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Skaneateles: Young ladies hit high note with Jane Austen

The second-story hall of the Skaneateles Public Library was filled to capacity Nov. 21 with more than 80 people. They had come to hear words from nearly two centuries ago.

The Jane Austen Singing School for Young Ladies presented the words of the novelist Jane Austen, and the songs she loved. The writer of such works as "Pride and Prejudice" and "Emma" lived from 1775 to 1817.

The school's students include seven area girls who are between the ages of 12 and 18. They are: Christina Marshall, Olivia Sheppard, Ellie Crough, Phoebe Glowacki, Chloe Strang, Hana Polachek and Sofia Darovskikh. The group met with director Joanna Manring for eight weeks before putting on the concert.

"They have met every Sunday afternoon for three hours," Manring said. "During that time we learned about the history of the Regency Period. People led lives of leisure in the middle and upper classes ... music making was a huge part of this."

Lyrics from that music remains in an online collection at John's Hopkins University, she said.

"Jane, when she loved a manuscript she copied it over in her own hand," said Manring. "We know exactly what she loved which is really exciting."

The 11 songs performed were mostly sweet, romantic and idyllic. They included works by Handel and Mozart.

There were selections taken from popular film adaptations of Austen's work as well as pieces from Austen's personal collection. The lyrics were varied but often encompassed the subjects of love and beauty

The girls performed them in both ensembles and as soloists. Claire Howard provided piano accompaniment.

"I'm so proud of their progress," Manring said. "Learning this music has been wonderful for vocal technique because it's beautiful, it's simple and it has enough challenges to keep them learning."

Excerpts from Austen's novels were presented too. The works are now considered classics of literature. The author's popularity continued to grow even after her death.

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