The Recital that Facebook Built

I’ve put a lot of thought into this upcoming recital, and it all really started with a blog post from one of my former professors from Ithaca College, Patrick Hansen. It’s well worth the read.

One of the many things he touches on is the academic requirement of the Art Song Recital. I’ve been to A LOT of recitals. Singing them and attending them was a requirement in school. To quote Patrick:  

“…the problem is is that these voice recitals tend to all look and sound the same. Allow me to over-generalize: A guy walks out in a tux or a lady walks out in a gown, they open up with some nice Italian ditties from the baroque period, then move into a Schubert set auf Deutsche, perhaps something more Romantic, then into a French Impressionist set, infrequently making sense of the dense symbolist poetry, and then burst into an English set by Barber or Britten or Bolcom or Beach. Maybe, if they’re lucky, they get to end with something to “entertain” the audience, usually some piece of musical theatre they’ve been wanting to sing for years but haven’t been allowed to actually study in any way. They stand and deliver thoughtfully, taking breaks between “sets”. Applause follows. If they’ve prepared well, a passing grade is usually conferred by a chosen panel of voice teachers.

What’s the problem, you might ask? Do I have some grudge against the current recital format?

Yes, I do. I believe that there is more to a young singer’s training than learning to stand still while singing through an hour’s worth of song literature. I think that recitals should only be a part of a young singer’s thesis, not its sole culmination. I believe that students should be allowed much more flexibility and freedom when choosing repertoire, venue, length, order of songs, and even their dress. Hey – Why not ungroup a cycle and splatter it throughout other songs to create a more unique connection between the poetry or the music?”

I LOVED Patrick’s post, and since I have had anything but a traditional Operatic Career I decided to plan this recital program around my favorite opera character, Nedda. But there were so many options! Do you just sing a bunch of songs about birds? Can you cover the standard recital fair in a set that centers around an aria? 

Turns out this project was a LOT of fun. To be fair, I’ve only sung this role once and frankly, in the audition, I wasn’t sure I’d get through the aria, let alone the role. It was only after working on the opera that I discovered what a perfect fit it was vocally and dramatically. And when I started to think about how to plan a program around this, there was so much to dive into. Obviously there was the Comedia aspect, and she has such a deep sense of longing for freedom. Not knowing where to start, I turned to Facebook for recommendations and there were SO many great ideas. 

I also didn’t want to limit myself to the “Classical” repertoire. The cornerstone of my career has been my willingness and ability to “cross over” and I wanted this recital to reflect that. ESPECIALLY since I was performing this at a school. The business has changed so much, even since I graduated. If you want to have a career you have GOT to be willing to diversify your portfolio. For example, I have an awesome Christmas gig with the ISO, that I booked by singing “Vanilla Ice Cream” from She Loves Me and belting “Not Getting Married Today” from Company.  And as much as I would like to recommend some of my classically trained friends, if you’re not able to croon your way through “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” convincingly, it ain’t gonna happen. So in this recital, I wanted to cover as wide a range of styles as possible. In the words of Chris Thile, genre hopping (He also talks about audience behavior, which I find fascinating). 

So, with the help of my many friends on Facebook, here’s what I came up with:

Debussy, MandolineVilla-lobos, L’Oiseau

Schubert, Sehnsucht D.516 (Der Lerche)

Schubert, Lied der Mignon Op. 62 no. 4

Leoncavallo, Stridono Lassù from “Pagliacci”

Zach Redler, Afternoon on a Hill

Paul McCartney, Blackbird

Harold Arlen, Somewhere over the Rainbow on Ukulele

Stephen Schwartz, Meadowlark from “The Baker’s Wife” 

In the future, I’m hoping to expand this to a full program and include more Schubert, Berg’s Die Nachtigal, Donizetti’s La Zingara, maybe Kurt Weil’s Youkali or Ricky Ian Gordon’s Wild Swans but I think this is a good start. 

So if you’re in the Nashville Area, I hope you’ll join me September 5th at 7pm at the Eddie T. Goines Recital Hall of the performing arts center (PAC) at TSU. School address is 3500 John A Merritt Blvd. Nashville, TN 37209