In PREACH, SISTER, PREACH, the new Navona CD (nv6244) of new vocal works by Evan Williams, Katherine Bodor, and Evan Mack, Parma Records producer Bob Lord, and recording engineer D. James Tagg provide the safety net for the partnership between the three composers and the interpreters. As the heart and soul of the project, the superbly supple soprano Katherine Jolly sings of heartbreak, solitude, and other matters of the human soul in ten poems of Emily Dickinson, set to ethereally beautiful music by Evan Williams in his song cycle Emily’s House.
The Uninhabitable Earth, a piece written by David Wallace-Wells for New York Magazine is an anguished cri de coeur that pleads for the ecological rescue of our planet. Not the usual sort of material to marry to a song, Wallace-Wells’ text allows composer Katherine Bodor to format Absent an Adjustment into a free-form one-movement cantata. With Katherine Jolly at her intense best, partnered by Christa Cole’s and Samantha Johnson-Helms’ violins, Rachel Mossburg’s viola, Per Bjorking’s double bass, all led by conductor Joshua Harper the six artists shine in Bodor’s compellingly dramatic music
Preach Sister Preach, an unfailingly theatrical musical and vocal tour de force for both Katherine Jolly and her sterling partner Emily Yap Chua, allows the two artists to pull all the vocal and pianistic stops, with Jolly having a jolly good time injecting into the various song snippets the personalities of Simone de Beauvoir and Daphne du Maurier at the slightly serious level to don’t mess with me moments by Leslie Jones and Mae West, to heartfelt empowerment counseling by Gloria Steinem, Tina Fey, Anne Landers and Ellen DeGeneres.
Listening to Christopher Anderson-Bazzoli’s CONTINENT’S END I was struck by how both its music and its interpreters, the fine mezzo-soprano Buffy Baggott and her equally accomplished partner, pianist Kevin Korth perfectly embrace the text of the nine poems of Robinson Jeffers in the cycle. From the opening Granite and Cypress to the closing Evening Ebb, Bazzoli’s music perfectly embodies with its unpredictable harmonic twists and turns and its multi-tonality Jeffers’ hyper-masculine, pantheistic, often erotic poetry.
It would have been predictable to select a lower male voice to sing this music, but the surprising choice of mezzo-soprano Buffy Baggott yielded great results: her voice supple, strong at both ends of her wide range, generous in the middle register, and impressively powerful in the climactic moments of the music.
With Christopher Anderson-Bazzoli as producer, Leslie Ann Jones as recording engineer, and pianist Kevin Korth as Baggott’s compliant yet firm partner, the DELOS CD 3567 makes for interesting listening.
Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com