Friday, March 10, 2017

"Going to Heaven!" at Spivey Hall on Saturday

Anyone who loves great singing wants to be in the good company of mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly and pianist Joseph Middleton, two excellent English musicians making their Spivey Hall debuts tomorrow night (Saturday, March 11) at 7:30 PM.

This afternoon I spent the best minutes of my day listening to them rehearse on stage in preparation for their recital program. Aaron Copland's song, "Going to Heaven!" from his Twelve Poems by Emily Dickinson, mercurial and melismatic, lingers in my head. And the expansive deep-bass sonority from the piano that closed another of these songs, "I've heard an organ talk sometimes," was something I physically felt as much as I heard. (Superb acoustics are the gift that keep on giving.)

It's a privilege to witness such gratifying music-making. Their program is a diverse one. It opens with songs by German Romantic composer, Robert Schumann, inspired by poet Adelbert von Chamisso, that explore the rising joys of a young woman as she falls in love, marries, and has a child -- then her utter despair when her husband dies. 

The program's first half closes with songs by Gustav Mahler set to poems by Friedrich Rückert, including a song extremely close to my heart, and among my ideals of deeply lyric, soulful, ethereal beauty, "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" ("I am lost to the world").  This is "Desert Island" music for me. Hearing it sung live can be a life-changing experience.

After intermission, a definite change of mood emerges through songs by Francis Poulenc set to five poems by Guillaume Apollinaire, Banalités, which by coincidence includes another of my favorite songs, "Hôtel" -- a delicious distillation of languorous idleness, highly evocative in nature, which concludes with a sigh: "I do not wish to work, I wish to smoke." Gorgeous. (Shout-out to my friend Sue D. in Florida -- I once again vow that I will, someday, make a video of this.)

Then six of the Emily Dickinson songs, including "The Chariot" ("Because I could not stop for death...he kindly stopped for me...), masterfully set by Copland. And then -- a entertaining finale, A History of the Thé Dansant.  You may recall the film, Four Weddings and a Funeral with Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell, among others; the composer of its soundtrack is Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012); his sister, Meg Peacock, wrote three poems similar in style those of Edith Sitwell, that evoke the spirit of the 1920s French Riviera. (Think also Downton Abbey, Season 4, when Anna chaperones Lady Rose to a the dasant in a somewhat happy drinking establishment, in which a jealous fight among the local boys seeking to dance with Rose ensues, and they escape just before the police arrive.)  The poems  -- "Foxtrot," "Slow Foxtrot" and "Tango" -- are clever, witty flights of free-association.  I expect Sarah Connolly with have great fun with them -- as will we.

And I suspect there will be encores, too. Thus MUCH to enjoy. Ms. Connolly is in marvelous voice -- her singing is finely nuanced, imbued with meaning both in sound and word, and richly expressive -- and she has a expert partner in Mr. Middleton at the piano, a highly sought-after collaborator by the world's leading singers. 

Accolades abound for both artists. Good seats are still available.  Don't hesitate! Don't miss another "Spivey moment"! DO prepare to be enchanted.

Bonus: Clayton State University music professor and tenor Dr. Kurt-Alexander gives a pre-concert talk at 6:30 PM, free to ticket holders. His insights invariably enhance my listening experience, as I expect they will yours.

COME...and you shall be rewarded. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Congrats to GRAMMY winners appearing at Spivey Hall

Spivey Hall guest artists are no strangers to the annual GRAMMY Awards. 

Coming Home by Mark O'Connor and The O'Connor Band just won the 2017 Best Bluegrass Album GRAMMY.  Congratulations! Fresh from this honor, they'll be performing at Spivey Hall THIS SATURDAY, Feb. 18, 2017 at 7:30 PM. Get your tickets online by clicking here.

Among the 2017 GRAMMY recipients who have performed at Spivey Hall in recent seasons:

Soprano Dorothea Röschmann and pianist Mitsuko Uchida's Schumann & Berg CD (selections of which they performed at Spivey Hall) tied with the "Shakespeare Songs" projects led by tenor Ian Bostridge (who's given three solo recitals at Spivey Hall) for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. Magdalena Kozena, who made her third Spivey Hall appearance earlier this season, in October, was also a nominee for this GRAMMY Award.

Jazz pianist Fred Hersch, a 2017 GRAMMY nominee for both Best Improvised Jazz Solo and Best Jazz Instrumental Album, returns to Spivey Hall for one night only in a solo piano performance Saturday, Apr. 8 at 7:3o PM.  And it's great to see Rene Marie (a two-time Spivey Hall jazz headliner, with us last season) also nominated, as well as the Kenny Barron Trio, seen and heard at Spivey Hall (more good news about them soon, too).

Two instrumentalists nominated for the  2017 Best Instrumental Solo GRAMMY will be performing at Spivey Hall next season, details of which will be announced at the Spivey Hall Season Announcement Celebration  (by invitation only) in early March. Want an invitation but not yet a Friend? It's not too late -- become a Spivey Hall Friend by making your online donation here.

Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions - Southeast Region winners

Today was another great day for singing at Spivey Hall, with 15 accomplished vocalists ages 24 to 29 representing North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee West, and Middle and East Tennessee each performing two arias during Southeast Region Finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, vying for the opportunity to be named Regional Winners and advance to the next round of auditions in New York.

The judges -- Brad Woolbright, Director of Artistic Administration for the Santa Fe Opera; Melissa Wegner, Associate Director of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions; and Jonathan Dudley, a New York City vocal coach and long-time opera leader in New York as well as former General Director of Opera Omaha -- presented not one, not two, but three Ryan Smith First Place Awards, each of $4000, to soprano Jacquelyn Stucker (age 27) of North Carolina, tenor Alasdair Kent (29) of Middle and East Tennessee, and bass-baritone Alan Higgs (29) of Georgia.

Accordingly, there were no Second Place or Third Place awards. Encouragement Awards of $500 each were presented to Gabriella Sam and Courtney Johnson, both 25-year-old sopranos from South Carolina.

Pianist Carol Anderson of Utah Opera collaborated excellently as the pianist for all 15 of the contestants.

In her welcoming remarks to the audience, Southeast Region Chairman Margaret Talmadge Howell thanked the state directors, volunteers and donors for their critical assistance in making the day's auditions a success, dedicating them to the memory of Elizabeth Nohe Colson (9/23/25-2/2/17), a nationally renowned voice teacher, a tireless advocate for singers, and a dedicated supporter of vocal art.

WABE 90.1 FM will broadcast today's Southeast Regional Finals on the Atlanta Music Scene on Monday, March 6, 2017 at 9:00 PM.

The Regional Winners will arrive in New York on March 9, 2017. The National Semi-Finals are March 12, and the National Grand Finals Concert on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera will be Sunday, March 19, 2017.  In bocca al lupo to Ms. Stucker and Messrs. Kent and Higgs!