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May 2015
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Music for Memorial Day: WWI Poets and Composers




Baritone John Brancy, right, and pianist Peter Dugan, left (Photo: Elliot Mandel)


WFMT salutes those who serve our country by broadcasting a special concert: Shropshire Lads: World War I Poets and Composers of Great Britain. Click above to stream the broadcast.

The concert featured baritone John Brancypianist Peter Dugan, and poet John Wilkinson in a unique program that combines music and poetry by Thomas Hardy, A.E. Housman, George Butterworth, Ivor Gurney, and others.

This World War I commemoration was presented this past April by the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago in partnership with the University of Chicago Presents as part of its Centenary Weekend: The Crossroads of World War I and Music concert series at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.


Gerald Finzi

Channel Firing


George Butterworth

6 songs from A Shropshire Lad

Loveliest of trees

When I was one and twenty

Look not in my eyes

Think no more, lad

The lads in their hundreds

Is my team ploughing?


Ivor Gurney

In Flanders

Western Sailors

Severn Meadows

By a Bierside


William Denis Browne

To Gratiana Dancing and Singing


Ivor Novello

Keep the Home-Fires Burning


Wilfred Sanderson

God Be With our Boys Tonight


ENCORE: Danny Boy, arr. Peter Dugan


John Brancy is on the verge of an exciting and diverse performing career, and has been hailed by the New York Times as “a vibrant, resonate presence” and a “dashing, strong-voiced baritone”.

In the 2014-2015 season, John Brancy’s debuts include: Opera San Antonio as the title role in Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr. Fox along with a gala appearance at the opening of San Antonio’s new Tobin Center; Edmonton Opera as Papageno in Die Zauberflöte; and Opera Lyra Ottawa as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro. His numerous concert engagements include his debut with Musica Sacra in Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall, where he also performs a recital with pianist, Ken Noda later that season for “The Song Continues”. He makes his recital debut at the Kennedy Center with Vocal Arts DC, and reprises the same program with CAIC (Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago), and Société d’art vocal de Montréal in collaboration with pianist, Peter Dugan. He also returns this season to the New York Festival of Song (NYFOS) performing at Merkin Hall with pianist, Steven Blier. Future seasons include a debut with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera TourOpera Theater of Saint Louis, and a return to Carnegie Hall in recital as part of their “Evening of Song Series.”

Last season Mr. Brancy made important debuts at Oper Frankfurt as Sonora in Puccini’s La fanciulla del West, Gotham Chamber Opera in Charpentier’s La descente d’Orphée aux Enfers, and Pacific Opera Victoria as Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos. Mr. Brancy’s concert and recital engagements for the year included performances with the Saskatoon and Regina Symphonies, San Francisco Symphony, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Art Song Society, and Carnegie Hall’s Discovery Day Series. 

During the 2012-2013 season, Mr. Brancy made his professional debut with the Dresden Semperoper, singing the role of Fiorello in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, performed in a new production of John Adams’ I Was Looking at the Ceiling, and Then I Saw the Sky with Paris’ Theatre du Chatelet, and finished his graduate degree at The Juilliard School as Harasta in Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen. Mr. Brancy closed the season performing the role of Papageno in Die Zauberflöte at the prestigious Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California where he was described by Opera News as having “impeccable timing, dynamic physicality and robust voice”. In that same summer, Mr. Brancy garnered the first prize in the 2013 Marilyn Horne Song Competition. 

While still an undergraduate student at The Juilliard School, Mr. Brancy made his Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall debuts as the Baritone soloist in Fauré’s Requiem, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, and Schubert’s Mass in G. He was the winner of the 2010 Juilliard School Honors Recital Competition and in the following year made his Alice Tully Hall debut, with pianist, Brian Zeger.  Mr. Brancy is a recent winner of the Sullivan Foundation Grand Prize and career grants, 1st Prize at the Classical Singer Magazine Competition, and the Gold Award for Voice at the YoungArts Foundation competition. He was a 2nd Place winner in the Gerda Lissner and Liederkranz competitions, and a laureate of the 2012 Montreal International Music Competition.

Pianist PETER DUGAN has been praised by the Capital Gazette as “nothing short of superb” and by the Baltimore Sun as “spellbinding.”  Prizing versatility as the key to the future of classical music, Mr. Dugan is equally at home in classical, jazz, and pop idioms.  He has appeared as a soloist throughout the United States, including performances in New York’s Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall, and Philadelphia’s Academy of Music and Verizon Hall.  He has also performed internationally in Canada, South America, the Cayman Islands, and across Europe.  This season, Mr. Dugan appears as a soloist with the New World Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas.

A sought-after crossover artist, Mr. Dugan recently performed duos with violinists Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell in memorial concerts for Marvin Hamlisch at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater in New York and The Delacorte Theater in Central Park.  He has performed his solo arrangements of Hamlisch tunes in tribute concerts on Broadway and at the Public Theater’s annual gala in Central Park.

Dugan’s collaboration with violinist Charles Yang, which the Wall Street Journal called a “classical-meets-rockstar duo,” has garnered critical acclaim across the United States. Yang and Dugan’s recent performances include the Brauntex Performing Arts Theater in Texas, Joe’s Pub in New York City, and Juilliard’s “Dreams Come True” Gala.  This past summer, Yang and Dugan were in residence at the Discovery Channel’s Curiosity Retreat in Colorado and at pianoSonoma, a music festival in California.

An enthusiastic chamber musician, Dugan has studied under and collaborated with Donald Weilerstein, Paul Katz, and Itzhak Perlman, including a 2010 performance of Schubert’s Trout Quintet with Mr. Perlman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Dugan has performed chamber music across the United States and Canada, as well as abroad in South America and Europe, including a 2013 recital with violinist Sean Lee at the Wiener Konzerthaus in Vienna.  As a member of the Tristan Piano Quartet for three years, Dugan performed across the country, including residencies in Palm Beach and Lake Wales, Florida, and recitals at New York’s Alice Tully Hall and New Jersey’s South Orange Performing Arts Center.  Dugan’s chamber music recitals this season will include appearances at the Kennedy Center, the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach, and Chicago’s Spring Lieder Lounge.

Dugan is a frequent performer of new music.  He has appeared for two consecutive years at Juilliard’s Focus Festival and, in 2013, joined the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) for a residency at Dartmouth College, workshopping a new opera by Phil Kline and Jim Jarmusch.  Dugan has also premiered works by composer Leonardo Dugan across the United States and abroad as part of the International Holland Music Sessions.

Peter performs regularly in hospitals, nursing homes, and community centers throughout New York City.  He advocates the importance of music in the community and at all levels of society.  As a founding creator and the pianist for OPERAtion Superpower, a superhero opera for children, Peter has travelled to dozens of schools in the greater New York area, performing for students in public and private schools and encouraging them to use their talents – their superpowers – for good. 

Peter was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA where he studied under Aida Epstein and Harvey Wedeen.  In 2011, he received a Bachelor of Music degree from the Juilliard School and was awarded the John Erskine Commencement Prize for outstanding artistic and academic achievement.  A Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholar, Peter received a Master of Music degree from Juilliard in 2014, where he studied under Matti Raekallio.  Peter serves on the faculty at St. Thomas Choir School in New York. In his spare time, he enjoys painting, cooking, composing, and writing.

John Wilkinson 

I am an English-language poet whose research interests derive from the reading which continues to be provocative to my writing, whether through absorption, enjoyment, skepticism, envy or antipathy. In recent years my critical writing has been more tightly focused than I might have wished, mainly on poets of the first-generation New York School and on contemporary English and North American poets. Coming to Chicago gives permission to stray, and I look forward (as examples) to writing on Shelley or Crashaw, as well as to writing more about contemporaries despite concomitant risks to life, limb and friendship.

Central to all my critical writing is a preoccupation with the peculiar properties of lyric poetry. What is the social ground of lyric? Does lyric prosody carry a capacity for thought distinguishable from semantics? What principles govern lyric coherence, especially for extended works in sequences or books? What political valency can and should lyric poetry aspire to? My approaches to these questions are governed by a training in close reading, an interest in object relations theory, and a moderate amount of errant curiosity.

My background is an unusual one, in that my academic career followed over twenty years in mental health services in England, latterly with responsibility for planning and performance managing services in the East End of London. However, my commitment to the practice of poetry and to writing about it has been consistent since teenage years. Therefore I know enough to refrain from prescribing where this practice might further take me.

My teaching interests include New York School poetry (Frank O’Hara, Barbara Guest, John Ashbery, James Schuyler); other mid-twentieth century American poets, such as those affiliated with Black Mountain (especially John Wieners) and associated with the San Francisco Renaissance; British poetry, fiction and other prose of the 1930s; British poetry from the 1930s to the present, especially W. H. Auden, W. S. Graham, Lynette Roberts, J. H. Prynne and Denise Riley; and the theory and practices of close reading and of glossing; relationships between poetry and visual arts. I expect these interests will extend.

Please note: Biographies that appear on the WFMT website are based on the information available on the artists’ own websites or those of their representatives.

  • Mike Brancy

    You will audibly witness and thoroughly enjoy a fantastic collaboration between two genius Julliard graduate artists who joined forces to recognize and honor a very poignant and sad excerpt of human history. The performance is fitting for then and now!!