I haven’t written a blog post here in almost two years. Shame on me. It’s not as if I’ve had no news…
As mentioned in the previous, ancient, blog post, I did go to the Carmel Bach Festival to sing Jesus in the St. Matthew Passion. I had been an Adams Fellow there in 1995, so Carmel has carried a special place in my heart, both for its fabulous location and for the amazing group of people who gather there each summer.
One of the special things about the Carmel Bach Festival is that they provide housing not only for the artists, but for their families as well. It’s been a point of pride for them as long as I’ve been involved. In my early days with the festival, I didn’t have a family to bring, and in 2010, they had obligations at home that meant they couldn’t join me.
However, I returned last summer to sing Jesus in the St. John Passion, and was able to bring my family along. We spent several weeks driving to California, camping along the way and exploring the country. I then taught a week long workshop for the San Francisco Early Music Society in Sonoma before heading down to Carmel for the festival. We spent several weeks heading back, as well, this time via a more northerly route, with many adventures on the way.
We also decided to start homeschooling our children this year, in part so that they could travel with me on some of my gigs. They came down to Florida with me in November for my performances with the Master Chorale of South Florida and the Miami Symphony, and came to Paris with me when I went out to sing at the Opera Royale in Versailles with Opera Lafayette. (My older daughter also joined me for our recording sessions and the Lincoln Center performance.)
I’m still teaching at James Madison University, though I’ve branched out a bit. I not only teach voice lessons there to both music majors and musical theater majors, I also started teaching “Aural Skills,” more commonly known as “Ear Training.” It inspired me to write a number of songs which have become rather popular on YouTube. Popular enough that one audience member approached me at intermission at a recent concert, not to congratulate me on my performance, but to thank me for my videos!
Last week at this time, I was singing Bach’s Cantata 8 with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem for a packed crowd. It was a thrilling experience to sing such wonderful music for such an enthusiastic group of people. I was able to sandwich in a performance with the same group last May, as Pilate in the St. John Passion, which we also recorded. (It was quite an adventure finishing the recording at 7pm, driving to DC, getting about four hours of sleep, and then getting on a plane for Honolulu, arriving just in time for a short meal and a B Minor Mass rehearsal!)
I will have several recordings coming out in the next year. I hope I remember to tell you about them!
I’m delighted to be back at the Carmel Bach Festival, after a hiatus of more than a decade… It’s a special year in several ways; Bruno Weil is leaving the festival after nearly 20 years, as is Elizabeth Wallfisch. The incoming conductor, Paul Goodwin, will be coming the last week to have a look around. And I’ll finally get my “five year certificate,” even though it took me 15 years to get it!
It’s hard to tell from the CBF website, but I’m singing Jesus in the St. Matthew Passion (Sundays at 2:30), as well as solos on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday evening programs.
The 2008-2009 season was a busy and turbulent one for me. I took on a second teaching position, which seemed like a wise financial move, while still maintaining a fairly busy performing schedule. It was too much.
I am grateful that JMU gave me enough students this year that I could afford to drop the second teaching job. This also gives me the time to become more active as a performer again.
Things will be slow to ramp back up, but I’m coming to Philadelphia again this spring to perform with Tempesta di Mare (for the fourth season in a row) and will be returning after a long hiatus to the Carmel Bach Festival this summer, where I will sing the role of Jesus in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. I’m also looking forward to the release of “Le Deserteur” which I recorded with Opera Lafayette for Naxos last year.
This website will get a facelift, new headshots are being taken, and my bio will be truly updated for the first time in years. I’m even planning a new solo CD…
But first, sleep.
I’m pleased to have a great summer music festival, the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival, right here in my own back yard. I’m singing a couple concerts with them this season, which are coming up next week.
On Friday, June 13, I’ll be singing Eugene Friesen’s “Good Providence” with the festival orchestra. And on Sunday morning, June 15, I’ll be singing in Bach Cantata 137, “Lobe den Herren”.
More details and tickets are available through their website, linked above.
We’ve had some rainy weather recently, but the last couple days have been just beautiful. I’ve been enjoying the outdoors and having the windows open while indoors. Taxes are now out of the way, and we’re entering the last week of classes at JMU, so I’m looking forward to a slightly slower pace over the summer.
I’ll be in Princeton next weekend (April 26) for a concert with some friends from college, and the following weekend (May 3), I’ll be singing a performance of “Camp Songs” by Paul Schoenfield in Richmond, VA. The latter is an extraordinary set for mezzo and baritone, clarinet, violin, cello, bass and piano, premiered in 2002. It’s not easy at all, but it sounds very jazzy to my ears, and quite evocative. We’ve got a great group of performers, and I hope we’ll get to repeat this somewhere.
This summer, I’ll be stopping in to sing at the Shenandoah Bach Festival, and later, essentially making my professional conducting debut for a summer musical theater production of Wizard of Oz in Luray. I’ll post more info as the time approaches.
I’m still coming down from the high of performing Il Combattimento this weekend, and getting to do it with some of my favorite people. Also fun was the surprise (to me) of having it videotaped for broadcast on WHYY. (There were five robotic cameras stationed about the theater.) I also did my first television interview ever on Saturday afternoon as part of the production. It is my understanding that it will air sometime in September.
All in all, I think it was a better production than the Inquirer review suggests, though he was clearly complimentary to the musical side of things. The audience was clearly appreciative, and the few Italian speakers among them were absolutely raving about the show, including a bilingual young girl who gushed to me for several minutes about both the music and the puppets.
I also got word that WHYY radio will be in Bethlehem next weekend to tape my performance with the Bach Choir. No word yet on when that will air. Fortunately, when it does air, it should be easily accessible to even those outside the Philadelphia area, since WHYY’s radio broadcasts are also streamed online.
I’ve been remiss at keeping this updated, but I’m headed to Philly shortly for another concert with Tempesta di Mare, the Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra. This one will be a first for me in several ways.
For one, I’ve never been a participant in a puppet opera before.
Secondly, it will be the first time I’ve sung the role of Testo (the narrator) in Monteverdi’s Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. In fact, the role is often sung by tenors. However, the written notes span roughly from middle C to a baritone high G, so it still fits nicely within my range. It will require some stamina, though. The piece lasts about 20 minutes, and I sing for most of that time.
It will be nice to be back in Philly, where I really began my career. (I grew up across the river in Cherry Hill.) It will be especially nice to stay again in South Philly by the Italian market! It’s changed a lot from what I remember in my teenage years, but I eagerly await the great Chinese food that is now in the neighborhood, and I’ll still look forward to clogging my arteries with some Tastyklairs.
Performances are March 7, 8, and 9 at the Plays and Players Theater on Delancy. See website (above) for more details. Come hear me spit out Italian at 100 miles an hour! The concert also features Aaron Sheehan as Tancredi and Marguerite Krull as Clorinda.
Also worth noting that I’ll be singing Bach Cantatas 182 and 31 with The Bach Choir of Bethlehem the following weekend. People come from all over the country to see these performances, so it’s definitely worth a trip if you’re nearby. Other soloists include Laurie Heimes, Leslie Johnson and Stephen Ng.
I’m excited about my next performance with Bach Sinfonia, which happens this Saturday, October 20.
I’ve performed with this group several times, and I was the bass soloist for their recent Dorian release of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast. While that was a rather small role, this concert features me rather prominently in two of my favorite cantatas.
One is quite well known: Bach’s Cantata 82 Ich habe genug is a beautiful solo cantata for bass, with a prominent oboe obbligato.
The other is lesser known: Handel’s Apollo e Dafne isn’t performed all that much, perhaps because of its unusually difficult writing for Apollo. However, it is a brilliant work with some extraordinarily beautiful moments.
I’ve performed both of these works before, but I’ve been revisiting them both this week, especially since we only have two days of rehearsals to put this program together.
This brings to light an interesting note about the Handel. It is a normal part of my research to listen to several different recordings of a piece I am going to sing. I was only able to locate three recordings of the Handel. The Naxos recording is basically unlistenable, and I was decidedly unimpressed with several aspects of the Chandos recording. The best of the three was the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra recording with McGegan conducting. On that one, David Thomas is the bass, and the soprano is Judith Nelson. (She was also the soprano with whom I last sang this work.) Nevertheless, there seems to be room in the marketplace for a truly high quality recording of this work, and I would dearly like to be on it!
I’m looking forward to singing with Jennifer Ellis Kampani again, even though we’ve seen an awful lot of each other over the past year. (The recording we made of “Le Tournoi de Chauvency” has apparently been released already in France. I’m still waiting to hear it, and I’m disappointed that our names aren’t more prominent on the packaging.) Which reminds me, I need to put up some pictures here from the stage production…
I know that seems like an odd combination, and it’s even odder to be working on it in the middle of August. However, I’m most of the way through a week of staging rehearsals for a half dozen performances of a staged Messiah with American Opera Theater that will happen this December.
Staging a work that has no overt dramatic narrative presents some real challenges, but I think Tim Nelson has come up with an engaging and powerful production.
I was a bit put off when we staged my first number, “Thus saith the Lord,” and the action seemed to deliberately misinterpret the text. I became somewhat frightened when we staged Part II, which becomes rather violent and in which the action causes beloved sentimental numbers to take on a sinister and sarcastic tone. However, I find myself convinced by the dramatic arc he has painted and the daring exploration of faith from a variety of perspectives.
This production is bound to spark controversy, but I think it will be more likely to come from Handel loyalists than from Christians. In fact, I find the “story” he has created to be profoundly Christian, redemptive and timeless. But it certainly doesn’t confine itself to the cascade of revelation and jubilation that characterizes a typical concert performance. Anyone expecting anything resembling a normal holiday Messiah is in for a big shock. And this production is definitely not for kids.
However, I think it will be particularly powerful for anyone who has wrestled with religion or had a crisis of faith. And perhaps for anyone who hasn’t, it may lend insight into the struggles that some have with coming to terms with God, and offer a lesson in the true meaning of Grace.
My own reflections this week could probably fill several good essays, and perhaps I’ll address some of them here in the future. But for now, perhaps it will be enough to have given this site its first update in several months.
At about the same time as I changed this website, I finally followed a dream I’ve had for about a decade of starting a free archive of sheet music on the Internet. Of course, there are quite a few such archives already in existence, but I’ve found none that really serve the needs of the singer, especially students who are just learning the standard repertoire.
Thus, Art Song Central was born.
It will host a large number of songs from the standard repertoire, scanned from quality editions and placed in PDF form. It will also link to songs which are currently offered in printable form from other archives. Each song post will also link to various supporting resources, when available, including MP3 and MIDI files, the full text of the song, and biographical information on the composer and author.
Obviously, the site is still in its infancy, but I should be able to quadruple the current number of song entries by the end of next week.
Finally, I expect that site to end up as the main repository of materials that I develop for my voice students. I’ve got several essays in mind that are just waiting for me to take the time to phrase them eloquently!