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Bolcom and Morris make their way to ECU
East Carolinian- 4/ 14/ 2004
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and pianist William Bolcom accompanied by his wife, soprano Joan Morris, will captivate audiences with popular American songs on April 17 at 8 p.m..

Their act started more than 30 years ago, when Bolcom asked Morris, then girlfriend, to join him in a program he was playing for Mohawk Trail Concerts. This performance was only the second time that they played together, but definitely not the last. This particular performance is what started them on their journey to amazing audiences. With their renditions of songs from the late 19th century through the 1920s and 1930s as well as some of Bolcom's own compositions, they are a unique duo.

William Bolcom is originally from Seattle, Wash. He exemplified musical talent and interest at a very young age. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington and studied in everywhere from California to Paris. He earned his doctorate in composition in 1964 from Stanford University.

A talented pianist and composer, Bolcom wrote many scores and recorded many songs, but didn't leave his love for music there. He has taught music at the University of Michigan since 1973 and in the fall of 1994, the university named him the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Music.

Another achievement Bolcom has under is belt is winning the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1988 for 12 New Etudes for Piano.

His wife, Joan Morris, is equally busy. Originally born in Portland, Ore. in 1943, Morris attended Gonzaga University in Spokane prior to her scholarship studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. She has appeared in off-Broadway and road productions as well as with harpist Jay Miller at the Cafe Carlyle, the Waldorf-Astoria's Peacock Alley, and other Manhattan nightspots. She too, has taught cabaret classes in the School of Music at the University of Michigan.

Brought together by everything from jazz and salsa to ragtime and the blues this couple is unstoppable. They offer the best musical experience one could hope for. Her voice is notable for ease, flexibility, and the way you can understand every word she sings. She projects not just a song, but also the character singing it, providing an award-winning performance.

As a jazz pianist, Bolcom can do anything at the keyboard and make it sound inevitable as he harmonizes with his wife to a point where the music will take you away.

The duet has blown listeners away for 30 years throughout the United States, Canada and abroad. Internationally they have performed a concert in Istanbul honoring the Consuls-General, in Italy, Moscow, Cairo and London, among others.

What is unique about their performances is they announce their program from the stage, pulling from a vast repertoire of composers/lyricists that include Irving Berlin, Eubie Blake, George and Ira Gershwin; E.Y. Harburg, Jerome Kern, Burton Lane, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller; Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; Kay Swift, Kurt Weill and others.

"This may seem like an adult show, but Bolcom and Morris play a variety of songs from all different genres that any music lover, young or old, will enjoy because their style is different, not to mention her awesome voice," said Paoula Sehannie, marketing assistant for the Cultural Outreach.

In addition to performing concerts, Bolcom and Morris have recorded 22 albums together. The first one, After the Ball, was nominated for a Grammy, as were Bolcom's Fourth Symphony, in which Morris was featured as the soloist, with Leonard Slatkin and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, and Orpheé-Sérénade, recorded by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with Bolcom as pianist.

Advance Tickets for Bolcom and Morris cost $10 for ECU students, $13 for youth, $23 for ECU faculty and staff and $25 for the general public and at the door.

This writer can be contacted at

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