The mission of Words&Music, Inc. is to present exceptional performances of both traditional and newly commissioned compositions in the vocal chamber music repertoire. Our purpose is to bring beautiful music to the forefront while simultaneously giving equal attention to the wonderful poetry and prose that inspire each work. Our efforts include both educational and performance initiatives throughout our community.
Words&Music was founded in Virginia by Melissa Coombs, Terrance Johns and Virginia Rice Sircy. The ensemble first collaborated in a performance of Ned Rorem’s Evidence of Things not Seen in the spring of 2007. Evidence remains a signature piece in the Words&Music repertoire.
In 2009, Words&Music took its show on the road with Rorem’s vocal masterpiece at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Albany, New York. The Times Union noted that Virginia Rice Sircy’s playing was “…fierce and potent.” The following spring, the vocal members of Words&Music were the featured soloists in a performance of Mozart’s Requiem with Albany Pro Musica at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Albany, New York.
Words&Music, Inc became a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2010. This status has enabled Words&Music to expand its concert season and outreach efforts. Words&Music has presented outreach programs at The Fairfax military retirement community in Ft. Belvoir, VA; Trinity High School in Falls Church, VA; Church of the Holy City in Washington, DC; and Christ Church Durham Parish in Nanjemoy, MD.
In addition to presenting acclaimed performances of existing works, Words&Music is committed to adding to the vocal quartet repertoire through commissions and working with other arts organizations. Founding member Terrance Johns is the featured composer for the stirring Star of the Morning winter seasonal program. In 2012, Words&Music collaborated with WordSong, a Boston-based arts organization, to present a series of interactive musical discussions featuring newly composed settings of Langston Hughes’ Harlem. In May 2012, Words&Music commissioned a new version of Howard Frazin’s The Voice of Isaac for vocal quartet and piano quintet. This commission was made possible by a grant from the Weissberg Foundation of Arlington, VA. In March 2013, Words&Music partnered with the Washington Master Chorale to co-commission The Eye Begins To See, a work for chorus and solo quartet, by Donald McCullough. In September 2013, Words&Music will be launching its inaugural composition competition to further enhance the repertoire for vocal quartet and piano.
Words&Music, Inc has been a past recipient of Operating Grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and ArtWorks. Found Again: The American Indian Project was sponsored in part by a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts/ ArtWorks.
Equally comfortable on the concert and recital stage, Melissa Coombs has performed throughout the Eastern United States and in Europe. Her concert appearances have included Bach’s B-minor Mass, Händel’s “Alexander’s Feast” and Mozart’s Requiem. Ms. Coombs has been a featured soloist at the Maryland Händel Festival, presenting the North American premier of Maurice Greene’s cantata, Duristanti’s Farewell. She has also been a soloist at the Händel Festspiel in Halle, Germany.
As a recitalist, she has performed extensively as a soloist and with chamber ensembles. Most recently Ms. Coombs presented performances of Bach’s Cantata 51 “Jauchzett Gott in Allen Landen” and Scarlatti’s Arie for Soprano and Trumpet in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC. She was the soprano soloist for the National Trumpet Competition, Historic Division, held at George Mason University. Ms. Coombs presented the world premier performances of both Emily Dickinson Songs and Days and Nights (a set of songs composed for her) by Lori Laitman at the Sumner School in Washington, D.C. Recent performances include Brahms’s Liebeslieder Walzer with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet at the Kennedy Center.
From innovative performances of Mozart and Handel to the contemporary American concert and stage repertoire, baritone William Heim continues to attract critical attention and acclaim. The Baltimore Sun hailed him as “[one] of the most engaging vocalists based in the area.” The Washington Post declared Mr. Heim “an exemplary Count” (Le Nozze di Figaro), “…clearly chosen for his acting skills as much as vocal ability, with gratifying results.” Recent engagements for Mr. Heim include Sam in Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, Marullo in Verdi’s Rigoletto and Stravinsky’s Renard with Opera Vivente, as well as Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro with the In Series (Washington, DC).
In Spring 2009 he appeared as Vicar Gedge with Opera Vivente in their production of Albert Herring. Mr. Heim made his role début with Baltimore Opera in their production of La Traviata and Dead Man Walking. Other stage highlights include Taddeo (An Italian Girl in Algiers), Strephon (Iolanthe), Nardo (La Santa Giardiniera), Danilo (Merry Widow) and Falke (Die Fledermaus). Mr. Heim also made his New York début in 2004 at the Guggenheim Museum’s Works and Process series, as part of the premier of John Musto’s critically acclaimed opera Volpone with Wolf Trap Opera Company.
Virginia Rice Sircy
Virginia Rice Sircy was Professor of Music at Cameron University and holds three degrees in piano performance. Virginia is a founding member of three chamber music groups, including Words&Music headquartered in Northern Virginia. She has conducted recent performances of Haydn’s Mass in Time of War, Mozart’s Requiem Mass (K. 626), and the Fauré Requiem. She served as music director and conductor for sixteen performances of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris and four performances of Benjamin Britten’s opera, Noye’s Fludde, a co-production of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Great Falls VA and Revels Washington DC. Dr. Sircy completed her thirtieth year in 2017 as a faculty member of the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute for high school students in the arts. She will again join colleagues to perform chamber music at the Assisi Performing Arts Festival in Assisi, Italy in July 2019.
A former English professor specializing in medieval and early modern British literature, Otice was trained at the University of Texas-Austin and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After his retirement from Cameron University in Oklahoma, he returned to graduate school for museum studies training and served as Museum Curator and Librarian with the Percussive Arts Society. Otice was a member of the Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra cello section for many years and, after moving to Alexandria VA, continued cello studies with a former student of Janos Starker. He is an emeritus Docent at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
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