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LIFE'S A FESTIVAL FOR AMERICAN CONDUCTOR

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Conductor George Skipworth is an increasingly familiar face in international symphonic festival circles of late, having led major events in Italy, Ireland and Greece over the past four seasons in addition to his regular schedule of appearances.

In July of 2006, he conducted The Aegean Verdi Festival Orchestra in performances of "Scheherazade" (among numerous other works) and, in an historical first, Verdi's "Orietta di Lesbo" (Giovanna D'Arco) on the island where the original alternate libretto is set. Four months prior, he conducted the work in Portland, Oregon, making these two performances the first for the Greek libretto since the 1850s in Italy.

In other appearances, Skipworth opened the Dublin International Symphonic Festival with a performance of Mahler's 'Fifth' Symphony and conducted Beethoven's "Eroica" as a 9/11 Memorial Concert in Florence. A performance of Mahler's Symphony no. 8 is upcoming for next summer in eastern Canada, with similar events on the schedule for both hemispheres.

Skipworth, who has toured much of the U.S., Canada, Europe, Russia and Ukraine, didn't take the typical pathways into conducting. After touring as a pianist for seven seasons, he embarked upon a singing career as a bass-baritone and, thirty opera roles and much of the concert/oratorio repertoire later, became an assistant conductor for an opera company in the American southwest, moved into a Principal Conductor position in the southeast, then branched into a rigorous schedule of symphonic engagements in the U.S. and overseas. A two-month tour of Russia and Ukraine in 1993, a time in which few American conductors visited the region, solidified his present emphasis on symphonic work.

Skipworth is fond of joking that he "changed careers one or three too many times," all the more ironic since he is also a lifelong composer with a significant body of orchestral, operatic, choral, chamber, ballet and solo works in his portfolio. He has been invited to include many of these works in guest conducting appearances. In Volgograd, Florence, Dublin and Mytilene, he premiered "Intimations of Immortality" for large chorus and orchestra, "Catarina" for cello and orchestra, "Four Irish Songs for Soprano and Orchestra" and "Isis" for two sopranos and orchestra. If Skipworth appears to favor the soprano voice, it may be because he delights in concert and touring recital engagements with wife Barbara Wester Skipworth, an Austrian-born soprano with an active international career spanning several decades.

Despite the "Renaissance Man" label, which can be the kiss of death in an age of specialization, Skipworth is quick to mention that, although many mentors and onlookers in his early career cautioned against spreading oneself too thin, he now enjoys the experience that comes with having spent time in every area of the stage and theater (although he frequently describes himself as "a young violinist better left unheard."

In a recent move, Skipworth returned to his home city of Portland, Oregon to restart the orchestra program of Lewis & Clark College, an ensemble which has since moved from intermediate repertoire and few players to a complete Beethoven 'Ninth'. It is here that Skipworth derives some of his favorite moments in music..."While the musical rewards of the professional orchestra are many, nothing matches the energy and will of students playing a great work for the first time. It is altogether rejuvenating and recreates the charged environment of my first experience with the works."

Returning home does not, in the least, represent being "put out to pasture" or "retiring" for Skipworth, nor does he show any signs of cutting back on his travels, looking forward to Asian, African, South American and further European appearances in the coming seasons. With the ongoing itinerary of festivals (his favorite symphonic format), guest conducting concerts and premieres, other considerations closer to home currently occupy his attention, such as daughter Brianne's wedding in September, to which he refers as "the season's main event."

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BARBARA WESTER SKIPWORTH, soprano

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A leading recitalist and concert artist, Austrian-born soprano Barbara Wester Skipworth's performances as an art song and German Lied specialist include appearances in cities such as Toronto, Washington, D.C., Florence, Arezzo, Munich and Bern, with engagements at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, CAMI Hall, the Smithsonian Institute, Teatro Petrarco of Arezzo, Palazzo Oddi, Villa Petrolo, the San Benedetto and the Accademia Dell'Arte. Additional New York appearances include the Open Center, Symphony Space, Alliance Francaise and the American Festival of Microtonal Music.

Extensive concert tours and residencies in Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Switzerland and Ireland have demonstrated Ms. Wester Skipworth's affinity for repertoire of the Renaissance and Baroque to avant-garde premieres of leading American and European composers. Recent orchestral appearances include concerts and opera/concerts with the Sinfonia Dell'Arte and performances of new works in Portland and Seattle.

Ms. Wester Skipworth has been the featured guest artist at the International Womens' Conference, the International Berlin Wall Conference, the International Emily Dickinson Society, the Frick Museum Series, the Pittsburgh Twentieth Century Society and the Baltimore New Works Orchestra. Academic lecture, master class and concert invitations have come from Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, The Peabody Conservatory, Penn State University, the University of Innsbruck and the Washington, D.C. Fine Arts Institute.

Recent appearances in Greece, as a soloist of The Aegean Verdi Festival, included arias of Bellini, Mozart, Dvorak and Verdi and the premiere of George Skipworth's "Isis" for two sopranos and orchestra. Returning to her present home in the Pacific Northwest, she recently appeared in Beethoven's 'Ninth' Symphony in Portland, Oregon and in Whitman College's performance of the ballet "Catarina," composed by husband George Skipworth.

A recording project is planned for the summer of 2007, which includes a Schumann volume. Other upcoming performances include the Richard Strauss "Four Last Songs" in two Canadian cities and series of Bach recitals.

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GEORGE SKIPWORTH II, Bass/Choral Conductor,
September 7, 1917 to November 20, 1993

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The son of Circuit Court Judge George Skipworth of Lane County, Oregon, Skipworth pursued music studies at the University of Oregon and at the Manuel-Williamson Studios of Chicago, where he appeared regularly in recital and opera concerts in various venues and orchestras of that city among numerous other appearances in the U.S. and Europe. These included the Chicago Festival of Ancient Music, the Heinrich Schuetz Festival (and a premiere of son George Skipworth's "Requiem Mass" at The Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore). Skipworth served on the music faculties of the University of Oregon and the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada.

While a resident of Portland, Oregon, Skipworth appeared regularly in classical radio programming including some which he established, formed touring ensembles and sang as a soloist with the Portland Symphonic Choir, Symphony Orchestra and choral/orchestral ensembles throughout the Pacific Northwest. He served as Principal Conductor of various choral societies in Washington state after 1957.

Skipworth possessed a remarkable bass voice, with Basso Cantante qualities of the Ezio Pinza "fach" but with a range more similar to the "profondo" classification (F below low C). Although a large instrument, suitable for a range of opera roles including Don Giovanni and Boris Goudonov, Skipworth, nevertheless, had a lifelong fondness for works of the Baroque and Classical periods and could be heard singing Verdi in one concert and Schuetz or J.S. Bach in the next. A general consensus among colleagues, directors and conductors throughout his career was that he would likely have had a worldwide career, had it not been for the intervention of the Second World War.

Skipworth was an avid musical researcher as well, and enjoyed the study of performance practice connected to his repertoire. In 1943, he married Mavis H. Lightfoot who, although a singer herself, was to become a distinguished teacher of piano in Washington and Oregon.

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