Mary Charlotte Elia's Devotion to German Lieder
Sunday, November 16, 2003 Wycliffe Presbyterian Church

      With George Stone at the piano, Charlotte Elia gave an excellent recital. In an era when a recital program is made up of a set of French or Spanish songs, German lieder, some American songs and some lighter fare to close, Ms. Elia continues to follow her muse. This is the third recital we have reviewed here in 2003 in which she sang only German lied. There was a good audience of appreciative parishioners and other community listeners.

      The program began with two of Mozart's songs from the beginning of German lied and concluded with two sets of songs by Hugo Wolf, written when the romantic lied had reached its rich fulness. In between there were songs by Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms and Clara and Robert Schumann. (If you'd like more information about these, see Issue #23 Liedermorgen at Virginia Wesleyan and Issue #27 The Many Moods of Hugo Wolf). As Steve says "Her interpretations grow deeper each time I hear her."

      The program booklet was lovely with rich graphic designs in a soft mauve color with full text and translations. The reception was lively with very good food.

      George Stone, Miss Elia's accompanist, does a masterful job in presenting this difficult repertory. His artistry shines especially in the Hugo Wolf where the piano often has an independent solo which underscores the sung words. Mr. Stone has undergraduate and masters degrees from East Carolina University in piano performance. He teaches applied piano at Virginia Wesleyan College where he has served as accompanist for the choral program. He also teaches at the Chesapeake campus of Tidewater Community College and accompanies at a local school and church. Most impressive to us is his great skill as a lieder performer in these solo recitals.

      Ms. Elia has a music degree from Virginia Wesleyan College, has performed in major choral works in our area and is director of music ministries at Wycliffe Presbyterian Church. In conversation about art song in Tidewater last winter, Charlotte said to us "I'd rather spend my time learning lied and creating recital programs of German songs than anything." She meant it and we listeners are the beneficiaries.

Mary Charlotte Elia's Mostly American Recital

      November 21, 2004, Wycliffe Presbyterian Church, Virginia Beach. Departing from her series of German lieder recitals, Mary Charlotte Elia, with George Stone at the piano, gave an excellent recital of mostly American songs. There was no text sheet in the program but that was no problem. Her diction was clear and the impact of the words were immediate and moving as she sang through A Simple Song (from Mass) by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), Three Odes of Solomon by Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) from which the program title "As the Wings of Doves" was taken and The Divine Image (from Blake's Songs) by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

      She closed the first set with The Blessed Virgin's Expostulation by Henry Purcell (1659-1695). In the song the Virgin calls for the angel Gabriel. The cry became progressively desperate as it is repeated, unsettling and wonderfully dramatic. Ms. Elia's soprano voice is taking on a darker hue as she moves into her late twenties and this gives her a richer palette of sound and greater power in her expressiveness.

      Two American vocal classics filled to the brim the rest of the program: the complete Hermit Songs by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) and three selections from Old American Songs by Aaron Copeland (1900-1990). It is a great pleasure to watch the artistry of Ms. Elia grow and change and her generosity of offering the community at least three recitals per year is exceptional and commendable.


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