It’s hard to put into words what one week at Caramoor has done for me. I told Steven Blier as we were heading off the stage at Merkin Hall on Tuesday, March 17th 2015, right after what was officially my NYC recital debut, that I felt I had been lost and found at the same time at Caramoor. “Put that in writing,” he said. So here I am, trying to write about the gargantuan and subtle changes that occurred little by little last week and then all at once to culminate in singing, music-making, and communicating as I have never before experienced. There’s something about the grounds up there at Caramoor, the seclusion, the tangible joy from every single staff member, the stunning historical surroundings inside the Rosen House, the incredible food, being able to have long, interesting lunches with the CEO, staff and all our other distinguished visitors, the inspiring Music Room, the trustworthy audience, even the Ed Center practice room and its soprano-friendly acoustics! And I haven’t even mentioned my amazing fellow “Schwab Rising Stars” and their passionate music-making, their hunger for making themselves the best they can be, their terrific senses of humor, and, of course, their big, beautiful hearts. Somehow, it all added up to a week of tremendous growth for me. My favorite line from “Blier’s blog” was written about work I did exactly one week before the Merkin Hall in NYC performance. I was in the Ed Center practice room with our incredible apprentice pianist Chris Reynolds, our Italian coach, Giuseppe Mentuccia, and NYFOS co-founder, Michael Barrett. Steve wrote,
–“Chelsea dug very deep into her soul today and stunned everyone in the room, including herself, with “Ombra di nube.” ‘I want to work on the Bellini,’ she told me right after, ‘but first I need to go somewhere and cry for fifteen minutes.’”
This is a very intimate moment that Steve managed to share on his blog in a brief and beautiful way. This coaching was one of those that comes at you from all angles. This was the first time Chris and I were collaborating, so that creates a sense of testing each other out to see if we click. Then Giuseppe was helping me achieve detailed Italian diction nuances, but he also had a way of gently conducting while I sang, and I was watching and responding. Lastly, Michael helped me realize that from the perspective of the poet in “Ombra di nube,” there is no hope. The poem calls out at the end “Ancora luce!” but the poet does not actually believe the light will return. How interesting for a composer/priest to set such a text. I think the final piece was when Michael pointed out that right before “Ancora luce!” the composer wrote “implorando” or “begging.” I had noticed that, and I thought I was begging a little bit. But Michael pushed me (kindly but firmly) to go for the kind of hopeless begging where you are literally on your knees, weeping and crying out. Whoa. So, I didn’t literally fall to my knees, but Chris and I found a way to do the piece with all of those things in mind. I’m an optimistic person! I operate on a default setting of “cheerful.” For me to allow myself to go to the depths of hopelessness and taste for two pages of music what it might feel like to not believe the light would return….well, that was profound and it sent me over the edge. Fortunately, it was only Tuesday, and I was surrounded by this beautiful place and these special, trustworthy colleagues. As I was recovering from my sob session, it dawned on me that Steve had asked for more melancholy in another of my songs called “I Pastori.” I took a minute and read the poem: “Settembre, andiamo è tempo di migrage…” And then we worked on the Bellini.