Public performances in which I sing or conduct a group of singers

Middlebury Song Fest

I’m excited about the upcoming recital at the new Middlebury Song Fest this Friday evening, May 18.  Favorite songs written in the recent past, very accessible tunes on New England poets, with a bit of improvisation and whimsy thrown in.  Peter Cirka on piano, (until I play on my own arrangement of a Ricky Ian Gordon tune).  We’ll also teach the audience a few settings of Emmas Lazarus’ famous “Give me your tired…” and a fun song about the library by Deborah Henson-Conant.

Bonus for Boston area friends:  an open dress rehearsal at the JP branch of the public library on Wednesday May 26, 2:30-3:30.  (30 South Street, Jamaica Plain, downstairs).

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.

 

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.

 

 

Porchfest 

 

Porchfest JP Choral Singers                Led by Pam Kristan

Sat July 9,    1:30 – 3 pm

7 John Andrew Street, Jamaica Plainoff Newbern/Elm/Carolina/Sedgwick

Brahms ¯ Mozart ¯ Lauridsen ¯Goin’ to Boston, arr. Alice Parker ¯ Haydn ¯ Wm. Byrd ¯ Orlando di Lasso ¯Sacred Harp style piece

Join in on a hymn or madrigal

More info at http://jpporchfest.org/

What could be more fun than getting together with neighbors and making music?  I did this years ago in Berkeley on Saturday afternoons, and the easy camaraderie and sharing of duties (conducting, bringing snacks) is perfect.  What’s more, we’ll do Alice Parker’s arrangement of “Goin’ to Boston,” which I’ve been wanting to put together for quite a while now.  Since it’s Ms. Parker’s 90th birthday year, folks are posting videos of their performances of her many compositions and arrangements. Alice Parker is 90 We look forward to adding ours…I’m multitasking: conducting and singing some alto on this one, but also being a percussion section.  The other pieces I just get to sing…

Leonard Bernstein quote on violence

I was happy to find this quote, because I’ve been thinking about it.  Come on Tuesday evening to the Boston Common and do a Circle Sing with us–it’s Make Music Day–Fete de la Musique since it started in France…

Lots of places to hear music, but here is the link to MAKING music with others.  participatory events  Website for the whole shebang Make Music Boston 2016

If you don’t know what a Circle Sing is, just come and try–nothing required, just listen and let us play together while making beautiful, new sounds.  We learned it from Bobby McFerrin, and we take turns leading.  How about that?  Parkman Bandstand, Boston Common, 6-7:30pm on Tuesday June 21, 2016.  All free. Come any old time, drop by after work…

 

 

Inuksuit at ArboretumSingers are notorious for not being great at counting.  I will admit I spend more time correcting rhythms than notes in lessons and rehearsals with my groups.  I pride myself on being pretty good at rhythm.

Well, counting as a percussionist is really busting my chops.  John Luther Adams’ piece that I’ll be participating in next weekend is S-L-O-W and meditative.  Really a cool piece, and my little part (I’m one of 90+ folks) is interesting and challenging.  And I have to memorize it and count slowly.

I never thought of myself as a hummingbird type, but this is a challenge.  I practice by taking walks around my neighborhood, counting measures until I come in, breathing in and out instead of playing the siren or conch shell or clanging a small bell.  Just trying to count long phrases.  A kind of spiritual practice, if you will.

I’ve also been listening to his music.  After all, this guy recently won the Pulitzer Prize for composition, and we get to play his piece in our own tree park, aka the Arnold Arboretum.  His music is gorgeous and spacious as the land.  In addition,  I met my percussion teacher, Maria Finkelmeier, after a performance she did in said Arboretum a few years ago.  So I am doubly excited to be invited to be part of a great community of folks, each counting to their own inner rhythm.  Not quite improvised, but not scripted in the way each of us comes in at the same time.

When I was a pup, in the late 1970’s in the Bay Area, I sang with a cool new-music group called the Port Costa Players.  One concert we did in the University Art Museum included a piece that called for ceremonial walking and whistling by the singers, while two percussionists played large hand drums to give a beat.  We repeated the concert in the same museum two nights in a row.  After the first concert, the composer who had just come up from LA to hear the piece (was it Doug Leedy? not sure) told our conductor that we had done it WAY TOO FAST.  So the next night, when we arrived at our short pre-concert warm-up, we were told to just follow the beat of the drummers, which was now something like three times as slow.  That was one weird performance.  We could not adjust without a real rehearsal, and it was hard to follow the cues of the whistling and waiting for something like a minute in between each drum beat.

I know the Adams piece will be a different kind of space-time-continuum, and we get to rehearse at the proper speed.  But it brought up (nice) memories.

Anyway, come hear this cool piece next weekend.  You can sit and listen from one vantage point or walk around as we performers walk on our our paths and integrate with the sounds of the land.

I was good in school, but bad at two things: penmanship and conduct. Got “Satisfactory” in both subjects–like a gentlewoman’s C.
I spent a lot of time in first grade in the hallway, mostly from talking. “Yes, I know the other children were talking, Liz, but we HEARD you.”

Well, I’m not sure I behave any better as an adult, but I am learning to conduct better. Conduct others, that is. Turns out, it’s a neat trick to be able to telegraph musical ideas in new ways. I’m used to singing, breathing, moving to give signals to colleagues when I’m performing. I’m accustomed to guiding the student(s) with my piano playing. Now, I am actually working with a pianist (a very good one–Megan Henderson is a singer, player and conductor herself) who will follow my gestures and take my tempi, all with a wave of a hand.

I had some great choral conductors in my life. Tom Fettke was my high school chorus teacher at Oakland High School. William F. Russell at Pomona College, Louis Magor in the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Roger Nelson in the Port Costa Players, and Craig Smith at Emmanuel Music in Boston. All these folks LET US SING, they let us BE MUSICAL. You have no idea how many conductors try to control a group of singers and get no music made at all. Others try but are ineffective at keeping a beat or showing what they want.

The leaders who inspire me clearly LOVE their players and the music. I once sat onstage to watch Bernard Haitink conduct the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Brahms 2nd Symphony (We called it the Tweedy symphony after that because of the Dutch spelling of 2nd: Tweede). He looked at his players with such warmth and respect, and wow, did he get a sound from them.

This past weekend I heard and saw Maria Schneider and her Orchestra perform in Boston. This woman attracts the very best jazz players, folks who ordinarily wouldn’t be playing with such a big group–they are all marvelous soloists on their own. And she not only writes such beautiful arrangements, but she clearly lets them do their musical thing. Not just on their solos,  but being musical partners to her tunes all through.

group of singers standing around a guitarist, having fun

So as I begin my new phase of conducting these voice classes of elder adults–away from the piano, just standing and waving and breathing–I am inspired by the marvelous models above. And others. So far, so good. We sang a dress rehearsal at a senior residence this morning, and I really enjoyed just being with the music and with my group. Listening, loving, not worrying about how I was doing, being in the moment.

What a gift.

JP Jubilee in concert tomorrow night, Jamaica Plain branch library, 7:00, free. Very short program.

Platinum singers begin their summer session May 7 at the Harriet Tubman House.

The chorus at the Simon Fireman Home in Randolph is making a couple of field trips in June (one to visit the Platinum Singers, their “cousins” through me, and the other to the “Mother Ship” of Hebrew Senior Life in Roslindale.)  We’re working on “Goin’ to Boston” and other tunes about Time and Place.