Baritone Ricky Goodwyn, Jr. with Pianist Lee Jordan-Anders
Sundays at Four, Smithfield, Virginia
Christ Episcopal Church, October 8, 2017
Review by John Campbell

Ricky Goodwyn gave his first ever solo recital to a capacity audience in the fine acoustic space of Smithfield's Christ Episcopal Church. Ricky graduated in June, 2017 from Windsor High School and the Governor's School for the Arts in Norfolk and was set to go to James Madison University on a full scholarship when he learned from a phone call while packing that his scholarship was canceled. Papers filed by his family contained inaccuracies.

Sundays at Four is celebrating its tenth year with six recitals at Christ Episcopal Church. Citizens of this charming historic town on the Pagan River have come to Ricky's rescue. Mary Cole has put together a plan with Ricky: now that he is 18 (since March) he can become independent and fill out his own forms. In the meantime, with help he has gotten a job, a car and an address of his own. A free-will offering was taken for him at intermission. Readers who would like to contribute should contact Mary Cole at 757-675-5777 for details.

Lee Jordan Anders played the Steinway that Henry Favre brought to SAF's attention and she had evaluated for the church when it was offered privately for sale on the Eastern Shore. Ms. Cole says folks in Smithfield refer to it as “Lee's Piano.” It certainly has a lovely sound.

The concert opened with three songs that showcased his pliant, resonant baritone voice. He has crystal clear diction and the ability to create excitement with absolutely no strain over a wide vocal range. Arm, arm ye brave! from Judas Maccabaeus by Handel was a call to battle and a grand opening for a recital. The lovely Caccini song Amarilli, mia bella and the bel canto love song Vaga Luna (Lovely moon, you who shed silver light) by Bellini followed. Later in the program Ricky added another Italian aria, this one by Donizetti.

In the German language set he sang Schubert's Erlkönikg that challenges the singer to create four different characters. It opens with the narrator telling the story of a father on horseback clutching his sick child, galloping through a night of heavy weather. The evil spirit Elf King soothes the child, seducing him into a peaceful death while the father desperately clutches his lifeless body. Schubert was a teenager when he wrote this song with its piano accompaniment that captures the wild night, rushing horse and the primal terror of the father and the son's fear underscoring the elemental power of the voice to startle listeners. Magnificent! The consoling richness of Richard Strauss' Zueignung (Dedication) brought us down gently from the previous song's trauma and offered a fully powered ending.

After intermission the performers offered two songs from the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel. The Vagabond had prominent marching rhythms in the piano. Bright is the Ring of Words recreated the patriotic exuberance during the height of the British Empire and Ricky surprised us with a beautiful high passage toward the end.

Were You There, arranged by Moses Hogan, told the story of the Crucifixion of Jesus. Ricky sang “when they laid him in the tomb” and I realized why singers go on studying—to deepen their ability to portray the suffering that can be found there. Next we heard the Mark Hayes arrangement of Joshua Fit the Battle of Jerico. There is incredible ram's horn and trumpet energy in the piano and Ricky's powerful vocal attack evoked shouts from the audience.

Ricky's final selection, Make Them Hear You from Stephen Flaherty's (b. 1960) musical Ragtime, is a song he loves because it speaks “to what my life is.” The pop vibe got the audience going and the wide range of his voice was stunning. As an encore he reprised the last verse—that powerful ending—of Joshua Fit the Battle and the audience erupted once again.

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