April 1, 2021
Artistic Director Steven Blier recaps each day of intensive rehearsal and coaching with the 2021 Schwab Vocal Rising Stars — four vocalists and one pianist at the beginning of their professional careers. On day seven, Steven Blier looks back on the success of the concert.
There is still time to watch the concert! It will be available until the evening of Thursday, April 8th.
A few impressions from last night’s concert:
- We were all nervous. In the past couple of months, Béné has played a couple of live video concerts (no audience, just cameras and mics), but the rest of us hadn’t made music for the public without the luxury of a retake in over a year. Knowing my penchant for performance anxiety, I planned a day with not one but two calm warm-ups before showtime, and until 7 PM everything felt good. Arms mobile, back flexible, fingers reaching the right destination an amazing amount of the time. Onstage during the concert, I have to admit I was abruptly somewhat tighter than I wanted to be. My mind remained calm but my body wasn’t quite ready to let go in front of the cameras. The triumph: I was ready for this snag, and I managed to get my music into the room anyway. It wasn’t perfect—I wasn’t perfect—but I felt I made a huge stride forward from last year when I froze in front of the livestream cameras. This year I had to fight a bit, but I knew exactly what to do and I came up with the goods.
- Nicoletta, Erin, Aaron, and Sam floored me. Each of them sang with so much grace and beauty—a relaxed, sensual accuracy of style that one rarely encounters in classical vocalists. The four of them may still be in school or in young artist programs, but they delivered their songs like professionals. There wasn’t a French speaker among them, but they positively danced through their songs.
A friend wrote me today to say, “Sublime, old-fashioned singing and playing. The real thing—the kind of music I remember from my childhood. Grateful it still exists with you.”
- Gracie Francis, the so-called “apprentice” pianist—wow, that woman can go from song whisperer to musical tornado in the blink of an eye. She played superbly.
- We had a tiny audience of Caramoor staff (3), husbands (2), cast members when they weren’t singing (3), and cameramen and -women (3). Yet we were finally delivering our music to receptive listeners, hungry to hear a live performance. I’d nearly forgotten about the magical telepathy between the stage and the hall. We felt as if we were in Carnegie Hall.
- More than anything I was grateful for every living and non-living soul who had made this beautiful evening possible, starting with Francis Poulenc and Charles Trénet, proceeding to my husband Jim, moving on to my magnificent artistic partner Bénédicte Jourdois who inspired us all to new heights—and Eileen Schwab and her family who endowed the program at Caramoor—and the smart, stalwart people on the Caramoor staff (Ellie Gisler, Tim Coffey, and Kathy Schuman) who met our needs with practicality and generosity all week.
- But I also couldn’t stop thinking about Michael Barrett, who first dreamed up this residency and put me in charge of it. After 32 years Michael stepped down from NYFOS last autumn to base his life out west, and this was the first time I worked at Caramoor without him. Béné and I landed on our feet, but there would have been no landing pad at all if Michael had not built one thirteen years ago. I remain in his debt.
- The concert was a beauty. And you can still see “Le tour de France” for a few days if you go to the Caramoor website—caramoor.org. It’s been extended till April 8.
- One thing you won’t see is a performance of the Michel Legrand “Twin Sisters” duet performed by Aaron and Sam. That was a non-televised, private encore, delivered with flawless choreography in hilarious faux-French. It was the cherry on a very large sundae.