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Composer Garth Baxter sits at his piano

Composer Garth Baxter is noted for his modern traditionalist style of writing. This is a style that combines the traditions of form and clear melodic writing with the use of contemporary approaches to harmonies and other elements.  He is recognized as one of the preeminent composers of art songs and has been described as an unabashed lyrical, tonal composer.


Baxter was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1946, and moved to California when he was nine years old. He earned music degrees from Pepperdine University and California State University at Northridge. He studied composition with Robert Hall Lewis, Joseph Wagner, and William Thornton.  In addition to writing music, Baxter currently teaches and mentors emerging composers.


Baxter’s compositions for chorus, orchestra, symphonic band, piano, organ, flute, voice, and guitar, as well as other instrumental combinations, have been performed throughout the world.  His music has been featured on radio and on-line programs worldwide. He has received numerous awards, commissions, and honors. His song cycle, “From the Heart: Three American Women” (Columbia Music Company) was the topic of a doctoral dissertation. Mr. Baxter recently completed the opera, Lily, with librettist Lisa VanAuken.


His recording, ASK THE MOON, works for voice and piano by Garth Baxter, released January 2018 by PARMA Recordings (Navona), has been praised worldwide.  The recording Katherine Keem Sings Songs and Arias by Garth Baxter, was released fall 2014 by Centaur Records and has been acclaimed for its significant contribution to the voice and guitar repertoire.  


A new recording of Baxter’s instrumental works, Resistance, was released from PARMA Recordings (Navona) February 8, 2019 and has been receiving wonderful reviews and lots of airplay.


Baxter’s works are published by Columbia Music Company, ALRY Publications, Les Productions D’OZ, Doberman-YPPan, Guitar Chamber Music Press, and Mel Bay Publications.

About the composer

Garth Baxter

A note from Garth Baxter...

Lily is the crowning achievement of my career as a composer.   Librettist Lisa VanAuken and I strove to create a work of dramatic integrity while at the same time including all of the components that seduce opera lovers.  Each scene of Lily is a concise drama with recurring melodic ideas that give coherence, as well as individual character, to the scene.  Lily has 9 arias that are filled with memorable melodies reminiscent of the 19th Century classics of Puccini and Verdi, but with a fresh American sound.  My music has been described as having an individual voice that combines old elements in new and fascinating ways.*  This is most evident in Lily.


This opera is a work that audiences and singers will love.  Based very loosely on the brilliant novel The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, this is the tragic story of Lily Bart who will capture your heart with her flirty dalliances with her lover Seldon. You will enjoy her charisma as she enters party scenes, and you will feel her frustration and pain as her world falls apart.

A pink lily flower

About the librettist

Lisa VanAuken (Lisa Van Allen)holds an MFA in Fiction from Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she held a fellowship as the assistant editor of The Literary Review; An International Journal of Contemporary Writing. Her short prose was nominated for inclusion in Best New American Writing and The Pushcart Prize. Lisa’s work has been published in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Many Mountains Moving, Fugue, Limestone, The MacGuffin, Sou’wester, The Literary Review (TLRweb), Flyway, Southeast Review, CICADA, Baltimore’s Citypaper, and many other venues. Her novels have been published pseudonymously, most prominently under the name Lisa Van Allen, by three major houses, translated into over nine languages, and appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

Librettist Lisa VanAuken's headshot

Lisa VanAuken
(Lisa Van Allen)

About Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton was born January 24, 1862 during the American Civil War. Her parents were descendants of prosperous English and Dutch businessmen and were a part of the of the fashionable New York society that Edith would describe in much of her writing This was a society which the only acceptable goal for a woman was to marry a man from the upper class and become the woman in charge of the household.  


Her family spent 6 years in Europe soon after the end of the war.  She was ill during part of this time. The family moved back to the United States and settled in Newport, Rhode Island. Edith was greatly impressed by Europe and returned there many times and finally settled permanently in Paris in the early 1900s.  

Edith showed an early love for books and made her first attempt at writing a novel when she was only 11 years old.  She wrote poetry at this early time and had her first publication at the age of 13. She was well educated and spoke three foreign languages

After the death of her beloved father in 1885, when she was twenty-three, and seeming on the verge of being considered a spinster, Edith married Edward Wharton, an upper society gentleman from Boston, 12 years her senior.  They traveled quite a bit socializing in New York and Newport. Although comfortable in this lifestyle, she became more and more involved in writing.

By the early 1900s the marriage was beginning to suffer.  Both she and her husband had affairs. In addition, he gradually fell into deep mental illness and was institutionalized in 1912.  Edith divorced him in 1913 and never remarried.

Edith had published her first short story in 1891, and her first story collection, The Greater Inclination, in 1899.  Soon followed a short novel, The Touchstone in 1900, and then her first real novel, The Valley of Decision, in 1902. That same year she began corresponding with Henry James, to whom she had been introduced by mutual friends. He thought highly of her work.  Their friendship grew as James saw her talent grow. The book that made Edith famous was The House of Mirth.  Henry James died in 1916 and her novel, The Age of Innocence shortly followed.

Wharton’s life was also marked her incredible service to France and to the European refugees who flooded Paris during World War I.  This work was recognized by the French government which made her a chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur—the first woman to receive such an honor. When she died in 1937, her coffin was attended by French war veterans on recognition of her adopted country.

Edith Wharton is considered one of the great novelists of the early 20th Century.  Her novels include The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence, and the short but powerful love story, Ethan Frome.  

Historic picture of Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton


-Katherine Keem, Soprano

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