Dec. 29, 2014. Baritone John Taylor Ward’s performances have been acclaimed around the world, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots in the High Country as a student of the Watauga County Public Schools; a ubiquitous presence in productions of the Blue Ridge Community Theatre, Lees-McRae Summer Theatre and the Blowing Rock Stage Company; and a chorister at St. Mary of the Hills parish in Blowing Rock.
A graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Eastman School of Music and the Yale School of Music, his performance has been praised by the New York Times for its “velvety suaveness” and by the Washington Post for “finely calibrated precision and heart-rending expressivity.” In the coming season, Ward will perform on five continents with companies such as Les Arts Florissants, the Boston Early Music Festival, L’arpeggiata and Bach Collegium Japan, but he will kick off the New Year at home, presenting a free-of-charge concert at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Boone on Jan. 2 at 7 p.m.
He will be joined by Scott Lykins, a pianist and cellist who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Eastman School of Music. As a collaborative pianist with a primarily vocal focus, Lykins has performed in recitals and concerts throughout the United States, and recently made his European debut at the Cite Internationale de Paris. Together, Lykins and Ward founded the Lakes Area Music Festival in 2009, where they bring seven free classical music concerts to rural Minnesota each August. Presenting everything from intimate chamber music to a symphonic orchestra and fully staged opera, the Lakes Area Music Festival engages musicians from the country’s top professional orchestras and brings graduate-level students from the nation’s top conservatories to play alongside them.
The program will include Schumann’s Liederkreis (opus 39) as well as works by Schubert, Poulenc, Finzi and Cole Porter. Donations will be accepted at the concert, all proceeds going to support the Lakes Area Music Festival’s educational programs.