mockingbird trio contralto and viola art songs 21st century
Mockingbird Trio are a boston-based trio that perform contralto and voila art songs of the 21st century.

What a delight to come together with my pals to revisit some delightful 21st century song cycles by Fran Trester and learn some new tunes!  Celebrating Scott Woolweaver’s birthday (Mr. Viola to you), John McDonald has written a gorgeous new tune on a poem of Scott’s friend,  Cheryl Savageau, called “Equinox”.  It’s about a goldfinch, natch, because we are all a bit bird- and nature-crazy in this trio.  John plays piano for the rest of the pieces, but this bird song is just contralto and viola and it might rival John’s “The Mockingbird of Mockingbirds”, which was written for a big birthday celebration of mine in 2004.

Here are the details for the two concerts, both at All Newton Music School 
321 Chestnut Street West Newton, MA 02465  (617) 527-4553

Sunday March 11, 3:00pm  Scott’s birthday bash with nice reception afterwards.  Free, lots of good music for viola and I will be part of the 2nd half.  Includes “Domestic Affairs” by Francine Trester (10 songs on domestic life, including raccoons in the garbage and a bird named Ruffles) and “Equinox” by John McDonald (premier, described above).

Friday March 23, 11:00am  All-Mockingbird Trio in an informal setting, which includes lunch afterward.  $30, reservations required.  Program includes Howard Frazin’s “A Wren” and “Lullaby”, song cycles about birds by Francine Trester and John McDonald, his new “Equinox” and “The Mockingbird of Mockingbirds”.  Some on poetry by Denise Levertov; Fran writes her own fabulous lyrics. Howard Frazin’s Viola Sonata is also featured (premier, also being heard on March 11 concert).

How fun is this?  For me, nothing more delightful than singing beautiful 21st century music that was written for me and my pals, on gorgeous texts and getting to play music with them again after a hiatus (John was on sabbatical,  after being dept. chair and other grown-up duties).

Mockingbird illustration by Lisa French.

4 color Bach

Sing/play Bach arias this semester at NEC–class begins Wednesday February 7, 7:30-8:30pm.  Learn how to choose great arias, rehearse them as chamber music, and make a recitative sound like a great story…details: NEC voice classes

Appropriate for singers who can learn this wonderful music on their own and are comfortable singing in German; also welcome: flutes, oboes, strings, keyboard players…please pass this on and questions welcome…

 

practicing-instruments

I recently attended a workshop on improvisation*, and one of the interesting topics was practicing.  Not just figuring out how to improvise over a jazz standard, although we did some of that as well.  Finding new ways into the music, ways to make it more creative and a lot more productive.  I was fascinated, because I had already been invited to offer an evening workshop at the New England Conservatory about the very subject.  I had a lot of ideas before and now I have even more. The free event, for adults of all persuasions (beginners are encouraged), is coming up soon.  Here’s the scoop:

Wednesday January 31, 8-9:30pm, Pierce Hall, New England Conservatory of Music, 241 St Botolph Street, Boston.  Free to all, no NEC affiliation necessary.  Appropriate for all styles.  Bring your questions or even a bit of a song you’d like to ask about…there will be handouts, so if you’re coming, shoot me an email so I know how many to prepare.  No one is required to sing, but there will be opportunities for the group to try exercises together.

*it was a weeklong workshop with two master performers/teachers, Rhiannon and Laurence Hobgood.  In Hawaii.  Poor me.  I did, however, suffer through Boston’s Big Chill before earning the right to get warm.   There was also an exciting false alert sent to my phone about incoming missiles.  Some people have all the fun.

Large color JP Jubilee Dec 2017

My sweet, fun choir of elders (JP Jubilee) is taking a big step this December, performing with a local community orchestra.  We’ve learned the Hallelujah chorus and there are many other sweet holiday pieces on the program, which will be conducted by Geneviève Leclair.  I am spitting proud of my “kids”.  I have relented in my taboo of women tenors–with 72 members and only 11 men, I wisely chose to let our “lady baritones” have their day.  Well, lady tenors.  Post-menopausal and rarin’ to sing!

All proceeds of this concert go to support our program, which is a free class and meets at our local library.

 

Liz sitting at a desk with Emma Suzik holding my hand from behind
Liz with stage daughter Emma Suzik, Kristin Seeger peeking out in the photo behind

There are video and photo montages of the show I sang in North Carolina this past July on this site An Extra Penny.

Scroll down for the video; I appear at about 6:15 and at the end, and on the way you can hear the beautiful music by Mary Lee Taylor Kinosian and view so many of my colleagues.

2017 f flyer jP Jubilee6 sm

It’s time to start again–classes, lessons, and the “Birthday of the World”.  Come sing, learn, and have fun in Boston and Cambridge.  Or travel to Cape Cod for the High Holidays where no one needs a ticket to take a seat…Am HaYam meets in Orleans and I’m cantor, conductor and pianist…

you can pick up a dime”, went the old TV ad for rubber gloves.  Well, this project in North Carolina, An Extra Penny, is showing me that I can be every more flexible every day.  Turns out, it’s not simply a show, it’s a workshop, and one with LOTS of changes every day.  And they are all good!  Not always easy, but the show keeps getting better.

 

The Hansen Family
“The Hansen Family”  with Emma Suzik and Eli Cole in  An Extra Penny

I was invited here to sing an opera.  Then someone said, “no, it’s a musical”.  Fine, I can speak in English.  And then the changes started coming fast and furious.  My favorite line from a colleague: “I thought I had the most recent obsolete script!” Each change brings a better and tighter show.  The producers from NY (Broadway folks) who came to the opening are interested in the project and have given it a green light to go to the next level.  Which means more workshops in the future. But first, our creative dynamo Cindy Lu Mancini will have another week to work it and we will have 4 more performances next weekend.

I’ve never been in a show like this–neither have anyone else in the cast or crew, but we are all into it completely.  The music is gorgeous and the locals could not be more welcoming.

Delete, re-stage, take out dialogue and replace with body language.  I’m having a ball and I’ve found out I’m a quicker study than I thought.  So flexible…

 

ticket_orig

I’m singing a wonderful character* in a brand new musical, An Extra Penny.  I love the music, the story and the chance to work with a whole new group of people.  I’m in North Carolina for the month, rehearsing every day, marking the changes to my script and counting in wild meters.  I will write more as rehearsals go on, but I am thrilled to have completed a week here, near Raleigh, where it is steamy as all get-out and the iced tea is sweet unless you ask for another kind.  And…I have never before been in a musical, always operas or concerts.  It’s really fun to get to SPEAK lines…in English!

*a mother, of course, because altos always play moms.

 

 

 

Platinum Singers Concert 5.24.12 026Dungaree Dolls II (1)The “Dungaree Dolls” (Rachel Silva, Judy Jackson and Ann-Marie Pina) perform their original song in May 2012

 

I grew up with the Platinum Singers, as a conductor and a teacher of elders. We founded this group when Obama was inaugurated.  It comes to a end this Wednesday, June 28, from 2:30-3:30 in the Lincoln Room of the Harriet Tubman House, 566 Columbus Ave at Mass Ave.  Free admission, audience sing-alongs, but with more than a touch of sadness.

The Harriet Tubman House has been a place where seniors who still live on their own could get a hot lunch, take excellent exercise classes, learn to live with diabetes, and get help on their home repairs.  And it was a place to sit and chat, on hot days or cool, with other folks.

Sadly, the United South End Settlements is discontinuing ALL senior programming in order to “save the institution”.  And they will put all their efforts into “families”.  So the elders who do not have grandchildren that fit into this category are left without their community center in the South End.  Damn shame. As “45” slashes all sorts of programming and funding for elders (like Meals on Wheels), we are in need of more community organizations to take up the mantle of serving this population.

Silver lining: about half of the Platinums also sing in our Jamaica Plain group, JP Jubilee, where the program is also virtually free and taught by the same wacky woman.  Most of the Platinums have accepted our enthusiastic invitation to come sing with us there.

On another note, my student John is moving to Maine to be nearer to one of his daughters.  He sang “The Silver Swan” at the last student recital, and it was a fitting end to our years of lessons together.  Even as he lost words, he still could sing the melodies and vocalize up to a high C.  He was working as a journalist at the White House during the Nixon era when the Saturday Night Massacre occurred, so we shared a lot about the current political situation while reflecting back on his time as a member of the “enemies list”.  Fare thee well, John!