Rebecca Sherburn / Tod Fitzpatrick Recital

      Hugo Wolf died in February, 1903 but his music was very much alive at the Memorial Concert Series on April 27, 2003 at the First Presbyterian Church in Hampton, Virginia. Soprano Rebecca Sherburn, who is on the voice faculty of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, shared the recital stage with baritone Tod Fitzpatrick, director of vocal studies at Christopher Newport University. Together they gave us nine vocal miniatures. Wolf loved poetry and would recite a poem again and again until the rhythm and the tune emerged from the words, creating a gem that offers us deep insight into the poem.

      The recital's excellent pianist, Robert Carrol Smith, was much impressed by Ms. Sherburn's intelligent artistry as was the audience. Der Gärtner is an exuberant expression of love. Auch kleine Dinge is a sweet, gentle quiet celebration of all that is good in life. Er ist's is about sensing spring and the joy it brings.

      In dem Schatten meiner Locken is a gentle love song of great subtlety. Pillowing the lover's head in her lap the young woman muses on the question of letting him sleep. She becomes the coquette and laughs merrily as she decides to let him sleep.

      In a completely different emotional mood, Das verlassene Mägdelein is about the pain of lost love and Ms. Sherburn created the character which was in such contrast to the others.

      Dr. Tod Fitpatrick sang Fussreise as his first Wolf selection. This song opens with a hearty folk-like march in the piano and expresses the exuberance and reverence of a man opening his heart as he walks through God's creation.

      It is thought that Wolf was bipolar and in Verborgenheit the disheartened man wishes to be left in solitude to experience his own pain or joy. But the rays of sunshine break through the tears and lighten his heart. Dr. Fitzpatrick in a lovely voice poured out the passion of this song.

      The piano opening for the song Gebet is slow and stately. The text is on resignation to the will of God "for in the middle path lies true contentment" between the polarities of happiness and sorrow. In Der Tambour we have a light-hearted story of a young soldier who dreams of his mother, German food, and his sweetheart, all left behind while he lives in a tent in France and all of this set to music suggestive of a military march.

      Tod Fitzpatrick opened the program with the continuous cycle of six songs An die ferne Geliebte by Beethoven which we heard him sing in his recital Labor Day weekend last year. (See AU Issue #14). Each set of songs was introduced by the singer. The singing was excellent. At times the mood was introspective and pensive, at others fast and hearty or passionate. Dr. Smith's piano was always appropriate with a crisp, clean sound, always supporting the sung lines and shining in solo passages. Later Tod sang Feldeinsamkeit by Johannes Brahms, which demands a wide range of vocal and emotional expression.

      Dr. Sherburn offered the listeners three Mahler songs of great charm. Frühlingsmorgen is a song of waking a sleepyhead on a bright, happy morning. Ablösung im Sommer and Hans und Grete are folk stories and were sung in clear, sweet voice with laser-like clarity.

      With the Richard Strauss song Amor we were treated to another dimension of this vocalist's ability as she deftly moved through the coloratura trills of this song. The experience was spellbinding. Someday I would like to hear her sing the complete Brentano Lieder.

      Each set closed with duets. The first were by Robert Schumann, whom we were told had a love affair with words. The delicious duet So war die Sonne scheinet is a passionate love song. An die Nachtigal is an uptempo and very lively song and Sommerruh is hymn-like and the sweetness of the blend on high notes was impressive.

      The program ended with two selections by by Felix Mendelssohn: Abendlied, a love song that is a very pretty duet and Maiglockchen und die Blümelein, a lovely little tune of happiness done as a round that resolves in a peppy duet.

      When we announce a program in a new venue we never know what it will be like. In retrospect I'd like to tell all of you that this was one of the high points of art song in Tidewater this season.

Editor's Note

      Sad to say, this was Tod Fitzpatrick's last recital in Tidewater before he and his lovely wife Elaine relocate to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The Fitzpatricks are expecting their first child in early fall.


A Jennifer Carnahan and Jennifer Barker Recital

      Scotland and its music was the focus of a recital titled Celtic Women Then and Now. Jennifer Carnahan is a lithe lyric coloratura soprano with red hair. Wrapped in a red tartan shawl, she created the narrative of "Jeanie", a Scottish girl of sixteen years, during the Napoleonic Wars (1816). The Scots were forced to be part of the British army while they were living under British tyranny. She married Willie, who, like her is of farmer stock. He is sent to war and is slain. Here she sings O Can Ye Sew Cushions? Described as a "lullaby to myself", the song has a chorus of quickly sung words with a music box-like caressing piano.

      After each bit of the narrative, a folk song is used to illustrate an aspect of her life. The pianist Jennifer Barker is a native of Scotland and a composer of note who is Assistant Professor of Music Theory/Composition at the University of Delaware.

      We were told that the Scottish language is some 800 years old. The lyric poetry of Robert Burns (1759-1796) forms the greatest contribution of Scots songwriting. I recall my excitement as a teenager when I received my mail-ordered LP (Long Playing record) of Songs of Robert Burns (Riverside RLP 12-823) sung by Betty Sanders with guitar and oboe substituting for the sound of the bagpipes. Com'in Thro the Rye and Charlie he's my darling were Burns texts used in this recital. The goal of this presentation is to celebrate the Scots' freedom of the spirit against English tyranny.

      The excellent folk song first half was followed by three sets of art songs. Thea Musgrave's (b. 1928, Edinburgh, Scotland) A Suite of Bairnsangs (A Suite of Children's Songs) with poetry by Maurice Lindsay, dates from 1953 when she was studying with Nadia Boulanger and Aaron Copeland at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique in Paris. It is a set of five brief songs in a Scottish dialect and a modern musical sound . Ms. Carnahan and Ms. Barker were impressive in this repertory.

      Seven Scots Songs (1989) set by John Maxwell Geddes (b. 1941, Glasgow) followed. He was educated in Scotland and taught there for many years but did spend one school term (1978-1980) at Oregon State University. In 1980 he returned to be director of music diploma, St. Andrew's College, Glasgow.

      Geddes has written music for computer and electronics as well as a song cycle set to Robert Burns poems. Here he set some unusual and interesting folk texts, some with depth of feeling: Frennet Hall, revenge and murder: The Rowan Tree, nostalgia for this tree, the center of many memories of home and childhood; Willie's rare and Willie's fair, on finding the beloved Willy drowned in the Yarrow River. Others are humorous: The Laird o' Cockpen, who struts off to offer his hand to a poor but cultured girl who flatly refuses him, and Cock up your Beaver, a tale of adding a feather to a beaver hat, with verbal mischief intended.

      The program climaxed with two songs composed by Ms. Carnahan: The Secret, a direct uncomplicated love song in waltz time and Erma's Song, written to celebrate the life of her 83 year-old grandmother. "You are where I come from and you are my strength" is the powerful moving line from the chorus.

      This dynamic duo, the two Jennifers, will return to Tidewater in early fall for a program of music at Billye Brown Youman's Candlelight Concert Series at Great Bridge Presbyterian Church. Watch our calendar for date and time.


Cary Michaels at Christopher Newport University

      On November 15, 2004 at the acoustically excellent Music and Theater Hall in the lovely new Ferguson Center for the Arts, tenor Cary Michaels and pianist Suzanne Daniel presented a program of art song, arias and oratorio selections. The first selection was In Native Worth from The Creation by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). In a clear, high and light tenor voice, the piece was sung in English since Haydn wrote an English version from his German original shortly after it was composed.

      The art songs included Two Sonnets of Petrarch set by Franz Liszt (1811-1866): Pace non trovo #104 with prominent piano and a moving cry in the voice in this passionate love song and I vidi in terra angelici costume #123 with its fine balance of piano and voice. The challenging vocal range of Poëm d'un jour, a cycle of three songs by Gabriel Fauré (1875-1937), Recontre (Meeting), Toujours (Always) and Adieu (Farewell) was sung with clarity and power. We then heard an elegant, passionate Morgen! (Tomorrow), Allerseelen (All Souls Day) and Zueignung (Dedication) by Richard Strauss (1864-1949).

      The arias were drawn from operas by Mozart (Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail), Puccini's Tosca and Verdi's Rigoletto. It was fascinating to hear these pieces, which are usually accompanied by orchestra, performed by an excellent pianist. Mr. Michaels is an experienced performer of opera and oratorio, having appeared with Virginia Opera some years ago. He is an educator who is an Associate Professor of Vocal Music at Texas State University, San Marcos. His resonant speaking voice as well as his singing pleased the audience which responded enthusiastically and were rewarded with a brief talk and Danny Boy as an encore.


Tenor Anthony Colossimo's Senior Recital

      With Bradley Norris at the piano, Anthony Colossimo treated his audience to an excellent program of songs on April 15, 2005 at the new Music and Theatre Hall at Christopher Newport University.

      The program opener was a motet by Giovanni Palestrina (1525-1594) with Mr. Colossimo joined by soprano Hanna Dowell, alto Greta Arnold, baritone Scott Bumbaugh and bass Andrew Havens in a highly contrapuntal choral work with rich vertical sonorities. Confessio et Pulchritudo builds from melodies in the bass and lower tenor lines that lead into the almost descant soprano line. To complete the program this group of five young voices returned to the stage for René Clausen's (b.1953) Set me as a Seal. The composer is conductor of the famous Concordia College Choir from Moorhead, Minnesota (they appeared at Churchland Baptist Church in March of this year) and set a text from Song of Songs by Solomon. The voices wove a beautiful tapestry of sound in this passionate love song.

      The first art song selections, Francesco Paolo Tosti's (1846-1916) L'ora è Tarda and the popular La Serenata showcased the beauty of the singer's voice and is a perfect fit for a tenor with a fairly low tessitura. With singable melody complimented by seamless piano accompaniment by Mr. Norris, we were impressed by the accomplished performance.

      Moving into three works by the challenging romantic composer Hugo Wolf (1860-1903), the team presented Anakreon's Grab, Nun wander Maria and Verborgenheit. Here we see a young singer who understands the importance and drama of the text and has been taught to communicate effectively.

      Mr. Colossimo and Mr. Norris closed the first half of the program with Lenski's Aria from Eugene Onégin by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). Lenski sings his regret at losing his second chance with the woman he refused when he was young and callous.

      Next came three French songs: Après un Rève by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), Le Manoir de Rosamonde by Henri Duparc (1848-1933) and Sérénade by Ernest Chausson (1855-1899). In these songs of unfulfilled love our tenor and pianist explored these melodies (French art songs) with a depth of interpretation.

      The American composer David Diamond's (b.1915) song cycle Four Ladies sets poetry by Ezra Pound and was written when Diamond was twenty years old and revised in 1962. These meticulously crafted songs, Agathas, Young Lady, Lesbia Illa and Passing, with quirky texts have a simple domestic sensibility and were great fun to encounter for the first time. Diamond's songs deserve a wider audience.

We first met Anthony when he was a freshman who sang for Richard Hundley's masterclass in Norfolk and was being taught by Dr. Tod Fitzpatrick, who has since relocated to Nevada. We hear Anthony sing occasionally and are always impressed by the beauty and power of his voice and his ability to make the texts come alive. Thanks to his current voice teacher, Dr. Scott Root, his ability as a performer continues to grow. In conversation we learned that he plans to teach and will pursue a masters degree at CNU in music education next year. We hope to hear him sing again soon!

      The program notes were excellent, with text and translation for all the songs and helpful introduction to each composer was included. Bravo!


Regina South Gives Senior Recital

      With hard work, determination and the guiding hand of her teacher, Shirley Thompson, Regina South gave a memorable senior recital with a very supportive Miriam Davis at the piano. We were there for her Junior recital and have followed her development as she has grown musically over her college years. There was an exuberant directness in her delivery of text and music from three early Italian songs to four selections from Frauenliebe und Leben by Robert Schumann and two of Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs. Especially well sung was The Crucifixion with the lovely sound of her voice in a song meant to soothe the suffering of Mary whose son had died on the cross.

      She and baritone Scott Bumbaugh, also a graduating senior at CNU, charmed us with a duet Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen from Mozart's The Magic Flute. Pamina and Papageno sing of their longing for a partner to love and marry. With power and passion she sang Steal Me, Sweet Thief from The Old Maid and the Thief by Gian-Carlo Menotti.

      Ms. South was joined by her musical friends Greta Arnold, Scott Bumbaugh, Anthony Colosimo, Angela Flowers, James McNamara, Diane Stallings, Matthew Stearn and Corrine Whitis in a choral selection A Psalm of Praise written by Ms. South (b.1983) for her music theory course. This well constructed and enthusiastically sung piece ended far too soon.

      My Daffodils is a setting of nursery rhyme text set by William Berwald (1872-1920), a British composer well known for his settings of nursery rhymes. The piece was dedicated to Music Department head Dr. Mark Reimer. Her closing song by Victor Herbert, Art is Calling for Me from the Enchantress, is about a diva soprano who has confidence and a powerful voice that will take her far. The same can be said of Regina.

 

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