2 hours a day promoting, 1-2 hours a day researching and exploring.  My alone time is very important to me, if not sacred.

Michael: It varies depending on what I’m preparing for. These days there isn’t much going on performance wise, so certainly less than usual. But I do sing a little each day. Typically, I practice or study and memorize music 6 days a week, dedicating a few hours each day to it. The rest of my day is spent on activities surrounding the business side of being a working musician.

Q: What do your most devoted audience members bring to your concerts/recitals?

David: Their ears, hearts and minds

Michael: I’m not sure I fully understand this question, but I think the easiest way to answer is that they bring an eager passion for music and poetry, as well as an open heart for creative expression. Sometimes they bring things for me to sign too. Haha!

Q: How have the best pieces you’ve been performing revealed themselves and the minds of the composers and arrangers after performing them for all these years?

David: The greatest music has the greatest number of levels, making it endlessly revealing over time.  Composers like Bach or Schubert or Britten yield new discoveries each time I have left the music and returned to it weeks or months or years later - rhythmic approach, phrasing, structure, dynamics, underlying meaning - all can change with either maturity or sophistication or a different point of view from a different period of life.

Michael: I’m always amazed at how a piece grows over time. It’s usually life experience that morphs how a piece revealed itself. I can see new things in it. Words become more poignant, and new depths of meaning are discovered. This changes how I sing and approach the music. Often, over time, my voice also opens further to the piece, which is always a thrill.

Q: Is there a living performer with whom you would like to perform a concert or a recording who has yet to accept your invitation to collaborate?

David: I've had the very good fortune so far to collaborate with some of my favorite musicians in the world, but performing with mezzo soprano Stephanie Blythe or pianist Jeremy Denk would be delicious.

Michael: This will likely be unexpected, but my greatest hope is to perform with a non-classical musician. I reached out to Ani DiFranco, the famous folk singer/songwriter in the hopes that we might collaborate. I sadly never heard back.

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Join us at 3:50 p.m. for a special pre-recorded performance by the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society (livestream at  Stay to enjoy guitarist David Leisner and baritone Michael Kelly, joined by internationally renowned visual artist KEVORK MOURAD, who will offer prepared animation as well as projected imagery. Using ink and paper, Mourad will create new images for us to enjoy while the song cycle is performed live.

Praised as “expressive and dynamic” and “vocally splendid”, American baritone MICHAEL KELLY continues to distinguish himself as a consummate artist, sought-after for his riveting interpretations of recital, concert and operatic repertoire.   

Recently, Mr. Kelly made debuts at Carnegie Hall, with New York City Opera, the New World Symphony, Seattle Symphony and the Cincinnati May Festival. He performed Bernstein’s Mass with the Mostly Mozart Festival under the baton of Louis Langrée, and gave the world premier of a new chamber work by David Del Treidici at NYC's Symphony Space. In recent seasons he has been heard in Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin with celebrated guitarist David Leisner, The role of Hannah Before in Kaminsky’s As One, the role of Figaro in The Barber of Seville, Papageno in Mozart's Magic Flute, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, and the title role in the NY premier of Carlyle Floyd’s newest opera Prince of Players.     

An avid supporter of new music, he has given world premiers by Matthew Aucoin, David Del Tredici, Mohammed Fairouz, and Ben Moore, among others.  Kelly is a passionate recital and chamber music interpreter, and is a founder and artistic director of NY’s SongFusion. He can be heard on recordings of Fairouz’s Zabur, Del Tredici’s A Field Manual, as well as a documentary called Secret Music, celebrating the life and music of David Del Tredici.   

Captivating audiences with his “exquisitely self-effacing” artistry, Mr. Kelly is a versatile and innovative vocalist, having performed with many of America’s leading orchestras and opera companies, including: The Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Houston Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, The Mostly Mozart Festival, Opernhaus Zurich, Chicago Opera Theater, Gotham Chamber Opera, Mark Morris Dance Group, Boston Early Music Festival and Ars Lyrica. His repertoire ranges from baroque to modern, leading him to collaborate with some of today’s most celebrated composers, including Tom Cipullo, David Del Tredici, Mohammed Fairouz, John Glover, Ricky Ian Gordon, Laura Kaminsky, Libby Larsen, Lowell Liebermann, Ben Moore, John Musto, David Sisco and David Wolfson. He made his European debut with Opernhaus Zürich in Handel’s Rinaldo with William Christie and his French debut with Opéra du Châtelet. He has performed in opera, chamber and symphonic works under the batons of such conductors as Herbert Blomstedt, Michael Christie, Andreas Delfs, Jane Glover, Benton Hess, Louis Langré, James Levine, Anne Manson, Nicholas McGegan, Steven Osgood, Leonard Slatkin, and Stephen Stubbs. Michael has also collaborated in recital with celebrated pianists David Fung, Kathleen Kelly, Malcolm Martineau, Shannon McGinnis, Spencer Myer, Jonathan Ware and Brian Zeger.   

Mr. Kelly has won first prizes in 2013’s Poulenc Competition and 2011’s Joy in Singing. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and Juilliard, and was a member of the Opernstudio at Opernhaus Zürich. In 2018, NewMusicShelf released Michael’s curated baritone volume of their New Music Anthology; a collection of art songs by living composers.

DAVID LEISNER is an extraordinarily versatile musician with a multi-faceted career as an electrifying performing artist, a distinguished composer, and a master teacher. “Among the finest guitarists of all time”, according to American Record Guide, Leisner is a featured recording artist for the Azica label, with 9 highly acclaimed CDs, including the most recent, Arpeggionewith cellist Zuill Bailey and Facts of Life, featuring the premiere recordings of commissioned works by Del Tredici and Golijov. Other recordings are on the Naxos, Telarc and Koch labels, with a concert DVD published by Mel Bay.

David Leisner's recent seasons have taken him around the US, a major tour of Australia and New Zealand, and debuts and reappearances in Japan, the Philippines, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, the U.K., Italy, Czech Republic, Greece, Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico. An innovative three-concert series at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall included the first all-Bach guitar recital in New York’s history, and he is currently Artistic Director of Guitar Plus, a New York series devoted to chamber music with the guitar. Celebrated for expanding the guitar repertoire, David Leisner has premiered and commissioned works by many important composers, including David Del Tredici, Virgil Thomson, Ned Rorem, Philip Glass, Richard Rodney Bennett, Peter Sculthorpe and Osvaldo Golijov, while spearheading the revival of neglected 19th-century composers J.K. Mertz and Wenzeslaus Matiegka. He has performed at the Santa Fe, Rockport, Vail Valley, Bargemusic, Bay Chamber, Music in the Vineyards, Angel Fire and many other chamber music festivals.

Mr. Leisner is also a highly respected composer noted for the emotional and dramatic power of his music. Fanfare magazine described it as “rich in invention and melody, emotionally direct, and beautiful”. His music has been performed worldwide by such eminent artists as Sanford Sylvan, Wolfgang Holzmair, Kurt Ollmann, Michael Kelly, Thomas Meglioranza, Patrick Mason, Robert Osborne, Rufus Müller, William Ferguson, Paul Sperry, Juliana Gondek, Susan Narucki, D’Anna Fortunato, Zuill Bailey, Warren Jones, Jon Klibonoff, Tara O’Connor, Eugenia Zukerman, David Starobin, Benjamin Verdery, St. Lawrence Quartet, Enso Quartet, Rubens Quartet, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Cavatina Duo, Arc Duo, Brasil Guitar Duo, Pearl and Gray Duo, Saturday Brass Quintet, the Eastman, Oberlin and New England Conservatory Ensembles, as well as orchestras around the US. An extensive discography includes the much-praised Cedille CD, Acrobats, performed by the Cavatina Duo, and his compositions are published mostly by Theodore Presser Co. Works and commissions include Pranayama for the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, Love Dreams of the Exilefor the Cavatina Duo and the Avalon String Quartet, Medanales Morning for the guitar orchestras of New York, Virginia and Long Island, Das Wunderbare Wesen for baritone Wolfgang Holzmair and solo cello, A Timeless Procession for Holzmair and string quartet, Vision of Orpheusfor the St. Lawrence Quartet and Leisner, and Battlefield Requiem for cellist Laurence Lesser and the New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble.

A distinguished teacher as well, Leisner is currently Chair of the guitar department at the Manhattan School of Music. His book on ergonomic technique, Playing with Ease, is published by Oxford University Press.

KEVORK MOURAD employs his technique of live drawing and animation in concert with musicians – developing a collaboration in which art and music harmonize with one another. Collaborators include Yo-Yo Ma, Kim Kashkashian, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Brooklyn Rider, The Knights, Perspectives Ensemble, Paola Prestini, and Kinan Azmeh and he has performed in many institutions, including The Aga Khan Museum (Toronto), The Art Institute of Chicago, The American Museum of Natural History, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Bronx Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, Elbphilharmonie (Germany), Rhode Island School of Design, Nara Museum (Japan), Lincoln Center Atrium, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Walt Disney Concert Hall.

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