Talk about romantic.
The Piano in the Arts concert series at Armstrong State University returns for a second season on Sept. 26 with "We Have Both for a Long Time Been Silent," a program that imagines songs as a series of love letters.
The series was created last year by Dr. Benjamin Warsaw, an assistant professor of music at Armstrong who is the artistic director of Piano in the Arts.
"For our 2014-15 series opener, I've asked some good friends to bring a very special program that they created," Warsaw says.
"You will enjoy their captivating performance, one that realizes a spiritually connective experience embedded in the manuscripts of the late-Romantic Austrian composer, Hugo Wolf."
The songs are taken from Wolf's "Italienisches Liederbuch," or "Italian Songbook." The program features soprano Susan Williams, baritone Dean Southern and pianist Jeffrey Brown presenting a staged interpretation of Wolf's art songs, early piano works and letters written to Melanie KÃ¶cher.
Williams has performed nationally and internationally in a wide range of leading opera roles and as a vocal soloist. She recently performed in Florida as soprano soloist in the Mozart Requiem with the Master Chorale of South Florida, in Mahler's Fourth Symphony with the Frost Symphony Orchestra and in Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes for the Mainly Mozart Festival.
Southern has performed in opera, oratorio and recitals throughout the United States and Europe, including Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy.
Brown has appeared in concerts throughout the United States, Europe and Asia as a solo recitalist, chamber musician and soloist with orchestras. He has performed in the Dame Myra Hess Series in Chicago, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Sichuan Conservatory in China and music festivals in France, Germany and Austria.
"The series is dedicated to the versatility of the piano," Warsaw says. "We try to have four different genres of piano music.
"This season, we've got a jazz concert, a solo piano concert, turn-of-the-century songs and a concert of German music. We're reaching out to the community.
"We want to appeal to the masses," he says. "I'm of the viewpoint that there's something for everyone."
Last year's series proved quite successful.
"This is our second year and we already have five corporate sponsors, not including Armstrong, which is hosting the event," Warsaw says. "I moved to Savannah a year ago and the first thing I did was start this series.
"We're bringing first-rate concerts in," he says. "The number of people who have jumped onboard is really a tell for this community."
The corporate sponsors are the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra, Georgia Public Broadcasting, the Gaslight Group, Byrd Cookie Company and Springhill Suites Midtown.
"I wanted to create a concert series that was based in Savannah and here year-round," Warsaw says. "I think that Savannah is one of the ideal places for this.
"My mother is from Savannah, so I grew up coming down here. History is very important here.
"Times are changing, but there is still an interest in this, but there's not enough going on," he says. "That's what sparked my interest in doing this series."
Armstrong is a natural setting for a piano series, Warsaw says.
"Armstrong has a great concert hall," he says. "I wanted to connect the community with what we're doing at Armstrong.
"What a better way to reach out than music? I go out and see a lot of classical music and different musical and art events.
"I'm always so impressed with the diversity of people at these events," Warsaw says. "I would like to be part of this history by putting Armstrong on the map with these first-rate concerts."
The opening concert on Sept. 26 will be a multimedia event.
"We will be projecting slides behind the stage, and will have poetry and solo piano and piano accompanied with voice," Warsaw says. "It will be a good concert. With the Savannah Voice Festival, there's been a huge upswing in vocal music."
The Piano in the Arts series stands on its own.
"This is the first of four concerts," Warsaw says. "We're not trying to compete with the Philharmonic or (Savannah) Music Festival.
"We're different. We're here throughout the year and we're affiliated with a university. We're working with members of the Savannah Philharmonic."
Upcoming concerts in the series are:"Modern Meets Tradition" on Nov. 8, featuring the Eric Jones Trio presenting post-bop jazz sounds."The Golden Age of Song" on Jan. 23 with vocalists Roger Moss, Trae Gurley and Emily Grundstad-Hall and pianists Benjamin Warsaw and vibraphone/percussionist Stephen Primatic."Romantic Expressions" on Feb. 28 with pianist Silvije Vidovic, who will present a romantic program featuring the music of Cesar Franck, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Sergei Prokofiev.
"If you haven't been to the Armstrong Fine Arts Auditorium, you must," Warsaw says. "It's a gorgeous venue.
"Whether this is something you are interested in, take a look at our program, There really is something for everybody.
"We're committed to bringing in first-rate performers and involving the community, too," he says. "This really is history in the making."