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Mortality Mansions

March 30, 2017 @ 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Donald Hall, the 2006 U.S. Poet Laureate, and Grammy award-winning musician Herschel Garfein present Mortality Mansions. This song cycle explores themes of love, sexuality, and bereavement in old age. In this world premiere, renowned tenor Michael Slattery and Metropolitan Opera pianist Dimitri Dover will perform the cycle accompanied by reflections on the work by poets, musicians, and scholars. Mortality Mansions was commissioned by Sparks and Wiry Cries, which funds the creation of new art song collaborations between poets and composers.

The Casement Fund Song Series and Sparks & Wiry Cries presents:

The World Premiere performance of Mortality Mansions An Evening of Poetry and Song with Donald Hall, Herschel Garfein, Richard Ford, Jean Valentine, and Dr. Rita Charon

In collaboration with The Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University, Sparks and Wiry Cries presents the world premiere of Mortality Mansions, a song cycle by Grammy® Award-winning composer Herschel Garfein and distinguished American poet Donald Hall, former Poet Laureate of the United States (2006-2007). The featured performers are tenor Michael Slattery (“elemental emotional force” –Financial Times; “sweet-toned tenderness” –New York Times) and Dmitri Dover, acclaimed pianist for the Metropolitan opera Lindemann Young Artist Program.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford, National Book Award-winning poet Jean Valentine, and Professor of Clinical Medicine and Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine Dr. Rita Charon will join the artists in a program of readings and reflections paying tribute to poet Donald Hall’s storied career and his guiding themes of love, sexuality and bereavement in old age. Mr. Hall himself will participate via remote video link from his home in New Hampshire.

Mortality Mansions
Thursday, March 30th, 2017 at 7:00pm
The James Room, Barnard Hall
3009 Broadway at 117th Street, NYC. Free Admission.

Reservation required at

This recital is in partnership with the Heyman Center for the Humanities, Eileen Gillooly Executive Director, and the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia Medical Center. Special thanks to Barnard College & Columbia University School of the Arts.

Donald Hall has written over fifty books, including more than two dozen books of poetry, children’s books, art criticism, essays, plays and other edited volumes. His Essays After Eighty was published in 2014. He is currently writing a volume of essays to be published by Houghton Miflin Harcourt in 2018. His many honors include two Guggenheim fellowships and the L.A. Times Book Prize for Poetry. He served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2006-2007, and in 2010 he was awarded the National Medal for the Arts by President Obama.

Herschel Garfein’s opera Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, based on the Tom Stoppard play, will receive its piano- vocal staged premiere this summer at the Seagle Music Colony in the Adirondacks. He wrote and directed My Coma Dreams for composer/pianist Fred Hersch, available on Palmetto DVD. Garfein won the 2012 GRAMMY® award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for his “wildly operatic libretto” (–BBC Magazine) for Robert Aldridge’s Elmer
Gantry (Naxos). His songs and other works are available on Naxos, Roven Records, and GPR labels.

The Heyman Center for the Humanities
The Heyman Center for the Humanities provides the intellectual and physical space for lectures, readings, conferences, and performances to the Columbia University community and New York City public. Its Public Humanities Initiative reaches members of our community with traditionally limited access to such humanities-focused events, free of charge.

Sparks & Wiry Cries and The Casement Fund Song Series:
Sparks & Wiry Cries is a global platform for art song that explores the dynamic union of music and text through publication, performance, and commission of new works. Sparks’ Casement Fund Song Series is entering its 5th season of presenting intimate vocal recitals that explore the complex union of poetry and music through collaborative performances, fostering connections within the broader artistic community. (

Location: JAMES ROOM at Barnard College



March 30, 2017
3:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


The James Room, Barnard Hall
3009 Broadway
New York, New York 10027
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Open to public