The latest addition to this website's discography page is this CD of beautiful orchestral songs by the American composer Louis Karchin, available from all the usual places (e.g. Amazon).
On it, I sing two cycles, American Visions (settings of the Russian poet and friend of the composer, Yevgeny Yevtushenko) with the Orchestra of the League of Composers, and The Gods of Winter (poetry by Dana Gioia) with the Da Capo Chamber Players.
Beautiful poems, beautifully set, and a great pleasure to perform and record with excellent ensembles conducted by Lou and produced by Marlan Barry. In addition to the two cycles I sing, there are performances by sopranos Sharon Harms and Mary Mackenzie, and pianist Eric Sedgwick.
Laurence Vittes, in latest issue of Gramophone gave it a nice review, excerpted below:
Karchin's music is closely attuned to the content of the texts [and] provides compelling, alternative ways of understanding what the poets were trying to say. ...he speaks in an accessible tonal style, with a knack for simple beauty, backed by a colourful, flexible, open and populist musical arsenal punctuated with occasional outbursts of conventional classical music fireworks that reside somewhere between Beethoven and Bernard Herrmann... Baritone Thomas Meglioranza has the lion's share of the vocal work and sings with eloquent passion and command.
Posted on 01/20/2015 | Permalink
Reiko and I gave a live performance of our second album last month on the Howland Chamber Music Circle series in Beacon, NY. It had been a few years since we performed the cycle, so two days before the concert, we had an informal runthru at a local piano store.
A former town library with lots of wood and high ceilings, the Howland Cultural Center is a wonderful place for a song recital. Great piano, too.
Everyone was so nice to us, and it was inspiring to know that there were a handful of native German speakers in the audience, a few of whom I could see mouthing the words during the performance.
Posted on 11/05/2014 | Permalink
I'm headed to Australia next week for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, QLD. I was recently sent a series of questions to answer for festival's e-newsletter, so I thought I'd share my answers here as well.
What are you looking forward to about AFCM 2014?
--I'm looking forward to so many things about AFCM 2014: returning to beautiful Townsville, hiking up Castle Hill a few times, and hopefully fitting in a bit of sightseeing. I'm excited to reunite with old colleagues and friends, and make some new ones. I'm also looking forward to enjoying some Vegemite on my toast in the mornings -- I really do like the stuff, though I only seem to crave it when I'm in Australia. Oh yeah, the MUSIC! It really is a special kind of gratification and excitement to give so many performances in a short period -- often one is still buzzing from the previous night's concert while being excited about tonight's concert. One's head spins, and the days fly by because they're so action packed.
When was the last time you were in Australia?
--In November of 2011, when I sang at the Huntington Estate Music Festival in Mudgee.
What are some of your recent performance highlights?
--This past May I made my Carnegie Hall debut singing the bass arias in the St. Matthew Passion with the Oratorio Society of New York. I've also been singing a lot of Charles Ives songs in my recitals this past season, in preparation for recording an album in the near future. He is such a unique composer -- one of my favorites -- and I'm really looking forward to singing some of his songs at the festival.
When did you start singing the Eight Songs for a Mad King?
--I first performed the Eight Songs for a Mad King in 2010 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I hesitated for a while before accepting that engagement because the piece is so freakishly demanding -- to the point of being potentially dangerous to sing! -- and I also wasn't enjoying listening to any recordings of it. But so many of my friends who had either performed the piece or seen it in person said that it was one of the most powerful concert experiences they'd ever had, so I decided to take it on. It's now it's one of my favorite pieces to perform.
What inspired you to start singing?
--From my early childhood, I obsessively sang along with the record player in the privacy of my bedroom -- I would press my ear to the speaker and try to make my voice sound exactly like whoever was on the recording. (No classical music whatsoever, but stuff like the Beatles, Elvis, U2, Linda Ronstadt, The Police, Johnny Cash, the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, Talking Heads, AC/DC, etc.). It never occurred to me to sing in public until my mid-teens when I saw my high school's production of West Side Story. I thought it looked like fun, and that inspired me to take the first steps toward bringing my singing out of the bedroom.
Where are you based?
--I live on the island of Manhattan.
Posted on 07/18/2014 | Permalink
In the past few weeks I've had the pleasure of singing in two of my hometown's most beautiful venues. Filling in on short notice, I sang Bach's St. Matthew Passion in Carnegie Hall with the Oratorio Society of New York. The last time I performed this piece in town was with the NY Collegium in a fun and controversial one-voice-per-part version (singing Jesus, two arias, and all the choruses) conducted by Andrew Parrott. So this was different. It was also my solo debut in the big hall at Carnegie. Unfortunately, because of the short notice, I only had about 24 hours to enjoy replying "Carnegie Hall" when asked where I was singing next, and nobody asked.
The obligatory pic from the stage.
The other venue was Bargemusic, the legendary floating (and rocking and bobbing and swaying) concert hall that is moored in Brooklyn near the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. It's indescribably beautiful, so just take in this photo:
I sang David Del Tredici's Love Addiction, a 40 minute song cycle that sets poems by John Kelly. What a glorious piece! The poems are so touchingly personal, direct, and conversational that the audience needed no printed texts, and they are set to music that overflows with DDT's characteristic lush and melodious invention.
Poet, composer/pianist, singer (photo by Joel Conarroe).
I put more thought than usual into figuring out how to dress comfortably for the performance because singing this piece is kind of like vocal Crossfit -- a fearsome test of a singer's range, stamina, agility, and power. It's no casual stroll for the pianist either. But it was worth all the sweat -- even though I generally strive to 'hide the work' and make things appear as effortless as possible, in these songs I think the sense that the musicians are rising to an extraordinary physical challenge is a big part of what grabs the audience, many of whom seemed to respond to the piece in a very personal way that was gratifying to see and be a part of. I hope to sing this piece many more times in the future.
This is what it feels like to sing Love Addiction.