For Love of Sopranos


MaryAnne Shults

American Art Song fuses the beauty of poetry and music and on Monday, Oct. 6, the students of Saddleback College’s Applied Voice performed the contributions of several composers in a recital in Fine Arts 101.

Accompanied at the piano by Dr. Hyunjoo Choi, 10 female and one male vocalist offered some fine examples of this contemporary style.

The lyrical poems written by Walt Whitman and Emily Dickenson are included in the curriculum of most American literature courses, but when combined with the music of composers such as Ned Rorem, Aaron Copeland and Lee Hoiby, one is treated to a higher realm in the beauty of their combination. Many are scored for the soprano voice, and these aspiring musicians made these composers proud.

In his introduction, Dr. Scott Farthing, Saddleback’s Director of Choral and Vocal Music, said that this was the first of this type of recital from the very competitive Applied Voice program. “American Art Song is classical music by nature and not from a previous work,” said Farthing. “The music represents a wide spectrum of thought, literature, etc.”

Opening the recital was Lacey Trytten, a novice in applied vocal performance, yet showing a confidence that projects she has a future as a singer. Her first song, Early in the Morning, is the vision of a 20-year-old, at a sidewalk café in Paris enjoying the smells and sounds of early morning. Written by Rorem when he was only 22 years old, it reflects a much older person’s point of view. Trytten’s mezzo-soprano delivery well represented the edgy yet bittersweet piece. Her second song, Animal Crackers, showed her dramatic side with it’s quirky lyrics about a child’s tea party.

Heather Wysocki articulated the rather melancholy tone that early 20th century composer and pianist Amy Beach conveyed in her piece, I Send My Heart Up to Thee. Wysocki then turned the tables and dug down deep as she sang Blue Monday, a sassy sort of cabaret number. This second-year voice major showed the audience both her sweet soprano as well as her vocal control and strength as she belted out the high notes with clarity.

A transplant from Atlanta, Jolene Cowart exemplified the harmonic overtones of her songs with the resonance she presented. As she sang, Heart We Will Forget Him, composed by Copeland, the poetry of Emily Dickenson set the mood. Her second piece was Hageman’s When I Have Sung My Songs to You, which illustrated the romantic theme of the art song genre.

Rorem’s Spring and Fall, sung by Jolene Cowart, as sung to a young child who is sad when the leaves fall, explains that nothing lasts forever. Ms. Cowart shows great promise, especially in her ability show expression in her vocalization of the mood of the lyrics.

Alyssa Hope, 19, held the audience spellbound from the first note. She sang Spring, composed by Dominick Argento, with charming lyrics from the Elizabethan period poem by Thomas Nashe. Hope followed with Love in the Dictionary, a clever ditty describing the many types of love by Celius Doughterty. Hope beamed with confidence, and her vocal performance was exquisite.

Sara Vandenbroek was the gem of the evening. This 17-year-old Tesoro high school senior showed a maturity well beyond her years . Her pixie-like face contradicted her youth with the ripeness of both her presentation and her vocal ability. She performed Hageman’s At the Well, a comedic piece about two sisters pursued by a young man. Her second piece showed the little girl inside as she sang Green Dog, a child proclaiming that if she owned a dog, it would be green.

Set to poetry by James Agee, Joelle Teeter demonstrated her soothing mezzo, singing a reverent version of Barber’s Sure on this Shining Night.

In a red cocktail dress, Amani Kabbara fit the role as she first performed Where the Music Comes From by Hoiby. She then launched into then the cabaret and upbeat Amor by Bolcom. The audience giggled at the charming lyrics about a women who, no matter where she walks, is greeted by men telling her that they love her.

The only male student performing in the recital, tenor Benjamin Rosano, sang The Danza by George Chadwick, that personifies both love and beauty in a dance partner. Rosano’s soul-reaching rendition brought smiles to the faces of the audience.

Rhea Campbell’s song choices embodied the sacred tone with Barber’s Slumber Song of the Madonna, written when the composer was only 14. With her mournful yet powerful voice, Ms. Campbell also sang The Crucifixion, from a song cycle of Hermit songs.

Scott Farthing, performing at the earlier encouragement of his students, shared four short love songs by Andre Previn and Phillip Larkin. Dr. Farthing described the piece as having an avant guard style with no centered key, challenging for both voice and piano.

Last on the program was Elise Ybarra, the classic college-aged soprano, singing Reward by John Jacob Niles, and ending with Girl from 14G, a dramatic and extremely difficult piece. Although she momentarily forgot the words, she showed utmost professionalism, quickly recovering and finishing without a hint of embarrassment.

Music is an art form, and is all about expression. The overall performance exemplified the unique and varied talent in Saddleback’s Applied Voice program. Each singer chose pieces that were well suited for both their vocal ability and personality. The audience was treated to the spectrum of training, age, skill, as well as range and strength.

The recital was a fundraiser to support Saddleback’s growing Vocal Music program and to provide future opportunities for student participation in different vocal styles including ensemble performances of chamber music, jazz and opera.