Hello from Poughkeepsie, where tonight I'm appearing on Vassar's Modfest series, singing an exciting scene from Jonathan Chenette's opera, Eric Hermannson's Soul, which is based on a Willa Cather short story. It reminds me in many ways of one of my favorite movies, There Will Be Blood.
I took an introductory composition class from Jon at Grinnell, and sang my first solo with a professional orchestra (the Des Monies Symphony!) in a beautiful piece he wrote called Broken Ground, a piece that may also have been my very first new music experience. I remember being both thrilled and terrified at the prospect of learning something without having a recording to listen to.
At first we stood on the porch and in the foyer, greeting guests with song as they entered. Then we moved to the "Brown Room" and sang some more, but it was so lively that it was probably hard to hear us. After a while, we took a break. I sampled some ham (country and city), slurped an oyster and a few fish eggs, washing it all down with some deceptively ethereal egg nog. When it was time for dessert, we went to the "Summer House" (where there seemed to be plates of surreally beautiful cookies on every flat surface) and led a singalong around the piano. Guests were provided with these amazing caroling books -- amazing because 1) I've rarely seen a score engraved with such clarity and care and 2) there were LINER NOTES about each carol and 3) the egg nog recipe was printed in the back!
In LA last month, I made some new friends who invited me over to share an incredible feast of wild abalone. A friend of theirs is an abalone fanatic who regularly drives 9 hours up the coast, puts on a wetsuit, free-dives into turbulent, cold, shark infested waters and pries a maximum of three of these creatures off the rocks and then drives home the same day to share the catch with his friends.
The abalone got trimmed of dark bits (which were saved for chowder).
Greetings from 7900 feet above sea level. I'm in Aspen this week performing David Liptak's terrific song cycle for
baritone and chamber orchestra, Ancient Songs. Here is a
recording of William Sharp (a great mentor and role model whom I studied
with at Aspen) singing the piece.
I've sung Brahms' Liebeslieder more times than I can recall...at
Eastman, Aspen, Marlboro, and a bunch of times each with Mark Morris
Dance Group and the NYC Ballet. One of the best things about singing it
with the NYC Ballet is wearing a beautiful and elegant blue tailcoat
with a short sleeve shirt underneath. It's so very cool and comfortable. As
a champion perspirer, I'm very tempted to do this to my own set of
I'm performing Louis Karchin's beautiful 25 minute piece for baritone
orchestra this week at NYU's Skirball Center. This is the third major
piece of Lou's that I've sung (the others being his opera, Romulus and
another orchestral song cycle, The Gods of Winter). Just as there are
Verdi baritones and Wagner baritones and Debussy barytons-martin, I
dream of someday establishing the Karchin-baritone fach, whose special
requirements would include the ability to spit out text extremely
quickly and leap wide intervals.
The Skirball Center is a great place to hear voice and orchestra, IMO. The problem with most concert halls is that they take the loudest instruments of the orchestra (percussion and brass) and make them even louder (because their sound gets reflected off the back wall). The curtains at Skirball seem to have a muting effect on those boomy instruments which helps prioritize the sound of the performers farthest downstage (i.e. the soloist).