Monthly Archives: May 2014

Reframing My Goals for Musical Merit

Over the past few days my nervousness about Musical Merit has increased. I know after giving my recital that my technique will most likely stay intact, but how do I stack up against other singers? I know I’ve improved since last year, but by how much? And is it enough? What if they (the judges) don’t like me or my singing?

Dante helps me pack for my trip to San Deigo. NYC, 2014

Dante helps me pack for my trip to San Diego. NYC, 2014

These questions are common for singers to obsess over, but they’re not doing me any good. So, to combat my rising nervousness and doubt, I’ve decided to shift the focus of this trip from hoping to place in the competition to 1) singing each piece of music with conviction; and 2) treating myself to a mini-vacationContinue reading


Reflecting After the Recital

Shall We Gather, my first New York City recital, was a success! My heartfelt thanks go to all those who made it possible – Holyrood Church for the use of their beautiful acoustics and space, The Washington Heights Musical Society and Alexandra Dunbar for having me as part of their concert series, Baritone Boy for being my constant support, Bill Lewis for being my teacher as well as my pianist, and all my friends who were in attendance and those who wished me good luck from afar. Funds from the free-will donation will be used towards housing/travel expenses for Astoria Music Festival, and a significant portion was donated to Holyrood Church.

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Sunlight streaming in at Holyrood Church. NYC, 2014.

It was an intimate gathering, which made each face in the audience that much more dear to me. It was incredible and so touching to have friends from work, friends from San Diego, recently-made friends from New York, and even two friends from junior high whom I have not seen in about ten years there on such short notice, on such a beautiful Sunday evening, in a city where there are so many entertainment options to choose from. Continue reading

Despina Chronicles: Words, words, words!

My teachers would be proud! I have taken their advice and am learning Despina the “right” way – text first and then notes. This approach was a success when learning Allerseelen last year, but I admit that it was the exception rather than the rule. The excitement of having new rep usually overwhelms my patience and common sense – I want to dive in, learn it all immediately, and practice until I can’t sing anymore. This really isn’t the best way to go about it, though…

It can be difficult to slow down and learn all the various elements separately. I think there are two sides to a singer: the Performer and the Musician. The Performer loves the drama, the excitement, the plot twists and turns, the gorgeous soaring lines, the orchestra, the flood of feelings. The Performer doesn’t want to wait – the Performer wants to do.

Then there’s the Musician. That’s the part of us that was listening when our teachers spoke their words of wisdom, the systematic and logical part of us that realizes the importance of establishing a solid technical foundation upon which we can then layer all the feeling and emoting and performing. By technical, I don’t just mean vocal technique (although that’s certainly one aspect of the foundation singers need); I also mean the technical details of language, diction, rhythm, pitch, and articulation — the tools through which we can effectively and honestly interpret what is printed on the page. Continue reading

Shall We Gather: an Evening of Songs and Arias

I’ve made a poster, which means this recital is really happening!

Shall We Gather: An Evening of Songs and Arias
May 18th, 2014
Sunday, 7 PM
Holyrood Church
179th & Fort Washington
New York City, NY
Shall We Gather - Recital Poster 2

Photo by Still in Motion Photography. School of Music*, ASU, 2013.

Continue reading

La folle journée: a crazy Mozart day

How appropriate that the full title of Beaumarchais’ play, the basis for Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, begins with La Folle Journée, “A Crazy Day.” Although my day wasn’t quite as crazy as Susanna’s, it definitely stands out as one of the craziest days I’ve had in a while!

I had really been looking forward to this concert, not only because I was excited to sing some more Mozart, but also because Baritone Boy was going to be Figaro to my Susanna. Can you believe this was only the third time we’ve shared a stage after being a couple for almost two years? It was even more special that this would be his first Figaro, my first Susanna, and our first Figaranna together.

The morning was calm and gave no hints of what was to come. Baritone Boy made breakfast, and I curled my hair. We got to the venue at 12:30, and the concert was starting at 2:00 PM. Our schedules had listed the The Magic Flute first, a 15 minute set, followed by Le nozze di Figaro, 1 hour and 10 minutes. I changed into my gown, took my cough medicine, and we talked with the other singers and even took some pictures:

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Susanna and Figaro backstage. NYC, 2014.

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with Noelle Banks, our lovely Countess. NYC, 2014.

Then we found out from the Magic Flute cast that their set was 1 hour and 20 minutes long.

This was 1 hour and 5 minutes more than what the schedule had listed. It  meant that instead of finishing at 3:30, our set was starting at 3:30, which posed an enormous problem because Baritone Boy and I both had counted on leaving at 3:30: he had to get to Jersey City to cantor mass, and I had to make the tail-end of the Mozart Requiem dress rehearsal.

After an initial three minutes of confusion, disbelief, and confirmation that this was actually happening, Baritone Boy started making calls and sending texts to his music director and to possible subs, and I called the director of the Cornerstone Chorale to explain the situation. Attendance at the Cornerstone Chorale dress rehearsal was mandatory to sing in the performance, but the dress rehearsal would be over by the time  Figaro wrapped up – what could I do?

I didn’t want to leave and not sing Susanna — I’d worked hard and didn’t want to leave the rest of the group in a lurch —  but I also didn’t think it was right to flake out on Cornerstone Chorale. At my audition, the director had asked if I could really commit to the group’s projects if I was also auditioning and involved in other performances. I’d said yes, of course, with every intention of keeping my word … and the irony of potentially missing this dress rehearsal and being disqualified from the Sunday concert was immense.

Since there was no way for me to go to the second half of rehearsal, the music director asked me to come up to the rehearsal as soon as possible and to stay for as long as I could before going back down for Figaro. So I jumped into a cab to rush up to Washington Heights, which felt worlds away:


Cabbing it uptown. NYC, 2014.

I made it to the rehearsal (and got a text from Baritone Boy that he had managed to find a sub):

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View from the choir during rehearsal. Holyrood Church. NYC, 2014.

Stayed about 30 minutes and then ran three blocks to find a cab to take me back to 96th St:

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Cabbing it downtown. NYC, 2014.

Oh, did I mention New York City also decided today was the perfect day to rain and briefly hail? At least I had this gentleman to help me out:


Baritone Boy, a gentleman through and through. NYC, 2014.

I got back in time to freshen up my make-up, eat a cheese danish, re-center, and then we were up. My voice held up nicely, and I didn’t feel I was pushing to sing through the lingering cold or to be heard in the hall. Baritone Boy usually acts as my ears in the audience, but today we were on stage together – from his spot next to me, he said I sounded fine, if a bit cautious in the first number. I wasn’t consciously holding back, but it may have been a combination of a bumpy start (we couldn’t actually see the conductor/pianist) and my chords not being fully recovered yet.

There was a good-sized crowd, and they really enjoyed the performance. A few audience members stopped to chat with us afterwards, and I know they could at least hear me. Baritone Boy and I even received a few comments about being a good on-stage couple! It was a roller-coaster of a day, but we walked away happy, relieved, and quite pleased with ourselves for pulling it off.

Of course, there was only one way to properly reward ourselves and decompress from the craziness: Boba!!

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Enjoying some Tea Magic post-performance. NYC, 2014.

And now it’s time to get back to preparing for the other two big events on the horizon. Musical Merit is at the end of May, and I leave for Astoria in exactly one month!

To give myself the opportunity to perform my Musical Merit rep at least once in a setting other than my living room or my teacher’s studio, I’m giving a recital at the church where Cornerstone Chorale rehearses and is ensemble in residence. The church was very generous to allow me the use of their space, and that recital is in one week, Sunday, May 18th. I better get to work!



Despina Chronicles: Susanna Detour

Despina was off to a great start, but I’ve been on a slight detour the past few weeks as I prepare for the two Mozart concerts this weekend: selections from Le nozze di Figaro on Saturday, and the Mozart Requiem on Sunday.

Susanna has been an absolute joy to work on. It does not lie particularly high, and the absence of outrageous high notes has been a nice break for someone who has been obsessed with stretching the extension! The challenge has actually been in the opposite direction. Susanna repeatedly visits Bb below the staff – for example, in the Act II and IV finales – and even traverses all the way down to A3 in “Deh vieni non tardar.” That one note is quite notorious (and it’s fun to see how various singers navigate it).

Although Susanna is regularly lumped into the soubrette category, I’m not sure I would consider her a soubrette beyond the stock attributes she has been assigned: young, fun, and the maid. The whole opera is built on the premise that people are not (or are more than) what they appear to be, so why wouldn’t Susanna be more than just the light-hearted, light-voiced comic relief? The Countess is supposed to be the heroine, but I think Susanna’s brains and heart make her as much a leading lady, if not more.

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Preparing the Susanna and Cherubino duet. NYC, 2014.

Pondering about these characters and their relationships to each other has been just as fun as learning the music. There was an element of pressure involved given the amount of music, the amount of time, and this awful cough and cold/virus I’ve been battling, but much of it was lessened by the fact that it didn’t take long for it to feel good in my voice. Some music takes a while to settle in, and other music seems to fit your voice immediately. Thankfully, Susanna felt right from the start and despite a very short rehearsal period, I think I’m ready for tomorrow’s concert. I have a few concerns, but they’re more about keeping the terrible coughing under control and catching all the entrances in the ensemble numbers. Vocally, other than an overabundance of phlegm from being sick, everything feels easy and accessible!

I’m excited but also a bit nervous for tomorrow. I essentially lost my voice this past week after cantoring three masses and singing a four hour rehearsal while sick and on all sorts of medication. I put myself on vocal rest for two days when I realized my voice was gone, limiting my talking at work and marking during rehearsals. My voice has gotten a little better each day, but it still gets tired very quickly, whether I’m speaking or singing. At tonight’s run-through, I tried using a little more voice, but I didn’t want to give it my all just in case 18 hours wasn’t enough recovery time. I’ll drink lots of water, take my cough medicine, and we’ll see how it goes!

Even if I’m not able to sing my very best, I’m so glad I had this opportunity and pushed myself to learn all this music. Susanna is an intimidating role because of how much singing she does – now that I have some of it under my belt, I’ll be less likely to panic if/when the time comes to learn the whole thing!

Saturday’s selections:

  • Act I Susanna/Marcelinna duet “Via, resti servita, madama brillante”
  • Act II trio “Susanna, or via sortite!”
  • Act II Susanna/Cherubino duet “Aprite, presto, aprite”
  • Act II Finale
  • Act III sextet “Riconosci in questo amplesso una madre”
  • Act III Susanna/Countess duet “ Sull’aria”
  • Act IV Finale