INSIDE Composers & the Voice – January 13th, Part II

February 14, 2014
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Composers & the Voice 2013-2014, Rachel Calloway

This week I was most struck by how perceptions about ourselves as artists – whether performing, creative, or both, led to differing reactions to music.

We began Monday’s session by hearing Deborah Lifton sing a new work by Guy Barash – and she did a fantastic job with Guy’s microtones! Having been nervous about this new challenge, it was amazing to hear how beautifully Deborah incorporated these pitches into the line, and how as listeners, we simply perceive these challenging pitches as part of the melodic line. Since I sing a fair amount of music in varying tuning systems both as a soloist and with my ensemble Ekmeles, I am constantly aware of how listeners are comfortable with, and open to, various tonalities and tuning systems… fascinating, particularly considering how hard we performers work to make this type of intonation as accurate as possible.

C&V Artistic Director Steven Osgood

C&V Artistic Director Steven Osgood

An intriguing conversation ensued about balance- particularly how composers translate what will be an orchestral or chamber piece to the piano. Some composers discussed how the balance of what we hear in the C & V sessions is not what they have in mind for the final piece, which may be scored for singer and orchestra or chamber ensemble. [C&V Artistic Director] Steve Osgood also raised the point of how we must ensure that the audience perceives big orchestral moments in which the singer is intentionally covered as purposeful, rather than an oversight in the balance. As singers it is difficult to know at times whether we’re being covered by the ensemble or riding above it, and we rely completely on the ears of others to make this distinction. Our entire sense of our voices in regard to balance is difficult to gauge.

Another interesting dialogue arose in regard to text, and our impression of both comprehension and diction.  Some in our group are foreign-born or non-native English speakers. Andreia Pinto-Correira raised a question about a particular word which she thought may be difficult to pronounce, but Dominic Armstrong clarified, saying that the word was not an issue for him. Kelly Horsted raised the point of syllabification in Jeremy Gill’s piece. A word which perhaps seemed strangely notated in the score, upon first glance, was actually more comprehensible due to Jeremy’s setting. During Matt Burn’s performance of Joseph Rubinstein’s piece, we again discussed the particular setting of a word and how it might be perceived as another word altogether.

This idea of how things seem continues to intrigue me, in new music most of all. We are constantly engrossed by our sense of self, of who we are as singers, musicians, people. When we perform, our perception of our strengths and weaknesses plays out in all kinds of curious combinations, all of which make our work what it is. And in a premiere, this self awareness contributes to what will be the very first hearing of a new piece of music. On Monday night I was yet again moved by the talents, openness and support in our C & V group. When our personal perceptions lead us to doubt our abilities and performances, this positive and warm environment helps us find our footing and create the best of which we are capable.

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” ―C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

-Rachel Calloway

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INSIDE Composers & the Voice – November 4th (Pt. 1)

November 7, 2013

UntitledComposers & the Voice – 2013-14 Music Director, Kelly Horsted

   I always look forward to the third session of the C&V workshops, and Monday evening was not a disappointment. The composers, and composer/librettist team had provided the singers and music directors with a wide variety of truly interesting and eloquent pieces to prepare for this evening. The singers were solidly equipped to offer accurate and dynamic performances in conjunction with the 3 music director pianists. At this workshop, we finally began the collaboration that will last through the next 5 sessions between creators, performers, and our artistic director, Steve Osgood

  At the first session in September, the 6 singers performed pieces from their repertoire that they felt really showed defining characteristics of their voices.  It was a great way to start to get to know them not just as voice types but as performers. At the second session in October, the composers and composer/librettist team brought recordings of examples of their work to share with the group. The amount of diversity and expertise was very impressive.

  But, I think the really great part of the process begins when these people start to create pieces with these specific singers in mind. I’m always excited to get my first couple of assigned pieces handed to me at the end of the second session and to know that I’ll be performing the pieces for the group in just one month. Monday’s workshop started out with a photographer taking pictures of different groups and then the large group picture. It was a silly and fun way to start the evening. Then the performances began.

  Jeremy Gill‘s piece for tenor Dominic Armstrong was based on a Walt Whitman text. Charity Wicks was the pianist for this dramatic performance. Next, bass-baritone Matthew Burns and Mila Henry presented Andreia Pinto-Correia‘s atmospheric “Saladin” with text by Betty Shamieh. Gity Razaz wrote a lush setting of a Persian text for coloratura soprano Deborah Lifton which we heard with Charity at the piano.

  After a short break, Rachel Calloway and I performed Guy Barash‘s ironic and challenging aria “Straw to a Drowning Man” with a libretto by Nick Flynn. Composer Joseph Rubenstein and librettist Jason Kim wrote their engaging “4-line challenge” entitled “June”, which was presented by baritone Jorell Williams and Charity. Soprano Kristin Sampson and I ended the evening with the emotional “Gluttony’s Aria” by librettist Jeanette Simpson and composer Avner Finberg.

  After the initial performance of each piece, Steve Osgood asked useful questions of both singers and creators. He led discussion of elements which might alter or bring across the meaning of various passages more clearly. The singers are always willing to demonstrate what these possible changes might actually sound like, which is interesting for everyone.

It was a great evening. I’m so pleased to be a part of this group and this amazing process.

Kelly Horsted

November 4th, 2013


Millay Poetry Inspires June AOP Premiere

May 3, 2013

poster for Sympony Space

New York, NY– AOP (American Opera Projects), The Edna St. Vincent Millay Society, ClaverackLanding, and Symphony Space co-present a world premiere performance of Beauty Intolerable, a collection of love songs composed by Sheila Silver based on the poetry of iconoclast and libertine Edna St. Vincent Millay and performed by a trio of operatic chanteuses. The songs are accompanied with poetry recitations by actresses Tyne Daly (June 8) and Tandy Cronyn (June 13). The song cycle will be presented on June 8 at 6 PM at First Presbyterian Church: 4th & Warren Streets, Hudson, NY 12534. A Manhattan premiere follows on June 13 at 7:30 PM at Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space. Tickets will be available through the venues’ websites. A limited number of tickets to the Symphony Space performance which include VIP seating and a reception with the artists are available for $75 at AOP’s website.

The concert will feature soprano Lauren Flanigan (La Scala, Santa Fe, Metropolitan and New York City Operas),  mezzo-soprano Deanne Meek (Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, Metropolitan Opera), and soprano Risa Renae Harman (New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera), with Kelly Horsted and Christopher Cooley on piano. Each performance is accompanied with poetry recitations by guest actresses Tyne Daly (Cagney & Lacey and Judging Amy), and Tandy Cronyn (Once Upon a Time in America and The Story Lady).

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) was an American lyrical poet and playwright known for her sensual poetic depictions of her love affairs. Receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the Frost Medal for her lifetime contribution to American poetry, her work championed feminist activism. Born in Rockland, Maine, Millay moved to New York City, living a vibrant life with fellow writers in Greenwich Village. The New York Times described her as “an idol of the younger generation during the glorious early days of Greenwich Village […] One of the greatest American poets of her time.” Beauty Intolerable has been developed in collaboration with the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society.


AOP REVIEWS: “Remarkable series” Opera Grows in Brooklyn “an open-minded night of musical experimentation”

July 14, 2010

Galapagos Art Space was the place to be for another night of drinks and drama at Opera Grows in Brooklyn, the hit series from AOP and Opera on Tap.

Just look at what the blogs had to say…

Nicole Mitchell at Opera Grows in Brooklyn

Nicole Mitchell sings "Songs from Hood to Riches"

Parterrebox:

“…it seems clear that the Brooklyn hipster is destined to be the next audience for opera.”

“…once again some amazing surprises were presented by this rag-tag bunch of very experimental artists.”

“…the old and new guard of opera viewers mingled in an open-minded night of musical experimentation.”

Read full review

Opera Insider:

“I for one do not intend to miss another installment of this remarkable series!!! … the eclectic and sometimes challenging musical offerings [are] beautifully framed by the contemporary space and the relaxed, social atmosphere.”

Read full review

Adrienne Danrich performs the Calamus Songs

Adrienne Danrich

The July 9 show kicked off with the rousing set Brooklyn Poets – Past and Present, a combination of songs from AOP and the Walt Whitman Project’s Calamus Songs (Daniel Felsenfeld, Andrew Staniland) and “Songs from Hood to Riches” (Gilda Lyons). Soprano Adrienne Danrich and cellist Hamilton Berry drew thunderous applause for the Whitman settings and mezzo Nicole Mitchell continued her dramatic interpretations of Lyons’s songs based on the poetry of Brooklyn children featuring longtime AOP artist Kelly Horsted on the piano.

Ross Benoliel and Indre Viskontas get busy in the "Chamber"

Ross Benoliel and Indre Viskontas get busy in the "Chamber"

The night continued with singer/songwriter Corey Dargel’s Removable Parts, a disturbing and touching series of portraits about voluntary amputees featuring the incredible piano stylings of Kathleen Supové. Soprano Indre Viskontas and baritone Ross Benoliel brought sexy back with The Bloody Chamber by Daniel Felsenfeld, a new opera being developed by the former C&V composer (prolific, ain’t he?) and staged by the Vineyard Theater’s Sarah Stern.

Opera Grows in Brooklyn will return to Galapagos in 2010 on October 15 and December 10 with all new cutting edge scenes and songs. Mark your calendars now!


Whitman in Song travels up the Hudson

October 7, 2008
Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

This evening we will be performing our Walt Whitman in Song program in a special presentation for The Rockefeller Brothers Fund at Pocantico, the estate of John D. Rockefeller and home of Kykuit. We will be adding a new song to the program, premiering tonight – Gilda Lyons’s “Old Walt”, an a cappella piece for trio commissioned by AOP.

Walt Whitman in Song at Pocantico
Greg Trupiano, Walt Whitman Project, emcee
Kelly Horsted, music director and keyboard
Donna Smith, soprano
Adrienne Danrich, soprano
Matt Curran, bass

I C&V composers settings of Whitman texts:
“the silvery round moon” – Ray Lustig; (Donna)
“When lilacs last by the dooryard bloomed” – Jack Perla (Adrienne)
Wallabout Martyrs – Gilda Lyons, (Adrienne)
“O Me! O Life!” – Clint Borzoni (Matt)
“Old Walt” (Langston Hughs text) Gilda Lyons (Trio)

II Other composers with texts about or related to Whitman themes:
Aids Quilt song, deBlasio; Whitman text (Matt)
Star Spangled Banner with unpublished words by Whitman (Donna)
Hymn – “ My Days are Swiftly gliding by” Whitman weaves into “Speciman Days” (Donna)

III Other song texts with themes related to Whitman themes:
“Lady of the Harbor” – Lee Hoiby (Adrienne)
“Black Max,” Bill Bolcom (Matt)
“Jewel Song” from Gounod’s FAUST (Adrienne)
Duet from Mozart’s GIOVANNI (Adrienne and Matt)


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