New York Festival of Song
Steven Blier, Artistic Director
Michael Barrett, Assoc. Artistic Director
Elizabeth Ellis Hurwitt, Executive Director
Paul DeRosa, Chairman, Board of Directors
In the Memory Place
Michelle Areyzaga, soprano
Rebecca Jo Loeb, mezzo-soprano
Paul Appleby, tenor
Andrew Garland, baritone
Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, piano
At Merkin Concert Hall
(Merkin Hall Website)
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Press: Aleba Gartner Associates: 212.206.1450
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 25, 2011
“In the Memory Place”
Works by: Villa-Lobos, Bennett, Bridge, Oltra, Granados, Sondheim, Kahane, Robinson.
Once again, New York Festival of Song presented a gorgeous concert for their fans and vocal music aficionados. Kaufman Center was packed, as always, and the audience was invited to a wine reception upstairs, after the final song, to meet the artists, along with Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, pianists and organizers of this series. Tonight’s artists were Michelle Areyzaga, soprano, Rebecca Jo Loeb, mezzo-soprano, Paul Appleby, tenor, and Andrew Garland, baritone. The title of this event, “In the Memory Place”, was inspired by Gabriel Kahane’s “The Memory Place”, performed near the end of the performance. Mr. Kahane was also in the audience and took a bow after Mr. Garland sand the six-part composition.
As the evening proceeded, each soloist had a series of songs, in between several series for the ensemble. Music by Heitor Villa-Lobos introduced the evening, with the ensemble offering “Cancao da folha morta”, about the meaninglessness of life, and soprano, Ms. Areyzaga, followed up with Villa-Lobos’ songs from “Floresta do Amazonas”, with incredible operatic quality. Her voice was clear, impassioned, and celebratory, and, when she held one note endlessly, the audience was thrilled. They were songs of Love, of Dusk, and a Sentimental Melody. William Sterndale Bennett’s “Come live with me” was sung a cappella by the ensemble. It had hymnal choral effects, like a madrigal.
Tenor, Paul Appleby, a familiar face at these events, sang songs by Frank Bridge, set to poems by Lord Tennyson, James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Rabindranath Tagore, and Mary Coleridge. Mr. Appleby is always filled with personality, flair, and projected professionalism. “Goldenhair” (Joyce) was sung with slow, pleading refrains, with waterfalls of impressionistic piano trills. “When You are Old and Gray” (Yeats) was mellow and eloquent, while “Love Went A-Riding” (Coleridge) was belted out in dynamic Broadway style.
The ensemble sang “Eco”, composed by Manuel Oltra, in a cappella, set to a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca. The echoes included humming passages. Mezzo-Soprano, Ms. Loeb, was next, with songs by Enrique Granados set to poems by Fernando Periquet. “La maja dolorosa” brought in classical piano tones, while “Amor y Odio” and “El mirar de la maja” revealed Ms. Loeb’s expansive, expressive range. “Callejeo” was sung rapidly with variations in tone. The ensemble tackled Sondheim’s challenging “Two Fairy Tales”, originally intended for “A Little Night Music”. It was elegant and enchanting.
Baritone, Mr. Garland, followed with Mr. Kahane’s “The Memory Place”, recently composed to his own poems. Its songs are titled “Underberg”, “7 Middagh”, “Merritt Pkwy”, “North Adams”, and “Rochester”. Sound and tone are contemporary and iconically drawn from Mr. Kahane’s experience. Lyrics of “Underberg” include “I want to watch them tear down that building with you, Then watch them watch you tear me down too”. “7 Middagh” included a refrain three times, “They could not hear the bombs in the Northern Heights, They were too far away to see those fearsome lights, But they felt them”. Mr. Garland has a powerful baritone projection, mournfully presenting repetitive refrains. “North Adams” was fast and lyrical, while “Rochester” was meandering and melancholy. For Mr. Garland, this was quite a memory feat of his own.
The ensemble concluded with Smokey Robinson’s “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me”. They sang it like a barbershop quartet, harmonizing, humming, really entertaining the audience to vocal accolades. Throughout the concert, Steven Blier spoke to the NYFOS fans with personal and program-related anecdotes, always with an easy flair. At each event we learn much about his programming and much about the composers, as well as about Mr. Blier’s thinking as the performance design took shape. Both Mr. Blier and Mr. Barrett brought out concert level piano accompaniment, much of which could be worthy of a concert on its own. In fact, it would be nice, just once, for one of the pieces to be piano songs, a tribute to the leaders of NYFOS and their Steinways. Cheers were aplenty tonight, and kudos to all.
Photo courtesy of Dario Acosta