Vocal Rising Stars, Sixth Season: Day 4 by Steven Blier

A day of highs and lows. In the morning we had some visitors—a small cadre of Caramoor donors and board members, and also the General Director of Caramoor, Jeff Haydon. He’s the fellow who took over Michael’s old job, and I admit I have a soft spot for him. He’s a very decent guy with wonderful energy, and things always seem to shine a little brighter when he’s around. I like it when Jeff comes to rehearsal because none of us are afraid to do real work (i.e., screw up) in his presence, yet our hearts remain light and buoyant. Jeff always makes me feel talented and worthy and I appreciate that so much. He and the other visitors, including the appropriately named Vivian Song, were a sensational audience and the cast gave some of their best performances so far. Olivia suddenly morphed into a Brazilian sex-kitten in “Nenê,” Theo brilliantly channeled Noël Coward in an amazingly stylish rendition of “Uncle Harry,” Miles poured out vocal gold in his Grieg song, and Annie stopped time with “Calling You.” By the time we went into lunch Michael and I were feeling that all wa

s right in our corner of the world.

The afternoon session took a turn for the worse. We did a run of the whole show and lots of it was really good, but…some of it was suddenly sliding out of place. If God is in the details, he was taking a siesta. I’d played really well in the morning; in the afternoon I felt like a hack. The concert seemed to need some sort of chiropractor to get it back in alignment.

As it turned out, God was not asleep. He sent us the art-chiropractor we needed: our guest teacher for the week, soprano Amy Burton. She hadn’t worked at Vocal Rising Stars since the first season five years ago, but I remember how sharp she was on every level: language, voice, interpretation, staging. She dispensed some much-needed vocal wisdom to the singers, and she instantly fixed two of the biggest problem spots in the group numbers. My favorite moment? A critique of the Hoagy Carmichael song, which had been absolutely stellar yesterday but which abruptly lost its way this afternoon. “Theo, ‘Hong Kong Blues’ is about opium. You look like you’re strung out on crystal meth…or coke. Anyway, wrong drug. We’ll work on it tomorrow.”

The Schwab Vocal Rising Stars will be at Caramoor on Sunday, March 16.

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