Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Roanoke Recital

On January 23 I had the wonderful opportunity to perform in recital the songs from my upcoming recording in Roanoke, VA. Last year while I was covering at the MET I was hanging out with conductor Steven White in the green room. We were talking career stuff and I started telling him about my idea for my recording and one thing led to another and he suggested I bring the program to Roanoke to try it out before I record it. Brilliant! I had been dying to get back to Roanoke since my debut there with Opera Roanoke in 2004 as Gilda if for no other reason than to see the larger than life sized picture of me and tenor, Scott Piper that hangs in the Roanoke airport just over baggage carousel 3. I heard about this banner from several people and was glad to get to see it in person and get my picture taken with it!

Putting together this recording and the gathering of these songs has been extremely rewarding. I was eager to get them into performance mode and Sunday afternoon was sublime. My pianist, Carol Goff, who was my first vocal coach and still teaches at the fabulous Townsend School of Music at Mercer University, flew to Roanoke with me to present these songs. This was my first complete outing of the songs and it felt incredible to sing them as one whole program. I was able to get a good idea of how the entire recording will flow and was also able to get a better sense of what order I should record them in to best suit me vocally. I'll have to pace myself in the recording studio and the beauty of a studio recording is that I don't necessarily have to record them in the order in which they will appear on the CD. I recorded the recital on my iphone and was able to get a good enough recording so that I could listen back and take notes. This week I'll listen a few more times and keep gathering ideas on how best to express and deliver these little gems that I have gathered.

This past week I was in Hattiesburg, MS to do the same recital at The University of Southern Mississippi. I like the idea of being on the road singing songs. It reminds me of when I traveled with the Gospel singing group, Jeff and Sheri Easter. I toured with them the summer before I went to college. I sang back-up, sold CD's, cleaned the bus, and babysat. We had Dolly Parton's old tour bus that still had the stained glass Dollywood butterfly skylight in the top. Yes, I wish classical music would be so popular that we could travel around the U.S. from state to state on large tour buses singing songs. What if? More exciting news from Hattiesburg to come!


For the past three months since I returned from Germany I have been working on a new project that I am finally able to talk about on my blog. It took a lot of work to get all the pieces together and I am happy to announce that I am recording my first CD! Should I even call it that? Do people say it that way anymore, I mean, who uses CD's? I guess I should say I am making my first recording! For several years I have wanted to make a recording of American Art Songs. Singing songs was the first love of my life, as is the case with most singers, and I wanted to gather a collection of songs that expressed the joy of why I do what I do. Why do we sing? Why do I bother to play these crazy, yet beloved characters? What is it that we are trying to say throughout all of this? I guess it kind of goes along with the notion of 'How Can I Keep from Singing?' that I have talked about here on this blog. I also wanted to incorporate songs that dealt with spirituality and faith not associated with some particular dogma, but rather that spoke to a universal sense of these words and the essence of spirituality. As I searched for songs, some really important themes started developing dealing with all sorts of emotions that come with having a spiritual practice such as doubt, fear, and anger. I started making a pile of songs that I couldn't stop thinking of, ones that made me think, "Hmm, well, that says it all." I started to see other patterns emerge such as, themes of blessings and being thankful and songs about giving back to others. Oh, and of course love kept coming up in there too. Another theme that I keep coming back to is the idea of home and how the place of home changes as you grow older and as you move from place to place and meet different people. Some of these songs I have known for years and others have come my way just in the last month. It's a process that kind of baffles me. I combed through aisles in the New York Public Library in the spring of last year looking for just the right pieces about faith and never found songs that quite suited me. I had thousands of possibilities there, but none of them grabbed me. I found most of them randomly in old anthologies I already had or just casually looking through stacks in music stores. It seemed the less I looked the more I found. The cornerstone of the recording is a song cycle by Jake Heggie called Rise and Fall. I wrote to Jake in 2009 when all of these ideas started growing legs. I gave him the overall sense of the theme and he sent me these songs. They are AMAZING! They are perfect not only for the words and thoughts I am trying to express, but also for how they are written for the voice and how they suit me. I owe Jake a huge thanks for allowing me to use these songs for my recording and for pointing them my way.

I will be blogging a lot more in hopes to give you all a play by play of what is taking place with this truly exciting project. I feel an incredible creative burst happening and can't wait to share every moment with you. Stay tuned!