Issue #38

Three Tidewater Tenors' Most Entertaining Recital
Virginia Wesleyan College, October 4, 2004

      To put the program we were about to hear in context, Charles Woodward, MC and pianist, introduced the program by reminiscing about the Three Tenors phenomenon. Unlike the original three tenors, our singers Jeffrey Easter and Timothy Oliver are busy building the early stages of a career and Robert Shoup is a mid-career conductor and director of the Virginia Chorale, who occasionally sings.

      A lively performance of Tonight (West Side Story) by Leonard Bernstein opened the show and convinced us that we were in for a fine evening of music. Following this Mr. Shoup sang A Bit of Earth with a whispered excitement in his delivery that was most effective. The song is reminiscent of Sondheim but is by Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman from The Secret Garden which was premiered by Virginia Stage Company in preparation for Broadway some years ago.

      The most pleasant surprise of the evening was the magnificent vocal instrument of Jeffrey Easter. We met Mr. Easter at the reception after his teacher Sondra Gelb's recital last season but had not heard him sing. You may recall when Pavarotti had trouble with the seven high-Cs in Donizetti's opera La Fille du Régiment at the Met not so long ago. Mr. Easter sailed through Ah! Mes amis…Pour mon âme and thrilled his audience with all seven Cs in place.

      Timothy Oliver, a Norfolk native and Norfolk Academy graduate, sang La donna è mobile from Verdi's Rigoletto and demonstrated why he is successfully building a career on stage. Once again our three tenors joined voices in the popular O sole mio by Eduardo di Capua, with vocal antics reminiscent of the original three tenors video.

      The only art song on the program was Wohin? from Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin. The fluid piano accompaniment by Charles Woodward communicated a sense of flowing water in a song about a young man following a stream wherever it may lead him. Robert Shoup's singing was fine with a natural, open sound. This was also true of his later solo selection Corner of the Sky from Pippin by Stephen Schwartz.

      Mr. Oliver, a graduate of Cincinnati College Conservatory, sang Una furtiva lagrima from Donnizetti's opera L'Elisir d'Amore (which tells the story of young love frustrated, then fulfilled) with a sound that reminds this listener of Mario Lanza. Later he gave us Younger than Springtime from Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific bringing a fine characterization of a young American who sings to an island beauty.

      Jeffrey Easter with his dark-hued tenor voice gave us a passionate Nessun dorma from Puccini's Turandot, creating volumes of lovely sound. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, he later sang Rodgers and Hammerstein's If I Loved You from Carousel.

      After intermission the singers joined forces in Fugue for Tinhorns (Guys and Dolls) by Frank Loesser and as the lyrics say, these guys "can do, can do!" To bring the program to a rousing conclusion, the Tidewater Tenors drew on music by Irving Berlin, Woody Guthrie, George M. Cohan and many others in Patriotic Medley. The expected tunes were all there and there were some inclusive selections like J. Rosamund Johnson and James Weldon Johnson's Lift Every Voice and Sing and An American Anthem arranged by Allen Naplan.

      Building on the energy and enthusiasm of the patriotic songs, their encore was a reprise of O Sole Mio with the vocal competitiveness we have come to expect from three tenors - great fun! Never pass up a chance to hear these three Tidewater Tenors, especially if Charles Woodward is at the piano.

The Academy of Music's Cabaret

      On November 9, 2004 the Academy of Music Vocal Students' Cabaret was held at Enrico's Ristorante. Among my favorite songs were two from Blue Mountain Ballads by Paul Bowles (1910-1999): Cabin and Sugar in the Cane with texts by Tennessee Williams. Ruth Winters sets the mood with the strutting stride piano as John Gorman begins, "I'm red pepper in a shaker Bread that's watin' for the baker… If you touch me God save you, These summer nights are hot and blue." Mr. Gorman perfectly expressed this sassy, sultry blues and the audience responded enthusiastically.

      This showcase gave the singers a chance to present songs of all sorts. Mame Maloney, who works at the Academy, sang an arrangement of the Hank Williams song Cold. Cold Heart and Sentimental Journey made famous by Doris Day. Gil Hoy is a natural song stylist and his interpretation of Mr. Cellophane from the musical Chicago set a standard for cabaret performance.

      Ann Scott's lovely voice regaled the audience with All Through the Night and Moonfall. The young Sarah Faringer, in costume and with winning gestures became Second-Hand Rose. Didi Grainger, looking lovely in a black fur-trimmed dress sang La Vie en Rose made famous by Edith Piaf, and a lively rendition of La Diva de l'Empire by Satie.

      Art song was also represented by Claudia Wooten who sang three short whimsical songs by Eric Satie and later a set of three colorful Spanish songs by Enrique Granados. It was amazing to see how much feeling could be communicated by the arch of an eyebrow or the movement of the face by this accomplished recitalist.

      Rachel Haskell, who sang songs by Maury Yeston and Ned Rorem, studies with Karen Scott Hoy, as do Wilma Gerald and Pam Sherman. Mrs. Hoy has been a major force in developing and promoting art song on this side of Hampton Roads. It was a pleasure to hear Kristin Ryan and Susan Kaufman who study with Kathleen Franz, who was also present. Charlene Dimalanta who teaches piano at the Academy played a musical interlude and accompanied several vocalists.

      Thanks to everyone who offered us their musical talent to create such an entertaining evening. We look forward to many more.

      Christmas Gift Suggestion: Samuel Ramey's Ev'ry Time We Say Goodby on Sony, SK 68339, with Warren Jones, piano. The Bowles songs discussed here and music by Cole Porter, Samuel Barber, Stephen Foster, Charles Griffes and George Gershwin.

Karen Scott Hoy Gives French Art Song Workshop
at the Academy of Music, October 23, 2004

      To close what had been an excellent exploration of melodie, Anthony Colosimo, a senior at Christopher Newport University, sang Francis Poulenc's whimsical Le Bestaire, a cycle of six art songs written in 1918 on quirky texts by Guillaume Apollinaire. With Chuck Woodward at the piano the performance was polished, even though singer and pianist had only worked together during this master class.

      Mrs. Hoy chose four composers to illustrate characteristics of French repertory: Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), Claude Debussy (1862-1918), Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) and Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947). After a brief biography of each, with recordings to illustrate, she presented characteristics of the songs that emphasized how the music was unique to each composer.

      Schubert's songs, translated from the original German into French, became a sensation in France and out of this popularity came a demand for songs by French composers. Fauré's songs were described by Mrs. Hoy as subtle and discreet, harmonically complex, tonally ambivalent, with less cadence and more flow to the vocal lines than the German models, using small intervals which require only a moderate vocal range. This quality attracts many singers to Faurés songs.

      Debussy was the great innovator, bringing to his songs new concepts of harmony, tonality, tone color and form. His use of unusual scales and modes, like the whole-tone scale, became a basic tool of the Impressionists. His songs change meter and rhythm often, thus concealing the beat, resulting in the sense of having no bar line. The music seems to have a continuous, unbroken line with which he "paints" pictures of natural things, such as mist, rain, dusk, sunlight through leaves, the sea and the moon. With his music Debussy intensified the mood and clarified the meaning of the poetry.

      Ravel loved to solve musical problems in his intellectual and innovative way. He chose satirical or fantasy texts, many with a Spanish flavor. A fine craftsman and miniaturist, he stated "My objective is perfection. Art, no doubt, has other effects, but the artist should have no other aim." He pushed tonality to the breaking-point, using dissonant, crisp harmonies. Carol Kimball, in her book Song says "He composed difficult, virtuosic piano accompaniments and often gave the piano the main musical interest of his melodies."

      Reynaldo Hahn was born in Venezuela in 1874 but made a brilliant career in Paris. He is now best known for his elegant and charming songs (ninety-five in number) which are very melodic, require a limited vocal range using small intervals. He works to capture the mood of the poem rather than to set individual words, using interesting but not complex harmonies.

      In the masterclass portion of the workshop, Debbie Harris sang W.A. Mozart's Oiseaux, si tous les ans, an example of the early German models that attracted French composers. The voice becomes scolding and a little sad discussing the coming of cold weather but perks up as the birds of the song seek warm climates so their loving can continue all year long.

      Didi Granger sang Fauré's Au bord de l'eau (At the water's edge) with the flowing melody illustrating a text of two lovers sitting on the bank of a stream. The water flowing by is like their letting go of the world to focus on their love. Pianist and singer were complimented on their tempo, "A bit faster than written but it works well, it keeps your lovely flow going."

      Regina South, a student at CNU sang Debussy's Nuit d'Etoiles (Starry night). Regina sees it as a happy song, a memory of past loves. At the original slower tempo it became a bit heavy for the voice. Chuck suggested that they try it with a little faster tempo. He concluded "performed faster, the stars twinkle."

      Fauré's Ici bas! was performed by a talented high school student, mezzo-soprano Rachel Haskell. The text tells us that down here things fade, but the singer is searching for a land where this does not happen. Ms. Hoy suggested that she lay aside the music and focus on the hopeful quality of the text. This freed her performance as did a tempo adjustment.

      Once again Didi Granger sang a Fauré song, Dans les ruines d'une abbaye: in the ruins of the cemetery two lovers come to enjoy being alone. Only at the end of the song is it revealed that they are actually two little birds who flit about and make love. Both teacher and student worked to find a place in the song where the singer can breathe. Regina South then sang Si mes vers avient des alles (If my verses had wings) by Reynaldo Hahn. Here they worked on the subtle elements of communicating French song. The change in the repeated performance was very pleasing to hear.

      The third workshop with Agnes Fuller Wynne on British and American songs was held on November 20 and will be reviewed in the next issue. The final program in the series will be presented on January 8, 2005. We hope to see you there.

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