Twilight and At last to be identified!

CD Review: Experience, Albany Records
Natalie Mann, soprano and Jeffrey Panko, piano

“… this Montana native is rapidly making a name for himself not only a composer but also as an innovative force for drawing young people into music. His music has a rhapsodic vitality to it, even in his quietest songs, and a disarming sense of spontaneity that draws us into each piece. He writes very effectively for the voice and also knows how to set lyrics with clarity and sensitivity. His cycle Twilight features three texts by Christina Rossetti, whose colorful and evocative poetry seems a perfect fir for Thomas’s warm hearted and impassioned music.”
Gregory Berg, NATS Journal of Singing March/April 2015

A Wake or a Wedding

November 2014
“Lots of silly fun.” 
Gloria Talamas, Offbway

A Wake or a Wedding

November 2014
“… the opera brings together beautiful singing, outrageous slapstick and romantic entanglements for an evening of farcical fun. Mr. Thomas has written a delectable denouement, each character divulging their secret and topping the previous confession, to the audience’s delight.Mr. Thomas’s orchestrations are sublime.”
Navida Stein, StageBuddy

A Wake or a Wedding

November, 2014
“Opera is best suited for madness and comedy. Why else would all these people be singing to you about everything from their most private desires to the need for someone to answer that door?! Richard Pearson Thomas’s comic opera, A Wake or a Wedding is a fine example of both these elements of opera. There’s madness in it, and comedy, of course, both well-made and enjoyable.
Plot-wise, this would make a good musical. But this is an opera, with the music not only supporting the characters but creating and shaping the drama too. The characters carry the comedy, leaving the music free to deliver an unexpected depth of feeling.”
George Grella, New York Classical Review

A Wake or a Wedding

November 2014

"A Wake or a Wedding is charming, entertaining and funny … an amusing comedy with several completely unexpected and mad plot turns – true to the style of comic opera. [Thomas’s] score is accessible and lyrical. Most importantly for an English opera, the score allowed the singers to effectively communicate the story.”
Nitya Thomas, Broadway After Dark

Far Off

June, 2014 CD Review: In My Memory. American Songs and Song Cycles, Centaur Records
 Kerry Jennings, tenor and Amanda Asplund Hopson, piano
“In Far Off, Richard Pearson Thomas employs sensitive effects in daring to set Cavafy’s delicate poetry. The first and last songs feature the pianist stroking her instrument’s strings, summoning an oriental feeling. Jennings’ really stretches himself to characterize the worldly wise and rather weary narrator of these poems. Cavafy’s “visions of sensual delight” require a singer who can convey a refined passion, tempering ecstasy with an observant intelligence. In the two most erotically vivid songs, “One Night” and “In Despair,” Cavafy’s voice and Jennings’s seem to merge. Far Off makes a heartrending conclusions to an elegant and emotionally rich recital.”
Dave Saemann, Fanfare Magazine


May, 2014 MUSIC REVIEW: Forward Fest with Sybarite5 and friends  

“With only the title and composer name in hand, entering the experience of Richard Pearson Thomas’s “Ossessione” was a bit like walking through a hall of mirrors at the sideshow with a string quintet. “Yes, it’s 18th century recitative and an aria, that’s right. I know that song…. Whoa, what was that?!” Speaking from the stage, Gaissert referred to the first song as a mash-up of classic Italian art songs. These were set to spicy harmonies and modern touches. Two more songs treated arias familiar to any voice student to a contemporary setting of the lyrics with only hints of the original melodies. “Amarilli, mia bella” became freely flowing Arabic-tinged vocal accompanied by directly hammered piano strings as an ostinato. “Caro mio ben” brought back the quintet … in a tortured and vigorous version that finally concluded with some sense of peace for the poor soul.” Gayle Williams, Herald-Tribune


May, 2014 MUSIC REVIEW: Forward Fest with Sybarite5 and friends  
“The most impressive work of the evening was the opening set of songs by Richard Pearson Thomas, a young, voraciously talented composer with a vivid imagination and ingenious ideas. In his “Ossessione,” set for mezzo, piano and string quartet, Thomas took four well-known Italian songs from the 17th and 18th century and reset the melodies and words into a cycle reminiscent of “Pulcinella,” in which Stravinsky took some songs of the same period, including Pergolesi’s “Se tu m’ami,” and gave them a distinctly 20th century twist.
Thomas’ take is a little like what Stravinsky might have done had he been living today. Taking Bononcini’s spirited, happy “Per la Gloria d’adorarvi” and pairing it with Caldara’s more dramatic and minor-key “Comme raggio di Sol,” he formed a brilliant pastiche of new music that Gaissert, Nesic and Chroma spun into a beautifully textured chamber piece.
Caccini’s “Amarilli,” is one of the most beautiful of those “24 Italian Songs and Arias” with which every singer breaks a vocal fold or two when first learning to sing.
Thomas changes the rules of “Amarilli” by having the pianist lean inside his instrument and strike the strings in a chant-like rhythm, while the mezzo sings much of the original song like a Sephardic Raga filled with melismas and what sounded like flatted quarter tones that make the music brilliant and touching. Of all, it was the most interesting and creative.
Finally, Thomas used Giordani’s “Caro mio ben” and hid its famous melody in an individual and resourceful setting that ended with the piano playing in a different key under pizzicato strings.” June LeBell, The Observer Group

At last, to be identified!

May, 2014 CD Review: Experience, Albany Records
Natalie Mann, soprano and Jeffrey Panko, piano
“Thomas’s Dickinson songs are some of the most varied and expressive I have heard in
years. Best is the understated eloquence of ‘A Certain Slant of Light’, much of which is a cappella. The more dissonant ‘What if I Say’ moves toward a stark abruptness that exactly embodies the poem’s meaning. ‘Wild Nights’ is delicate and playful for such a passionate poem, but the lack of heaviness is refreshing. The piano writing is as delightfully playful as the vocal writing. Even more surprising is the lightness of “the seal
despair” and “look of death” in ‘There’s a Certain Slant of Light’, a counterpoint to “the heft of cathedral tunes” in the text. The chilling power of this poem needs no additional heaviness.‘ I Never Saw a Moor’, the simplest of these songs, has an arcing, wordless vocalize …”
Jack Sullivan, American Record Guide

The Butterfly Tree

April, 2014 Mirror Visions Ensemble at SubCulture New York City 
“The most effective writing for the whole trio came in Richard Pearson Thomas's "The Butterfly Tree" (Linda Pastan), written in Andrews Sisters-like close harmony.”
Fred Cohn, Opera News

The Letters

February 21, 2014

 "It also includes what may perhaps be considered the program's centerpiece, "The Letters," a song-cycle based on George Washington Carver's letters. Commissioned by [Irwin] Reese, it is the work of Richard Pearson Thomas, an admired and living white composer. Reese, prior to his performance of the work, said "I told him, 'Feel free to write whatever music you feel like. The only thing I ask is that, whatever you write, that it have beautiful melodies.' I think he more than did that.'" And, given this hearer's experience of the work, Thomas obliged his patron by summoning a largely lyrical, compelling creation." Joseph Marcello, The Recorder, Greenfield, Mass. February 22, 2014

At last, to be identified!

April 23, 2012

 "Thomas' "At last, to be identified !" with texts by Emily Dickinson was sung by soprano Hope Hudson with violinist Stephanie Chase, pianist Todd Crow and cellist James Wilson. Hudson sang lustily with excellent diction in the usually abstract lines. Instrumentation was spare. The best were "I never saw a Moor," which had wonderful lyricism; and "At last, to be identified!" which had Hudson soaring over a rich cello that reached an ecstatic climax that was thrilling." Geraldine Freedman, The Daily Gazette

Clean Plates Don't Lie

May 12, 2013

 "Mr. Thomas was also the composer of the final work on the program, a cantata in celebration of sustainable food entitled Clean Plates Don't Lie. This was a delightful piece of music with plentiful melodic invention and interesting weaving of voices with the strings. We are always tickled by the skewering of people's obsessions and in this case the entire "farm to table" movement was gently satirized. We heard arias, recitatives, a passacaglia, a fugue, choruses and a chorale with gorgeous harmonies. The text comprised lists of ingredients from the menu of a well known restaurant which champions sustainable eating. Betty Crocker's mid 20th c. recipe for Tuna Supreme was the text for Mr. Thomas' other contribution to the program. Hearing what people ate 63 years ago was a hoot. Perhaps it's time to stop writing and whip up a batch!" Voce di Meche © meche kroop

Amarilli, mia bella

September 28, 2013

 "… one of the more memorable pieces was Richard Pearson Thomas's version of "Amarilli, mia bella.".
Kelsey Riggins The Pendulum

At last to be identified!

July 17, 2013

 "I was equally delighted, and stimulated, by the slightly more angular musical line and more modern harmonies of Richard Pearson Thomas … whose songs also fit into the "American" mold quite nicely." Lynn René Bayley, Fanfare Magazine

A Nash Menagerie -- New York Times

May 23, 2012

 "A highlight of the evening was Mr. Thomas's witty setting of five poems by Ogden Nash, including "The Pigeon" and "The Turkey." The group's three singers - the tenor Scott Murphree, the baritone Jesse Blumberg and the soprano Vira Slywotzky - offered an amusing rendition of "The Duck." Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times

The Center of the Universe

January 23, 2012

... a jaunty, jittery ode to Times Square The Center of the Universe by Richard Pearson Thomas. The latter would have sounded at home in an ironic, latter day Leonard Bernstein canon, sung by Gene Kelley by way of Williamsburg or Park Slope. Olivia Giovetti

The Center of the Universe

October 23, 2011

 Richard Pearson Thomas's The Center of the Universe is a sly take on the transformation of Times Square/42nd Street, from a squalid dump New Yorkers avoided, to a glittery tourist trap that they with snooty pride avoid more fervently still. by SCOTT ROSE

The Center of the Universe

January 15, 2012

 "Richard Pearson Thomas captures the dizzying bustle of the city in the vigorous, tongue-in-cheek patter of "Center of the Universe." ALLAN KOZINN, New York Times

The Center of the Universe

February 1, 2012

... "The Center of the Universe," Richard Pearson Thomas' brilliant encapsulation of who-what-when-where-why and it must be yours. Sherri Rase [Q] onStage

The Center of the Universe

November 1, 2012

And if any city could inspire such an astonishing outpouring of great songs, it's that extraordinary city that Richard Pearson Thomas calls "that dirty, dizzy, trashy, noisy, throbbing, nasty, nowhere-else-on-earth-is-like-it spot at the center of the city, the center of the country, the world, the universe!" Thomas is actually one of the twenty composers who crafted a song for this project, and his is one of the eight songs in which the composer has set his/her own lyrics. Perhaps the best of those is by the aforementioned Richard Pearson Thomas, whose "The Center of the Universe" closes out the second disk with riotous fun. This may be the most memorable ode to the city since Leonard Bernstein's On The Town. Gregory Berg, NATS Journal of Singing Read more:

The Center of the Universe

January 30, 2012 " … highlights include … Richard Pearson Thomas' giddily frenetic The Center of the Universe." Stephen Eddins,

Young Love

May 1, 2010 The composer has captured the essence of each poem in his music while writing vocal lines that do not stress the young voice and piano parts that are accessible to most pianists. All of the songs are in traditional keys and meters but contain just enough dissonance and rhythmic complexity to offer some challenges to young musicians. One song is composed in a more popular style of rhythmic syncopation, but the other songs are representative of traditional art song composition. These songs are a welcome addition to the somewhat sparse catalog of songs by American composers suitable for young voices. It will, no doubt, be refreshing to hear something different at high school vocal competitions. Judith E. Carman, NATS Journal of Singing

Race for the Sky

April 25, 2011

"Richard Pearson Thomas' "Race for the Sky" is a set of three songs on poetry about 9/11 … this was a particularly eloquent set that progressed from mourning the buildings themselves, to a litany of names and relationships, and ended with the imagined voice of a victim ("don't look for me anymore"). Before the final song came a movement for violin and piano titled "Meditation." Every block chord, suspended harmony and falling melody felt potent with meaning." Times Albany New York

the star to every wandering bark (theme and variations)

May 2, 2010

The "find" of the afternoon for this listener was a work entitled "the star to every wandering bark" (2003), by Richard Pearson Thomas. Inspired by Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, the work showed such ravishing lyricism and meaningful development, that I left the concert determined to obtain the score and anything else by this composer. Moments could be described as Coplandesque, but Mr. Thomas writes from an undeniably individual voice.

New York Concert Review

Listen to MP3 below

Race for the Sky

September 12, 2011

Composer Richard Pearson Thomas' Race for the Sky … may be some of the most moving music I have ever heard. The set was created using texts, written by families and friends of the victims of the 9/11 attack. Christie Connolley, Operagasm

Race for the Sky

April 18, 2010

Richard Pearson Thomas' "Race for the Sky" is a set of three songs on poetry about 9/11 ... this was a particularly eloquent set that progressed from mourning the buildings themselves, to a litany of names and relationships, and ended with the imagined voice of a victim ("don't look for me anymore").

Before the final song came a movement for violin and piano titled "Meditation." Every block chord, suspended harmony and falling melody felt potent with meaning.

Times Union, Albany, New York

The Ghosts of Alder Gulch

October 15, 2009

"The Ghosts of Alder Gulch" is a 2002 composition by Richard Pearson Thomas and consists of 14 short movements, each of which depicts a past resident of a mining town in Montana in the late 1800s. (Conductor Gregory) Woodbridge said it is " perfect for Halloween and very approachable." Individual ghosts are evoked by a different orchestral instrument or group of instruments, suggesting a cross between " The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" and " Spoon River Anthology."


May 1, 2008 These elements, along with many others, help to create the sense of a unified work that reflects an intense period in the poet's life and show his emotional reaction to his experiences of a dark time. The sonorities in this work are very beautiful, and the text is sensitively set. It is a work that is appropriate to our time and yet another reminder of the folly and senseless destruction of war. Judith E. Carman, NATS Journal of Singing

Cabaret Songs

March 1, 2008

Richard Pearson Thomas is gaining national recognition as a classically trained composer of opera, chamber music, art and cabaret songs, music theater, and film music. Like Bolcom, his three volumes of Cabaret Songs combine contemporary classical harmonic and rhythmic language with the European cabaret tradition and popular American musical style. Thomas blends current classical dissonances into popular music rhythms. His songs present a variety of styles including a dissonant tango, a modern version of a Parisian Valse, and spare expansive Coplandesque chordal writing that supports deeply emotional text.

Eric R. Bronner, New "Standards" for Singers: The Next Generation of Great American Songbook Writers, NATS Journal of Singing

Listen to MP3 below.

Amarilli mia bella from Ossessione

December 1, 2007

Repeated listening has led me to conclude that the most unusual song and my favorite is Richard Pearson Thomas's Amarilli, mia bella with 17th century Italian text by Guarino Guarini (1624 -1683). Beginning recitalists know this text set by Giulio Caccini (1546 -1618), an early Italian song still often performed. Accompanied by mallet-struck piano strings played by percussionist Matthew Duvall of the new music ensemble eighth blackbird, this contemporary setting has an Indian raga inflected sound creating a peaceful energy and an enticing sensuality.

John Harmon, Art Song Update Online

I Never Saw A Moor

November 15, 2006

I want to focus on one piece this morning, Richard Pearson Thomas' setting of the Emily Dickinson poem "I never saw a Moor," presenting the anatomy of a transcendent song.

The chemistry of factors that contribute to a 'hit tune' is unique to each and difficult to define, but always starts, it seems, with a set of words or an idea that seemingly 'wants' or 'needs' to be sung. It is not necessary to sing about ordinary things; speaking works just fine. Here, from one of the great American poets [Dickinson (1830-1886), well bred, reclusive, lived in Amherst, Massachusetts] we have a simple, profound statement of faith set in such lilting meter that it almost sings itself. There is also a pronounced crescendo of emotion, from the simple geography of the moor to an embrace of the certainty of the power of God, all in two verses. This wave of emotion fairly well screams to be sung.

Mr. Thomas, a New Yorker whose 75 operas for the children of NYC public schools have received national attention, observes not only the sense but the very form of the poem by starting simply - the ambling, liquid tune and quiet piano lines allowing the words take the foreground. After this first statement, he releases the song into a wordless "Ah…." …a shift into pure feeling, pure sensation.A perfectly brief interlude turns up the fire, and now the same tune, this time extended into upper registers and under-girded with handfuls of notes, simply boils over - defining, musically, the fervor of the poem. And this time, the "Ah" takes us, if only for a moment, into the realm of the inexpressible.

And so, the basic recipe for a great song:

Words of clarity and truth

A composer interested in and capable of revealing them

The autograph score has "Christmas Eve, 1991, New York City" inscribed under the last bar. What a great gift...

Keith Weber, St. Philip Presbyterian Church, Houston TX

Listen to MP3 below.

Cabaret Songs in concert with Trillium Ensemble

December 16, 2005

The peerless accompaniment of Thomas was evidenced by his ability to unobtrusively support the vocal duo of [Trillium Ensemble] while playing as many notes as he did.

The remainder of the program consisted of engaging cabaret songs written by pianist/composer Thomas, including a delightfully naughty and slightly "Damaged" tango, an out of this world "UFO" and a disembodied "Gertie's Head" placed atop a table while belting out her tale of suffering and woe.

The concert ended all too soon with a hauntingly emotive reading by Thomas of "Just Another Hour."

ABC Newspapers, Anoka, Minnesota

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Trillium Ensemble in concert

March 18, 2003

The talents of composer/pianist Richard Pearson Thomas blew me away. What a treat it was! The range of his composition is remarkable.

The Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls, Montana

In Thinking of America

October 19, 1999

At first I might have thought I was going to hear nothing but war and marching songs, but this concert featuring tenor Robert Trentham and pianist Richard Pearson Thomas, was anything but gloomy ... it included some very wonderful medleys and original compositions by Thomas.

The accompaniment, along with the original songs of Thomas, added subtlety, warmth and depth to the richness of the evening.

The Journal-Standard, Freeport, Illinois

The program was an entertaining one. The musical arrangements by Richard Pearson Thomas were inventive, sometimes surprising renditions of the tunes in innovative settings. Mr. Thomas is accomplished as an arranger and a pianist.

The Marshall News Messenger, Marshall, Texas

Karen Beardsely sings RPT at Weill Recital Hall, New York

May 14, 1997

Mr. Thomas, who played the piano on Friday, dominated the program. Like that of most of his colleagues here, his music is rooted in soothing diatonic language. Dissonance is present, but it serves more to decorate than take on a life of its own. Mr. Thomas has listened acutely to the world around him. He can bounce with nervous metric energy, sing simply, and do a nice Kurt Weill imitation as well.

The New York Times

The Lear texts were set wittily and adeptly by Beardsley's pianist, Richard Pearson Thomas, who contributed two other song groups as well: he shifted sensitively into a different realm with four poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay which Beardsley sustained with grace.

New York Post

AIDS Anxiety

June 12, 1992 Several purely musical moments leaped out from the stage. Richard Thomas's "AIDS Anxiety," a trio, was a manic and very funny exercise in paranoia conducted in quick Broadway patter style. The New York Times

 Richard Thomas set his own "AIDS Anxiety" as a rollicking trio -- a welcome balance to the rest of the program. The New York Daily News

 The evening's humor -- decidedly black -- came in the form of a long satirical poem for three baritones by composer/poet Richard Thomas, called "AIDS Anxiety." If it takes courage to laugh in the face of disaster, such courage was demonstrated here. New York Post

O Night Divine

December 12, 1990 [The] program included "O Night Divine," an arrangement by Richard Pearson Thomas of several favorite Christmas carols ... If "O Night Divine" is published and becomes generally available, it seems quite possible that it could become a concert staple. The happy combinations of well-known melodies and delicious new, little cadenzas (the addition to "Angels We Have Heard on High" alone would make the piece almost irresistible to any soprano) together with the fascinating changes Mr. Thomas has rung on the piano accompaniments to the carols make for a very pleasing combination of familiarity and freshness. The Indiana Gazette