Day Two of the Schwab Vocal Rising Stars Residency

Blog March VRS 2 The first day is always the honeymoon; and on the second day I can see what the week’s work is going to be about. These singers all have such fertile imaginations that they are sometimes bombarded with thoughts, ideas, images, impulses. They’re gifted and young, and they are still building the wiring to handle their own artistic electricity. Their capabilities are enormous. Some singers would be daunted by the eight languages in “Ports of Call”; others would need to be shown the subtleties of melody and style. At Caramoor, though, everyone has a tremendous instinct for music, and no one has raised a fuss about the languages, not even Danish or Russian or Brazilian Portuguese. But in these early rehearsals, the cast tends to overreact to their material with bursts of passion that can knock them slightly off-kilter.

So today was all about simplicity, legato, bel canto. “Just sing the notes, everyone,” I finally told them. “It’ll ALL be there, just sing. Especially the little notes—make ‘em long and fat.” It’s the kind of advice you can only give to people who are natural stylists. The song is in there already, it just needs to be allowed to emerge.

I am glad there is such a range of music on the program, because everyone finds songs where they instinctively relax into their voices—often the American popular stuff. “AHA! There’s your voice—sing your art songs like THAT!”

Highlights? Miles stopped time with his “Song of the Indian Merchant” from “Sadko.” Annie has amazing command of Bill Bolcom’s “To My Old Addresses”—so does Leann, who hops through the piano writing as if it were child’s play, which it definitely is not. Theo is devastating in Guastavino’s “Pampamapa” and naughtily dapper in Noël Coward’s “Uncle Harry.” And Olivia is making a beautiful thing of the Brazilian tango “Nenê,” her first foray into Portuguese. She got a language lesson from Portugal-native Merceds Santos-Miller during which I quietly freaked out—oh lord, the Portuguese accent and the Brazilian one are even more different than I thought. But God is good. Merceds approved of the way Olivia learned the poem under my guidance…

As if to reward us, the sun came out after lunch. I was outside for about three minutes and I felt something I had not experienced since October: warmth. I’ll never forget that feeling—nor the music that came afterwards, equally warm.

Catch the Schwab Vocal Rising Stars at Caramoor on March 16.

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