Tickets are now available for her concert at my house, now available by either going to the webpage I created the other day: Emma Langford House Concert, on which I have embedded ticket links, or just going directly to the Eventbrite page itself: Eventbrite.
I have room for 50 people and not only will they be enjoying this great artist (and Alec Brown), we will be providing food. The $30 admission includes everything. We aren’t charging for the food or drink – we just want to have a party to celebrate bringing this great artist to Baltimore.
Also, check out this new collaboration that Emma did with the RTE orchestra (the RTE is the Irish TV and radio broadcaster). This is her song, “The winding way down to Kells Bay,” which she dedicated to her grandfather. This just dropped this morning.
If you’re interested in studying with me in 2022-2023, I will be opening registration for new students very soon. Stay tuned, and check out to work with me!
As I indicated previously, this was a long year, and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. So I’ve decided that I’m taking a break.
Not from teaching, although I have condensed my schedule significantly, and not from singing, although there won’t be that much of it during the summer.
I’ve decided that this summer is going to be spent getting some things together. I want to tweak my website, I want to organize my life a bit better, I’m planning some remodeling, and I’m having (joy of joys) eye surgeries in July.
I’m going to take a break from writing every Tuesday and Thursday, and just writing when I have something to say.
(Of course, I always seem to have something to say, but I don’t want to have to feel obligated to do it on particular days. I don’t want to think about SEO, or keywords, or anything besides what’s in front of me.)
I know that I will be writing about:
the upcoming house concert that I’m hosting for Emma Langford on August 12
the NATS 2022 Conference in Chicago, for which I am departing next Thursday
how excited I am about some new opportunities I am considering
And I’m sure that other things will come up. And maybe I’ll write more often than 2x/week if something tickles my fancy, or maybe I’ll skip a week here and there until the fall.
If you are interested in finding out how you can work with me this summer (and beyond), please contact me!
The end of my 2021-2022 studio year ends in about 2 hours, and I have to say that it’s been a long year.
(I was just listening to the song “It’s been a long day” from the studio showcase this past weekend, and I grimly thought, “day? It’s been a long year!” and so here we are.)
It was a rough year, and I’m not sure why. I maintained my health (still COVID-free, after 2+ years of being in a pandemic – knock on wood). I wasn’t nearly as busy as I was pre-pandemic, but I felt overwhelmed, even with a two week vacation at the end of April/beginning of May.
My students did well in musicals and in their college auditions, but somehow I still feel completely drained.
Next week I’m taking off (it’s birthday week!), and I’m not sure if I’m going to write anything or schedule anything to be re-published from past years. I’m having some remodeling done, and I’m preparing for a couple of things.
My summer schedule will be condensed into three days per week, and I’m taking off some time in July for the NATS conference in Chicago, and also to have cataract surgeries (one for each eye). I’ve been advised that the surgeries will be much easier, in terms of process and recovery time, than when I had PRK back in 2009. One of the eye doctors said, “You’ve had PRK? If you could handle that, this will be nothing.”
But I have a real phobia about eye doctors. It’s a miracle I did the PRK in the first place – and no surprise that I only did one follow-up afterwards. I think it goes back to reading Light a Single Candle when I was in junior high – about a girl my age who had very poor vision (hey, that sounds like ME) and suddenly went blind. Freaked me out (and I think I read it three times). Also the characters of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.
Blindness has always terrified me.
So I need a bit of a break. At this point, I’m planning to teach 6/21-29 and 7/12-8/16, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I”m also hosting Emma Langford in a house concert on 8/12, and I am doing some remodeling before that, plus I want to tweak my website a bit. If I need to take more time off, I will – but I’d rather not.
The 2022-23 studio year will begin, as usual, on the Tuesday after Labor Day, and more info about that will be forthcoming.
I’m still bathing in the afterglow of the success of Sunday’s showcase, If we only have love.
We began with Emma Langford’s “Birdsong.” Here’s a video (ignore my wandering at the beginning – someone moved my tambourine and I started freaking out – we were singing in a side chapel and were not in view of the audience):
The soloists are Juliet Jones, Dissonance McManus, Kay-Megan Washington, and Sela McMullen. Emma Langford has seen the video and pronounced it “deadly,” which, in Irish slang, is the same as “great.” Or “bangin’,” as the kids say (assuming they still say that). It slayed.
I’m still compiling videos of the individual/small group numbers that my friend Lisa Dickinson generously made for me into a playlist, which I will share with my students and their parents. The opening and closing numbers are public and I’ve posted them on the socials. Here’s some screenshots from these numbers:
Here’s the video of our closing number, which I arranged back in 2010 for that year’s showcase opener, and rearranged this year as a closer. Enjoy – especially my spontaneous happy dance at the end!
The first four singers are my graduating seniors, three of whom I wrote about a few weeks ago when they made their college choices. I will be highlighting the fourth one as well – they’ll get their own post. Other soloists include:
Sasha Kostakis – When You Believe (joined by Nick Johnson and Tracy Davidson)
Michael Tan – Hallelujah, verse 1
Kay-Megan Washington – Hallelujah, verse 2
The sopranos in the final section are Nichole Feltner, Tracy Davidson, Juliet Jones, Kay-Megan Washington, and Lily Porter. Altos are Penni Barnett, Vivie LaBellarte, Ava Basta, and myself. Nick Johnson sang tenor all by himself, and the bass line was covered by Michael Tan and my husband, Bill O’Meally (who also played Judge Turpin to my Beadle Bamford in the Sweeney quartet). The descant is sung by Sela McMullen, Dissonance McManus, and Sasha Kostakis.
Thank you to everyone who participated, both singers and parents (in the case of non-adults). Here’s that this will become an annual occurrence. I already have some ideas for combinations for next year.
******************* If this sounds like something you or your child would be interested in participating in, why not consider joining the studio in the 2022-23 season? Lessons will run
(exact dates TBD)
Go to my Work With Me! page to find out how to do just that!
I’m absolutely swamped this week with recital prep, so here’s a quick little quote from Kelli O’Hara in Classical Singer magazine (October 2021) regarding authenticity:*
“The biggest advice I ever give is this authenticity thing, which is to be who you are and not make yourself into something you’re not, vocally or otherwise, ever. Because, again, so cliché … but no one’s you but you. There’s nothing like the catharsis in being totally and authentically you when you’re performing.”
*Note: you probably won’t be able to read the entire article unless you’re a subscriber.
Another great quote from the same article, also relating to being authentic:
“The tool of heart, which is what I fall back on when I say, ‘Oh gosh, can I hit this note?’ Well, if I mean the word, I can. And if I crack because I’m emotional—and that’s the other thing in musical theater—cracking is horrible, but we get over it, as opposed to it ending our careers. We don’t think about it.”
Kelli O’Hara, Audra McDonald, and Laura Benanti are three of my favorite contemporary musical theater singers, and I think the thing you can say about all three of them is that they are authentic. I’ve seen both Kelli and Audra in person (actually, within the same week!) and I look forward to the day I see Laura perform live.
Technique is important, but if you don’t believe what you’re singing, then what’s the point?
On Sunday, June 5, we will be performing our studio showcase, “If we only have love” at 3pm at Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson, MD. Two of the songs will be from the musical Light in the Piazza, in which Kelli O’Hara created the role of Clara. Admission is free – message me if you’d like more information!
On Saturday night, I cantored Mass and had to sing “Be not afraid” at Communion. I’ve sung that song hundreds of times in regular Mass services and at funerals. But this past Saturday, I suddenly thought of all the funerals at which it would be sung this coming week in Uvalde, Texas, and I barely got through it.
It came on as soon as I started to sing. The homily that Deacon Bauerschmidt gave regarding the Uvalde and Buffalo massacres was very moving, and impressed me a great deal – but I had no idea I’d be affected that strongly.
My interpretation was certainly heartfelt but I can’t say I sang it well, because I was choking up and near tears. I’m certain that I looked like I was about to have a breakdown. I haven’t even gone back to watch the video because I was a mess. I hope people weren’t too alarmed.
All I can say is that no one needs an assault weapon, unless you are in law enforcement or the military.
And I know that AR doesn’t stand for “assault rifle.” I know it stands for “Armalite Rifle,” bearing its inventor’s name.
But it’s a rifle, and it’s used to assault. So it’s an assault rifle. (Yes, knives can be used for that, but it’s not their only purpose. An assault weapon is used to kill and only that.)
You can’t use it to hunt – it’s too destructive. If you’re using it for self-protection, it’s awfully cumbersome to have in a nightstand, and if you have kids in the house, you’d better have it under lock and key.
There is no reason someone should be able to buy an assault weapon without
a waiting period
having no history of domestic violence
an age limit*
*If you aren’t old enough to buy a beer or rent a car, you aren’t old enough to buy a weapon that can pulverize a person’s body.
When I taught at Howard Community College, we had an active shooter drill. We were supposed to stay in the room where we were, lock the door, turn off the lights and remain quiet till the “all clear” was given.
I was in a practice room with a glass door. Not just a window in a solid door. A totally glass door. If there was a real active shooter, I would be expected to push the upright piano in front of it.
Yeah, that wouldn’t happen.
I knew when it was going to be, and I left that room, went to my boss’ room, told the teacher in there that, if this was real, this was where I was going to be, and sat under the piano in the dark until it was over.
And I quit at the end of that semester.
I also had to go through a training session at the Cathedral, in case anyone would come in and shoot up the church. We were told to hide behind pillars. I volunteered that the choir should cannonball our choir hymnals at the perp, because those things could leave a mark. I was serious.
I recall the teacher saying that the ushers were the first line of defense, and asking the ushers to please stand. Their average age was probably 75. His face just fell.
Instead of making teachers (or ushers, or church musicians, or cashiers in a grocery store) do double/triple/quadruple duty as piano movers, security officers, or pack a gun and exchange fire with a possible whacko, why don’t we remove the reason for this?
BAN MILITARY-STYLE WEAPONS FOR PURCHASE BY ANYONE NOT IN THE MILITARY OR LAW ENFORCEMENT
I’m tired of hearing about people simply going about their business in schools, houses of worship, at concerts, or at the grocery store and winding up dead because someone had a killing machine that they bought legally (and most of these killers did buy them legally).
“But criminals will just get them illegally if they want them.”
Okay, let’s make it harder for them to do that. Let’s make it something that someone will notice and maybe speak up about.
“Why should a law-abiding citizen not be able to get an AR-15 because of a few bad apples?”
I don’t know. Why can’t I get on a plane without having to take my shoes off? Or worry about the size of the moisturizer in my carry-on? Because of a few bad apples.
Why can’t I buy Sudafed over the counter when my nose is stuffy? Because of bad apples who use it to make meth.
Why do I have to use brute force to open a Tylenol bottle? Because of one bad apple who poisoned a batch of bottles over thirty years ago.
“The only thing that’ll stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” There were good guys with guns in Buffalo, at Parkland, in Las Vegas, and in Uvalde. And yet somehow people still died. Because a good guy with a gun pales in comparison to a bad guy with more and bigger guns and body armor.
Even though I think we should be afraid, I wanted to post this video I just found, which was a virtual choir effort during the early days of the pandemic (and to be honest, like my interpretation from Saturday night, it’s not the greatest singing, but it’s heartfelt). It includes the fourth verse, which I’ve never heard before, written by Bob Dufford, S.J. in 2007:
And when the earth has turned beneath you and your voice is seldom heard.
When the flood of gifts that blessed your life has long since ebbed away.
When your mind is thick and hope is thin and dark is all around,
I will stand beside you till the dawn
We have to do more than sing so that the day can come when we don’t have to be afraid.
Contact your legislators and let them know that the time has come to ban the sale of military-style weapons (and their accoutrements) to non-LEO/military citizens.
Whether it’s a marriage (and I’m on my second, so I can verify this is true), a friendship, or a work relationship, it is essential that you communicate.
Something that I’ve noticed much more of since I opened my East Coast studio is that people don’t answer:
And it’s really frustrating.
I get the phone part. I hate the phone. And I used to talk on the phone all the time.
And emails – I’m so far behind on emails right now after my trip – well, I was behind before I left and now it’s just ridiculous. But they’re all emails in my promotions and forums tabs, not my personal ones. The personal ones I answer right away.
I try to keep my emails clear and focused with a call-to-action so that people know what I’m asking for. I’ll admit my emails used to be much longer-winded, and I’m trying to focus on one call-to-action per email (which means that I have to send multiple emails, and I hate to do that, but it seems to get better response). I try to include “Response Requested” in the subject line and that seems to have some effect.
But people don’t answer them. I’ve been told by young people that they find emails intimidating because they come from authority figures.
I have no idea why other people don’t answer their emails.
I have even less idea why people don’t answer their texts, particularly if they’ve indicated that this is the best way to contact them. And honestly, I can’t text everyone individually, especially if they’re all getting the same message. It’s not efficient.
All I can say is that if I don’t get a response to an email, I don’t know what you want or need.
I don’t know if you’re planning to be somewhere (a rehearsal, for example), so I can’t plan it.
Last Saturday I had a rehearsal planned for our upcoming studio showcase. I set this up before I left for my vacation. Multiple people told me verbally that they intended to come. I brought my keyboard out to the garage and set it up so that we could rehearse out there (I have several cat-allergic folx, plus it’s roomier).
When I got home from my vacation, I was offered a gig for last Saturday afternoon. A paying gig with a 4pm call. I turned it down because I had committed to being there. It wasn’t a great gig, but it would’ve paid for a tank of gas.
Three people came. Two at 1:30. Several people I had planned to see from 2:30-4pm contacted me that morning to tell me they couldn’t come (one had a medical emergency). I saw one other person who was coming from Montgomery County, because she was already on her way when I texted her to tell her that her scene partners weren’t able to make it.
If you have a professional relationship with someone, whether they are paying you or you are paying them, your half of the deal is to communicate. If you do not, you have no relationship.
It shows complete disrespect and makes the person feel completely unvalued.
This may seem like a very personal post, but from what I’ve heard from friends in other fields (not just teaching), this behavior is rampant.
And it can cost you – if you have an email offering you an audition/interview or a job and you don’t answer it in a timely manner – not only will you not get that job but you may be removed from their mailing list. So you’re sabotaging yourself as well as the relationship with a potential employer.
Please check your emails and answer them. Communication goes both ways.
Respect the person with whom you’re in a relationship.
On this day 9 years ago, I moved back to the East Coast from Milwaukee.
I moved because I wasn’t performing anywhere, and I wanted to sing somewhere before it was too late.
Because I felt as though a singer’s shelf life varies from person to person (depending on fach, health, and other circumstances) and I wanted to make the most of the shelf life I have left.
Richard Miller told me in 1999 that I would never sound old, which I’ve kept close to my heart. But I have found that, particularly in the last couple of years, it’s not as easy as it used to be.
I think it has a lot to do with the multiple cases of bronchitis that I had in the late 90s/early 00s. I think they sapped my stamina, and I’ve never fully recovered it. I used to be able to sing all day and then go to rehearsal and sing all evening and not show any signs of fatigue, but that is no longer. I really have to manage my singing carefully and know what I have ahead of me for the day.
If I’m going to sing something that’s really low (church alto parts), I need to make sure that I don’t sing too high during the day
If I’m singing something that sits higher, I can sing higher, but I have to make sure I balance it out
If I am preparing for an audition or a recording session (the former of which is this week, the latter next week), I need to put myself on a regular practice schedule (gone are the days where I could just leave the house with a lip trill and walk onto stage, ready to go)
(Ignore the woefully incorrect solfege.)
But even though things have changed somewhat over the last 20 years, I don’t feel that it’s too late for me or for anyone. There may be some things that I can’t do anymore, and not just singing-wise. There may be some things that I don’t want to do anymore, and not just singing-wise.
I saw this post on a friend’s Facebook page this morning and commented, “stealing.”
I still want to perform.
I still want to teach.
I still want to direct.
I might want to do some more choral directing.
I still want to travel, and dance, and go to shows, and be in shows, and enjoy my life.
And these things seem to be more attainable to me than they were before I moved back.
So happy anniversary to me, and a reminder to myself and to you that
It’s not too late.
It’s not too late to learn to sing either! If you’re interested in trying out a package of voice lessons this summer, find out how to work with me and we can see if we can set something up.
On June 5, I will be hosting a showcase featuring 12 of my current students performing primarily ensembles from musical theater, opera, and nu-folk.
The performance will be at Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson at 3pm and is free to the public.
I have done a few studio programs since I’ve been back in Baltimore which included some ensemble pieces, but not to this extent. This format goes back to the kind of programs I started doing in 2002 in Milwaukee and did annually (except 2012, when the planned performance date conflicted with the Tommy Awards, in which I had multiple students involved) until I left in 2013. I talked about why I first started this format in a blogpost in 2009 called Scratching the Directing Itch.
Most of the years were wildly successful, if I do say so myself. Even the years that weren’t great (2007, I’m looking at you), had great moments, which I have to keep reminding myself of.
Here is an overview of some of the years and pieces that stand out to me:
2003: “He will gather us around,” Dead Man Walking, Heggie
2004: “Unlikely lovers,” Falsettoland, Finn; “Black Swan,” The Medium, Menotti; “Stepsister’s duet,” La Cenerentola, Rossini; “Letter #4,” Passion, Sondheim;”Mama, I’m a big girl now,” Hairspray, Shaiman
2005: “The music still plays on,” A New Brain, Finn; “New Music,” Ragtime, Ahrens & Flaherty; “Everyone hates his parents.” Falsettoland, Finn; “O happy we,” Candide, Bernstein
2006: “How Glory Goes,” Floyd Collins, Guettel:; “Sailing,” A New Brain, Finn; “Always look on the bright side of life,” Spamalot, Idle; “Sull’aria,” The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart; “Amor,” Bolcom; “Ballad of Guiteau,” Assassins, Sondheim
2007: “Tripping hither, tripping thither,” Iolanthe, G&S; “Papageno/Papagena,” The Magic Flute, Mozart; Trio, Die Fledermaus, Strauss
2008: “Best of all possible worlds,” Candide, Bernstein; “Kiss me/Ladies in their sensitivities,” Sweeney Todd, Sondheim; “Salve regina,” Dialogue of the Carmelites, Poulenc; “Ballad of Sweeney Todd,” Sweeney Todd, Sondheim; “Ain’t it a pretty night,” Susannah, Floyd; “Song to the moon,” Rusalka, Dvorak; “Not getting married today,” Company, Sondheim; “I feel so much spring,” A New Brain, Finn; “Graduation,” Die Fledermaus, Strauss [Champagne song with graduation lyrics]
2009: “Stars and the moon,” Songs for a New World, JRB; “Count your blessings instead of sheep,” White Christmas, Berlin; “Look for me in the songs,” Carnelia; “Grateful,” Bucchione
2010: “If we only have love medley,” arr. O’Meally; Then you may take me to the fair, Camelot, Lerner & Loewe; “Climbing over rocky mountains,” Pirates of Penzance, G&S; “Ohio,” Wonderful Town, Bernstein; “Quintet,” The Ballad of Baby Doe, Moore; “Romeo & Juliet,” Reefer Madness, Studney; “Steal me, sweet thief,” The Old Maid and the Thief, Menotti; “How I saved Roosevelt,” Assassins, Sondheim; “Children of Eden,” Children of Eden, Schwartz
2011: “Superboy and the Invisible Girl,” Next to Normal, Kitt; “The more you love someone,” Avenue Q, Lopez; “The fire within me,” Little Women, Howland; “Some things are meant to be,” Little Women, Howland; “The song that goes like this,” Spamalot, Idle; “You could drive a person crazy,” Company, Sondheim; “On the streets of Dublin,” A Man of No Importance, Ahrens & Flaherty
2013 (this was a best of and featured music we’d done before): “Elegance,” Hello Dolly, Herman; “Moon in my window,” Do I hear a waltz?, Rodgers; “I wanna be a producer,” The Producers, Brooks; “Never mind the why and wherefore,” HMS Pinafore, G&S; “Our children,” Ragtime, Ahrens & Flaherty; “Opening scene,” Amahl & the Night Visitors, Menotti; “Forget about the boy,” Thoroughly Modern Millie, Tesori; “Twenty lovesick maidens we,” Patience, G&S; “In his eyes,” Jekyll & Hyde, Wildhorn; “Girl in 14G,” Tesori; “Unworthy of your love,” Assassins, Sondheim; “Will you medley,” arr. O’Meally; “Dear one,” Kiss of the Spider Woman, Kander & Ebb; “Make our garden grow,” Candide, Bernstein
The songs that are bolded will be performed again on the upcoming program; there are a couple of others that are repeats as well (Matchmaker, The I Love You Song). There are only 17 songs in this program, and our forces are roughly 1/3 of what I had on some of the showcases (I streamlined them over the years to only feature high school kids to keep the numbers – and length – more manageable). The 2013 showcase had 30 performers on it.
But for the most part, we’re doing a lot of new material, including a song by Irish nu-folk singer/songwriter Emma Langford, who was one of the artists in last year’s World Voice Weekend. The showcase will open with her song, “Birdsong,” sung by an a cappella ensemble – I transcribed the parts from this recording:
This song is a salute to the women of the Mise Fosta movement in Ireland.
(I’ll be talking more about Emma in a few weeks, because I will be hosting her in a house party in August! More details to come!)
The closing medley, and title of the showcase, comes from a variety of sources – “If we only have love,” by Jacques Brel, from Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Paris, “When you believe,” by Stephen Schwartz from Prince of Egypt, and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” I arranged these songs for the 2010 recital, and re-arranged them for this program. There are reasons why I put these together in the first place, but the reason we’re doing them now is because there is so much turmoil in the world that I think they express a call for hope, belief, and love.
We’ll start from a place of strength with Emma’s song and close in a place of hope. I think it’ll be fantastic.
The first time I ever heard the line “We are the music makers – and we are the dreamers of dreams” was in the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Although the movie came out when I was still a child, I never saw the movie until I was an adult (I can count on one hand the number of movies I went to with my parents).
Honestly, it’s a pretty dark movie, and it could be argued that it’s not really appropriate for children. (There’s an argument that Wonka is actually a child serial killer.) I’ll be curious to see the prequel coming out in December 2023 starring Timothêe Chalamet, which may or may not expound upon that idea.
But as an artist, the movie has always spoken to me, both for its visuals and for the message that we need to embrace our identities as music makers and dreamers, and that we can’t ignore the power of imagination.
(I also love Gene Wilder, who was from my hometown of Milwaukee.)
Since one of my strongest motivators is curiosity and the idea of “what would happen if?”, the idea of harnessing pure imagination is mind-blowing to me – and to the composer/lyricist of the movie, since they made it the theme song:
If you want to go down a rabbit hole of composer Anthony Newley performances, hit up YouTube – he never sings a song the same way twice. Some might call him an acquired taste, but I acquired it when I was very little! This clip is from a variety show in the 1970s and features him and Sammy Davis – can you imagine a nearly 15 minute medley happening on a TV show NOW?
But I’m calling this blogpost “The Music Makers,” so I’d like to reference the original poem which was drawn upon for the line in the movie, and which has been part of my identity for a very long time now.
We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams: Yet we are the mover and shakers Of the world for ever, it seems. —Ode, Arthur O’Shaughnessy
Arthur O’Shaughnessy (1844-1881) was a British poet of Irish descent (and full-time herpetologist for the British Museum, which I just visited a few weeks ago – worlds collide), and his poem, “Ode” has been set by multiple composers over the years. The above is just the first stanza (there are nine). He died just short of his 36th birthday.
In upcoming posts, I’m going to be talking about the subject of identity and how it should influence your approach to, oh, everything, but specifically, pursuing your path as a singer. I just read Atomic Habits by James Clear, and the whole idea of creating habits based on who you are rather than what you want to get done is mind-blowing to me.
For today, I’m going to embrace my identity as a music maker. And a dreamer of dreams. (And hopefully a mover and shaker as well.)
In my next post, I’ll be talking about our upcoming
June 5 showcase, past showcases,
and my music makers past and present.
If you’d like to know more about that, stay tuned!