Skip to main content

The Divine Feminine: SOTA Vocal and Piano Departments

October 10 and 11 were two spectacular nights of wonderful music by female composers. These two concerts were collaborations of the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts Piano and Vocal Departments.

Vocal Director: Todd Wedge
Artists in Residence:
Leilani Dibble (Musical Theater, Ballet), Angela Doctor (Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Director, Vocal Jazz, Vocal Coach), Katie Gielniak (Musical Theatre, Dance & Acting), E.E. "Chip" Grant IV (Vocal Coach), Kristen Grzeca (Student Teacher, Women's Ensemble, Director, Music History, AP Music Theory, Lyric Diction), Rhsolyn Jones (Vocal Coach, Aural Skills, Acting for Singers), Melecio Magdaluyo (Vocal Jazz Coach, Jazz Theory and Arranging), Ava Soifer (Vocal Coach, Music Theory,  Accompanist, Director, Asawa SOTA Piano), Erika Weil (Musical Theater, Vocal Coach), Kelsey Walsh (Piano for Singers, Music Theory), and Jace Wittig (Vocal Coach, Music Theory).

The Divine Feminine revolved around works by female composers. I bet you have often heard the provocative question: why aren't  there a lot of female composers? And if you are an erudite and start naming them off from the top of your head, you are confronted with the next, killing question: can you actually hum at least one of their melodies? We have all bumped into this dilemma before and I can oppose this conspiracy against women with a short anecdote.

A man died and got a chance to ask the Lord one question.

"Who is the greatest commander that ever lived? Napoleon, Alexander the Great, or Genghis Khan?"
"Neither," was the Lord's reply. "Come. Let me show you the greatest of them all!"

And so the Lord took down the curious soul back to earth and took him into a small town. There, the Lord pointed at a cobbler sitting on the sidewalk.

"Him?" exclaimed the soul. "But he's not even in the military service!"

"I know," replied the Lord. "But he is the greatest commander of them all. He never got a chance to prove it."    

The evening started with the poem Nu-Kua, read and written by Harmony Wicker, who set the stage for O Virtus Sapientiae by Hildegard von Bingen. I would have preferred if the audience was more disciplined and didn't start clapping right after the poem was read, because the chorus had already started singing and the clapping separated the emotional boundaries between the poetry and the music, that was created by beautiful staging. Well, and it would have been more natural if the chorus wasn't actually wearing their uniform, you know, nature and all that. But of course, that will never happen and we all know it. The mobility of the chorus, the choreography, and the formations created an interesting perception of the sounds and melodies in O Virtus Sapientiae. The formations also increased the feminine sensuality of the piece. Soloists Drew Jackson, Kevin Lopez, Nolan Ramirez, and Sam Siegel intrigued the audience with their efficacious singing.

City Called Heaven by Josephine Poelinitz, performed by soloists Emilie Suarez and Ryan Doyle along with the chorus, led the audience on an emotionally fulfilling journey that melted everybody's hearts. This piece received the most enthusiastic applause of the two evenings.

Next came the Vibravo, a men's ensemble, performing Looking at the World Through Rose Colored Glasses. The efforts made by the members of the Vibravo (Kyle Miller, Nolan Ramirez, Kevin Lopez, and Forrest Nolan) were joined in unison and extremely entertaining. Last year, the Vibravo performed the virtuosic overture to Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia as an exclusive treat. This year, they did not disappoint our expectations.

During the Women's Ensemble, time flew which is a sign of a great performance! Round of applause to Mrs. Kristen Grzeca!

The Musical Theater Ensemble, performing Raise You Up & Just Be from Kinky Boots by Cyndi Lauper, was very entertaining in that the performers were very upbeat and the energy level was way up in the sky. The singing, accompanied by dancing, was very pleasant for the listener who could now not only listen to great singing but also watch great dancing.

The Jazz Ensemble, performing Fly Away Birdie by Sarah Gazarek & Josh Nelson, arr. Matt Falker, was an extraordinary conclusion to the first half. Kathlynn Simotas and Giovanni de Leon performed the solo, accompanied by other voices. Ms. Simotas's and Mr. de Leon's voices matched together in a beautiful way making the music even more attractive to the ear.

After intermission

October 10th

I Send My Heart Up To Thee by Amy Cheney Beach.
Vocalist: Vyncent Guerra
Pianist: Roman Dimov

It was a nice debut for Mr. Guerra. 

Ah, Love But A Day by Amy Cheney Beach
Vocalist: Sean Love
Pianist: Janet Lin

Mr. Love amazed the audience with his low, rich bass. It's very difficult to find a bass in the freshman class...

L’Ultima Canzone by Paolo Tosti
Vocalist: Sam Siegel
Pianist: Simon Tabakh

Counter-tenor Mr. Siegel transferred the tragic meaning of the song to the audience leaving them in tears.   

O Del mio Amato Ben by Stefano Dounaudy
Vocalist: Madeleine Muzio
Pianist: Jessica Kur

Ms. Muzio gave the audience a perfect understanding of the character of the piece. 

Er Ist Gekommen in Sturm Und Regen by Clara Schumann
Vocalist: Jamie Zimmer
Pianist: Ava Soifer

Ms. Zimmer left the audience bewildered after her strong voice accompanied by stunning acting penetrated the music hall.   

Warum Sind Den Du Rosen So Blaß by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel
Vocalist: Arlyss Hays
Pianist: Rubina Mazurka

Ms. Hays was very artistic in her interpretation of the piece, allowing the audience to further understand the plea she was singing about.   

Suleika by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel
Vocalist: Mackenzie Nemoff
Pianist: Alice Kubo

Ms. Nemoff set a very nice mood with her piece and her singing. 

L’Heure Exquise by Lady Dean Paul Poldowski.
Vocalist: Nicole Koh
Pianist: Jennica Li

Ms. Koh has a very powerful, yet sweet voice resonating gorgeously throughout the music hall. 

Madrid by Pauline Viardot 
Vocalist:Allison Shapiro
Pianist: Iven Feng

The passion and mocking tone in the song was depicted by Ms. Shapiro in a very exciting way. 

Mignonne by Cecile Chaminade 
Vocalist: Nolan Ramirez
Pianist: Angela Rey

Mr. Ramirez had nice phrasing in his interpretation of the piece. 

My Lifelong Love by Georgia Stitt
Vocalist: Gabrielle Chun
Pianist: Erika Weil

Ms. Chun entertained the audience with her song, the words of the song adding on the all the fun.

Gimme Gimme by Jeanine Tesori
Vocalist: Ella Francis 
Pianist: Erika Weil 

Ms. Francis was very lustful in her performance. 

October 11th

Ecstasy by Amy Cheney Beach 
Vocalist: Maya Dearman
Pianist: Steve Fang

Ms. Dearman depicted the emotions of the song with great vigor. 

There Are Fairies At The Bottom Of Our Garden by Liza Lehmann
Vocalist: Emilie Suarez
Pianist: Gennadi Ryan

Ms. Suarez did an excellent job at telling the story in her song.

L'Ultima Canzone by Paolo Tosti
Vocalist: Evan Wong
Pianist: Simon Tabakh

Mr. Wong 's interpretation of the piece was almost angry, despite the character of the miserable man rejected by his beloved.

O Del Mio Amato by Ben Stefano Dounaudy
Vocalist: Ryan Doyle
Pianist: Ava Soifer

Mr. Doyle was very professional and produced an entertaining show for the audience.

Warum Sind Den Du Rosen So Blaß by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel
Vocalist: Dorian Cunningham
Pianist: Rubina Mazurka

Mr. Cunningham placidly transferred the emotions in the piece to the audience.  

Er Ist Gekommen In Sturm Und Regen
Vocalist: Vicky Huang
Pianist: Jeffrey Qiu

Ms. Huang intrigued the audience with the agitation in her voice. 

Suleika by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel
Vocalist: Simone Moore
Pianist: Alice Kubo

Ms. Moore's stage presence was lovely. 

L'Heure Exquise by Lady Dean Paul Poldowski
Vocalist: Lumi Sugazawa O'Niel
Pianist: Jennica Li

Ms. O'Niel, in addition to her gorgeous singing, acted out her piece very well.

Madrid by Pualine Viardot 
Vocalist: Kyle Miller
Pianist: Iven Feng

Mr. Miller presented probably not the best work of Viardot in an enjoyable way.   

Mignonne by Cecile Chaminade 
Vocalist: Forrest Nolan
Pianist: Angela Rey

Mr. Nolan's high-energy onstage was very entertaining for the audience to watch. 

Cheek to Cheel by Irving Berlin was sung by Jamie Zimmer, accompanied by the Jazz Trio: melecio Magdaluyu on piano, Isabel Dobrov on Bass, and Redger Parker on drums. The Nearness of you by Ned Washington/Hoagy Carmichael, was sung by Haley Ebert. At Last by Mack Gordon/Harry Warren, was sung by Jacke Day. They Can't Take That Away From Me by George & Ira Gershwin, was sung by Forrest Nolan. Bye Bye Blackbird by Mort Dixon/Ray Henderson, was sung by Vicky Huang.   

All of the Jazz pieces were extremely entertaining and concluded the evening in an upbeat way. The audience left pleased. 

Special thanks to Vocal Director Todd Wedge. Round of applause to Technical Theater with Will Rodriguez and Carlos Sandoval as lights, Sam Travers as sound, and Kyra Monterrosa as stage manager. 


Popular posts from this blog

Opera gala time: Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra under Eduard Topchjan

The Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra, performing at the Aram Khachaturian Concert Hall, under the baton and artistic direction of Maestro Eduard Topchjan, never ceases to impress its summer audiences with the exceptionally entertaining and high-quality performances given. Featuring baritone David Babayants, soprano Ani Yorentz, tenor Liparit Avetisyan, soprano Hasmik Torosyan, bass Vazgen Gazaryan, and baritone Gianpiero Ruggeri, the Opera Gala produced an unforgettable effect upon the audience.
The program included selections from Leoncavallo, Gounod, Tchaikovsky, Mascagni, Puccini, Verdi, Mozart, Rossini, and Donizetti.

The spectacular gala opened with Gianpiero Ruggeri’s stunning performanc of Si puo? Si puo? Signore! Signori!, Tonio’s prologue from Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Not only was the actual content of Tonio’s Prologue an ideal stage-warming number, it also manifested Ruggeri’s intriguing acting and smooth vocal production.

Next on the program was Ani Yorentz…

The Last Judgement: Verdi's Masterful Requiem and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel

On September 14, 2017, the Armenian National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet after A. Spendiarian performed Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem, but with a visual twist of murals from the Sistine Chapel, done by Michelangelo. The pictures were projected by "innovative technologies of the future" which allowed to create a "three-dimensional reproduction of the images of Michelangelo's masterpieces". Conducted by San Francisco-born conductor Konstantin Orbelyan Jr. (nephew of the famous Armenian conductor Konstantin Orbelyan), soloists soprano Marine Deinyan, guest mezzo-soprano from the USA Eleni Matos, bass Hayk Tigranyan, and tenor Sargis Aghamalyan performed Verdi's Requiem in this new realization of the stunning centerpiece of classical music. The visual effects were created by Italian stage and visual director Paolo Micciche. In Micciche's own words, "[t]he music of Verdi's Requiem has the same dramaturgy and rhythm as the great frescos by M…

Pianist Hrant Bagrazyan in Concert: In Memory of Professor Igor Yavryan

On July 19, accomplished classical pianist Hrant Bagrazyan gave a summer piano recital at the beautiful venue of the Komitas Museum-Institute, a "museum in Yerevan, Armenia, devoted to the renowned Armenian musicologist and composer Komitas", in memory of Professor Igor Yavryan, who passed away earlier this summer on June 16. Professor Yavryan was Bagrazyan's teacher and mentor.

"He helped me love and appreciate classical music and shaped me as a musician", wrote Bagrazyan. "Without him I wouldn't become a pianist."

The house was completely full, even with the necessity of adding several extra chairs to the rows in order to fit everyone who showed up for the performance. This is not surprising considering the high quality of the performance given.

The stunning program consisted of Komitas'  Six Dances, Johannes Brahms' Sonata No. 3 Op. 5 in f minor, Arno Babajanian's Six Pictures, and Maurice Ravel's Reflections. 

Komitas wrote th…