Comments About Performing
Elizabeth:† As a recording, this is the best one on the site.† The Motet is so standard.† Every soprano who gets to a certain technical level is going to do it.† Itís the only Motet Mozart wrote for soprano and small orchestra with no chorus or other soloists.† This can be put on a recital with piano.
Charlie:† How many times did you perform it before you got to the occasion of this recording?
Elizabeth:† Lots.† This orchestra was flawless.† It isnít that the Motet goes that well every time.† You get lucky.† Youíve got the right venue, youíve got the right conductor, a fantastic orchestra.† I was hot that night.† Then it all comes together.† The only flaw I can hear on that tape is when somebody in the audience coughs but the audience adds something because itís them you are bouncing it off.† Itís not like a straight recording.† The reason this one is great is because it is live.† We did it in one wash, there it was.† We got to the end of it and I looked at the conductor with disbelief.
Charlie:† Do you say the Motet isnít terribly difficult to sing?
Elizabeth:† I donít say that.† Here it is, everybody says Mozart is too easy for the beginners and too hard for the pros.† If you take the student approach to it and just do whatís on the page, itís not so hard.† Whatís hard is when you want to do it exceptionally well.† To go the extra mile with Mozart raises the difficulty.†
Charlie:† If you are going to go the extra mile with the Motet what does that entail?
Elizabeth:† You sing it without flaws.† Every note is in place, every phrase is shaped, every breath is full, every note is sung, every word is clear.† That applies to other music but Mozart is particularly transparent so that flaws are more noticeable.† To hear Mozart done clearly and flawlessly is a revelation.† Thereís a long way between good and great.† When it works, itís a feeling like no other.
There is room for two cadenzas in the Motet.† The point of cadenzas, as when instrumentalists use them in concertos, is to pick up a theme from the piece and develop it some more in that cadence point.† If you look at the introduction in the first movement there are some violin lines that are thematic to the piece. †So, for the first cadenza, I stole some of the fiddle part, developed it slightly and resolved it.†
I wanted the second cadenza to soar up, in one phrase, in one breath.† I used the violin part in bar 18 of the introduction to Tu Virginum (sings).† Only the violins get to play it.† I was a little jealous so I picked that one.† I didnít need to write the cadenza, I let Mozart do it!† I wrote more cadenza in the score than I sang, itís a study.†
Charlie:† Does the conductor have a say in the cadenzas?
Elizabeth:† Sure.† Leopold Hager helped clean them up a little in earlier performances.† By the time of this performance they were developed.† The conductor for this performance was fine with them.
Charlie:† Did you have any expectations that the performance we are hearing was going to be special?
Elizabeth:† It was Berlin.† I knew that the concert was significant.† It was an honor to be there.† I was not intimidated but I was certainly aware of my surroundings.† I did what I always do it to be at my best.† It just happened that everybody else did the same thing and it was magic.
Charlie:† Did you get any sense about the orchestra from the rehearsal?
Elizabeth:† Yes.† I found them highly professional, very cool.† When we finished the first run-through, they honored me with a little bow applause on the music stands.† I thought, well, lucky me.† I've got my colleagues behind me.† The conductor was very gracious.† I was introduced to the orchestra as a discovery of his.†
It's interesting how I met him.† Felix and I, the voice and guitar duo, had gone down to perform at a resort for reclusive celebrities.† The conductor was taking a week or two for a rest cure there.† He heard our performance.† He heard us do the Adelaide for instance, the Beethoven. †He asked if I'd be interested in doing a concert sometime.† I said of course, just let me know Maestro and I'll be there.† Not long after he worked me into his following season.
Charlie:† A good conductor?
Elizabeth:† Fantastic.† The whole thing was fascinating.† It becomes very meaningful when you realize where you are and who you are with.† Here I am the silly naÔve girl from America stepping into this amazing culture and history and singing Mozart for the Germans.
Charlie:† And they liked it.
Elizabeth:† Yea, I did all right.
Elizabeth:† I performed Cantata 51 before it was recorded but never where the Chorale and Alleluia were the same tempo and that worked perfectly.† Those two tempos are identical.† Thereís no tempo change indicated.† The conductor did it that way and it worked.†
Boy was I glad I had practiced singing scales, quads, and triplets with a metronome in good time.† That is what the music demands.† The conductor and I were able to deliver that because Iíd practiced the techniques and could sing my melismas evenly.†
all the notes are created differently the melismas get choppy.† The singer has to smooth out the legato and
sing the notes evenly in rhythm.† That
has to be trained.† When you get to your
professional thing and thatís what the conductor wants and what the music
demands you want to know that you are technically ready to deliver.† If there is a lack of precision it means the
singer has neglected their exercises.
Score pdf†††† Cantata 51 mp3
Elizabeth:† The conductor felt my voice might be on the light side for Symphony No 4.† But, because it is from the Knaben Wunderhorn, which means the magic horn of the boy, the person singing is a boy.† It shouldn't be too terribly matronly in the sound, it should have a youthful sound.† I certainly always had that.† We recorded it.† There are three movements before my part.† When I sang it later in concert I was obliged to sit through the first three movements before singing.† I thought that was better because it would be a disturbance for me to come clomping onto the stage in the middle of the piece.† Thatís quite a sit because Mahler is a bit long winded.† My part is a lovely little thing.† Itís one of my favorites, I love the piece.
Elizabeth:† Shťhťrazade is not typical repertoire for me because Iíve followed the coloratura bel canto way.† This particular conductor was interested in having me sing this piece.† Itís often assigned to a mezzo these days because it does lie low.
Itís a large orchestral piece with three songs.† Ravel is a good orchestrator, he pulls it back when the singer needs to be out front.† There are very few spots where you might get overwhelmed.
I decided to give it a try.† I spent some months training it to make sure there would be the necessary richness.† I had to work hard on the center of the voice.
Charlie:† How did you work on that that?
Elizabeth:† The French vocal sound as a lot of voix mixte, mixed voice.† You are using a registration that includes both your head and some chest voice and mixing it together.† You are developing a broad resonance in the middle of your voice so it carries well.†
You are working across registers.† Those registrations need to be supported.† I had to get my breathing muscles into good shape to support those tones so that the registrations would be smooth.† Voix mixte is prone to little breakups, registration bumps.† Itís a matter of breath control to get over those.† To keep the voice ringing in that range takes a lot of breath energy.† Itís a French sound.
I was coached by Eugene Bassert who worked in New York for many years then came out to University of Michigan as a professor later on and settled here.† He gave me a lot of good ideas for the performance and to make sure the assignment of the music could be fulfilled with the breathing, breathing in the right places.† He gave me more confidence to make some adjustments that I might not have done.† Itís wonderful to work with someone who has so much experience coaching singers.
Charlie:† How did it come out in the end?
Elizabeth:† I was pleased with how well it went.† To prepare for this one I wanted to hear another singer do it.† I chose a recording with Victoria De LosAngeles who sang it brilliantly and has a soprano voice, my sonance.† Her performance was a confidence builder.††
Elizabeth:† This Brahms Requiem performance was recorded live in France.† Brother Fred was visiting me on his birthday and it was the night the Berlin wall came down.† Those two things made it memorable.† It was definitely German night.† This aria is the only time I take a little hit at the German style.† I give the sad bits of the aria more German-style pathos than I would normally.† Then, in the happy bits, I lighten up again.† I wanted the variety of color.†
I donít have anything against the heavier registration in the right spots.† When you get too dogmatic about a certain color the voice can lose its ability to achieve a wide range of dynamics, colors, and tones.† If you are locked into one type of production, singing can get monotonous.† Be able to sing light, dark, up, down, and all over the place.† You donít want your voice to be inhibited and prevented from producing any type of sound your artistic impression and interpretation would demand.† What makes singers insecure and feeling inadequate is when they are trying for an effect and canít get it.† Thatís when they ask for help.
Charlie:† Have you ever had a conductor who didnít want you to do a cadenza?
Elizabeth:† Oh yes.† I got to Metz.† I was taking over a Haydn Creation.† I had been studying the Creation in Boston with all our florid funny business and had decorated the heck out of all those arias.† The conductor turned out to be one of those German purists.† He didnít want so much as a trill.† Heíd never met me.† I was just coming in to replace another soprano.† He had no idea who I was.† I began to sing.† I put in the first little thing and he STOPPED the orchestra and looked at me and said, no embellishments.† I looked down at my scribbled up score and thought, I canít even see the original notes any more.† I had to ask for a fresh score because I couldnít read mine.† I asked, can I have the edition you are working with then please so I can sing it the way youíd like it?† They had to get me a fresh score.
Charlie:† How did it go?
Elizabeth:† He never hired me again (laughs) but I did all right.† I sang it the way he wanted.† This With verdure clad is from another performance with a different conductor.
Singing Betsy Jolas Compositions
Elizabeth:† Iíve done two Betsy Jolas things.† Both are on the website† I met her at Tanglewood.† She came as a visiting composer.† I spent that summer learning and performing her Quatour IV.† Itís a string quartet where the first violin is replaced by a soprano.† I saw her quite a bit that summer.† She would come to our rehearsals and give us tips.† She was very gracious to me.† When I came to Paris years later to sing for Radio France I included a Vocalise she had written on the program and she came to that.† That vocalise is also in the website collection.† She is a dual citizen of France and America.† Born in Paris of American parents.† I hear that she is busy and traveling.† Sheís written some operas.† She gets commissions.
Singing Linda di Chamounix
Elizabeth:† Linda di Chamounix isnít performed very often any place.† When you are a coloratura soprano you are usually the title role of the opera you are in if itís any kind of a part.† There are no comprimario coloratura parts.† They are all starring roles.† The way your career goes determines how many of those key roles you are going to get to sing.† There are other voice types that can make a good living singing secondary roles.† Thatís tougher for a coloratura.† A coloratura has to be aggressive about her career.
Singing Olympia from Tales of Hoffman
Elizabeth:† Olympia was one of those roles that I scorned as a student because I didn't consider it great music like Mozart and Strauss and the modern things I was doing.† I think the devil heard me say that because Olympia turned out to be one of my main signature rolls.† I sang it a lot.† It is a crowd pleaser.† It is one of those arias that brings you notice and success every time.† It actually isn't that simple.† It is written to sound simple but requires a lot of technical ability.† You have to sing as precisely as possible.† The singer is playing a machine which is perfect so the aria should come off perfectly.† A machine doesnít make mistakes.† I have heard it sung mechanistically and I was bored with it.† There are hints she is human because there is feeling in her singing.† She is spooky that way.† I had a lot of opportunity to think about the role and how to interpret it.† I knew it was about the bravado of the exact notes but it's also interpolating high notes that would excite everyone.† The machine part was to hold the high E flat at the last to an almost unreal length.† I would make it to nine counts before I would come down on it.† Well, she is a machine so she can hold that note as long as she wants.†
I think the best staging I ever did for that role was in Frankfurt.† Olympia sat perfectly still on a pedestal that turned.† I never moved a muscle the whole time I was on stage.† Itís challenging to sing an aria that way.† I was in 30 performances of that production.††
Charlie:† I saw you do Olympia at MOT in Detroit.† You moved around on stage but it seemed like your eyes did all the communicating.
Elizabeth:† I wanted Olympia to be a little strange and spooky.† The costume made you look like a Madam Alexander doll but I wanted her to be a spooky doll.
Charlie:† If you could have played Olympia exactly as you wanted what would that be?
Elizabeth:† She would be a porcelain figurine.† She wouldnít look comical with little round cheeks and a puggy nose.† Sheíd be more like a mannequinóa stepford wife, Olympia played as a debutante, not a 10 year old child.
Charlie:† I noticed she didnít have facial expressions but she seemed to express a lot in her face.
Elizabeth:† Her eyes are alive.† Read the libretto.† Her eyes come from a magician.† Itís almost a Frankenstein story.† Her eyes are alive.† Thatís why sheís spooky.† Eyes are a mirror of the soul.† Sheís spooky because everything else is dead but her eyes are alive so she has that human quality.† The bad guy comes back at the end and takes her eyes back.† Thatís what kills her.† Thatís the story.
Elizabeth:† Yes.† I did it in Boston.
Charlie:† Is Zerbinetta like Olympia where she only plays big in one part of the opera?
Elizabeth:† No, itís a full part.† Itís a two act opera.† The first act is called the Prologue.† Zerbinetta has a part in that where she interacts with the composer.† Then in the second half she is acting on the stage interacting with the tragic actors who are Ariadne and her bunch.† Thatís when the big aria occurs.† We did it in an English translation that time.† I† wrote my part (and canít find it).† It was very cute.† We probably have a picture of it someplace.† I remember a bright pink costumeóa little unusual.† I was in good shape for it.† I kept missing the opportunity to play it in Germany.† Augsburg was planning a production and I moved on to Wiesbaden and somebody else sang that production.† Then, when Wiesbaden was planning it I moved on to Frankfurt, so I missed that one.† In Frankfurt they already had two singers doing it.† Then I auditioned for it and got the job in Holland but my theater wouldnít release me.† I missed about 4 chances to do it in Europe and it just didnít happen.† Iím glad I got to do it in Boston.† I was quite secure in the role for the singing and acting.
I always loved Straussí music, whether it was the songs or orchestra pieces.† The Zerbinetta became sort of a warhorse concert piece rather than a role.† I performed it a good bit in concert.† Itís not an easy piece to sing well.† It would have been fun to do it on stage.
Elizabeth:† I did three performances of Lucia at Bob Jones University.† I auditioned for that fair and square in New York City.† It was a real opera production, one of the best Iíve ever been in.† It is a real coloratura role, a dream role, a star vehicle.† I enjoyed every minute of it.† If things had turned out differently, I probably would have done more of them.
Charlie:† I recall you saying they gave you the best costumes of any production youíd ever been in.
Elizabeth:† They were mounting the production brand new that year.† The entire production was brand new.† Those costumes were built for me.† There were three gorgeous dresses, the blue, the red, and the wedding dress and then the bloody boudoir nightgown.† I did my very best with it and felt a lot of satisfaction from it.
Charlie:† You got a nice letter that seemed to be appreciating your contribution to the production.
Elizabeth:† They were happy with the teamwork.† I was helpful by sharing the experience I had.† I assisted with the costumes and the wigs and the makeup for my character.† I didnít just hold out my arms and say dress me.† Getting everybody on your team, working together well, is worthwhile.
Singing Joe Pehrson Compositions
Elizabeth:† Joe Pehrson and I are the same age, grew up in the same town and went to the same church as kids.† I asked Joe for a piece I could just pull out of my pocket and perform.† If chamber instruments are included that I have to hire and pay for I wonít be singing it much.† So how about a vocalize to show off some gestures in the voice.†† He wrote that for me and I performed it often.† It was effective, well written and can be performed without any production. †Itís a nice little piece.† He created a haunting theme, developed it, and returned to it.† A lovely theme that shows off the voice nicely.† I told him the range I wanted, how high it should go, types of gestures he could include, and he composed me a beautiful vocalise.†
The composers make it look so easy.† When I sit down and try to write like that I realize itís not so easy.† So Iím the singer, heís the composer.
Charlie:† What can you say about these Tomas Arne songs?
Elizabeth:† Appropriate for a voice student.† I started them in school.† The 1978 Pro Musicis recital was shortly after I graduated from Conservatory so there was a lot of the repertoire I worked on during those years.† The conventional wisdom back then for recital programming was to start with an early English piece.† It was the old nymphs-and-shepherds-haste-away theory that you would begin your recital kind of tame with something early.† In the vocal production of that piece I use a lighter sound with less vibrato than I would in a more romantic or dramatic piece from later in history.† For some reason we believe the performance practice in Arneís day had lighter voices and that less vibrato was used in the tones in that music.† I embellish the heck out of† the piece because I was, by this time, a very ambitious singer so the interpretation has a lot more technical complexity than in the original score. †As written itís straight forward and charming.†
Charlie:† Are there any tough spots in the Thomas Arne pieces.
Elizabeth:† Everything has to be sung well.† You have to attack your tone, sing in tune, get all the notes.
Charlie:† Who performs this?
Elizabeth:† Itís written for soprano.† It could be for tenor.† 3rd year of voice lessons might be the time to start on them.† A student spends just about 100% of his time on exercises the first year.† In the second year you are allowed to start your early Italian arias from the famous 24 Italian Arias book.† Those are all from roughly the same time as Arne, they are just Italian.† Those are the arias that most classically trained singers teethe on.† They are all in that yellow Schirmer book.† Everybody knows it.†
Once youíve done your Caro Mio Ben, etc, then you work on things like Arne, Purcell, and some easy Handel.† You are singing mostly Italian and English and then as you move along you begin picking up the techniques to sing other languages, French, German.† As a general rule we start training the singers, first in native English so itís not too awfully hard.† Then we want them to get going on Italian right away.
Elizabeth:† These Schubert are challenging.† To sing them professionally, as I was doing here, you need a good command of the German language.† That takes a few years all by itself.† To sing bad German on Schubert isnít going to advance you.† There are too many people out there that know this stuff cold.† Your name is mud if you donít do it right.† Also,† the variety of dynamics is a challenge.
Charlie:† How many years of study come first?
Elizabeth:† There are some easy Schubert pieces you can start with but college level for these, sophomore or junior year.† Everybody starts with Schubert songs like Heidenroeslein.†
80% of what Schubert wrote was for male voices.† I didnít do much Schubert because of that.††† These four are for female singer.† They have a higher tessitura which means where the general range lies."† At the time I wasnít absolutely fluent in German.† I could pronounce it well but when I listen to it now I realize it was still accented a little bit.† It wasnít 100% correct in 1978.
Charlie:† The audience seems to appreciate it.
Elizabeth:† It was correct enough for the occasion.† But if Iíd been singing it in Frankfurt they would have known perfectly well that I was an American singing Schubert.† That wasnít true later.† I went to Germany to live for a while.† That makes a big difference.
Elizabeth:† These Donizetti pieces are a ton of fun, very florid.† The Líamor Funesto is a tenor piece.† What am I singing this for!† Itís just perfect for a tenor.† I felt drawn to it so I sang it, and I needed a slow piece between the other two fast ones.†
They were written as chamber pieces.† It is a good idea, as a student, to sing lesser-known pieces by famous composers before you tackle the standard repertoire.† These were studies for singing Mary Stuart and Lucia.
I sing these pieces heavily decorated as Sills and Sutherland were doing in the 70ís.† Itís a practice that has gone in and out of style more than once.† A story goes that Rossini heard a young soprano audition his Una voce poco fa, from his opera Figaro, the Rosina aria, heavily decorated.† He is supposed to have said, ďvery nice my dear, who wrote it?Ē†
No matter, learn to write your own embellishments and cadenzas with pieces like these, to suit your voice, instead of relying on someone to write them for you.
Elizabeth:† Thereís no "when," only "if."† They are specialty pieces.
Charlie:† Have you heard others do them?
Elizabeth:† I learned them cold.† Since then Iíve heard the Sills recording.† Iíve heard Natalie Dessay sing them too and quite well.† The songs are charming and well known even if they arenít performed often.
Charlie:† When did you start working on them?
Elizabeth:† I think senior year.† They were part of my Masters work at the Conservatory.† Iíve sung them once with Orchestra.† I recorded it for the BBC.† I sang it for Radio France in Paris.† That was a little crazy, go to Paris and sing French for the Frenchówhat was I thinking?† I got away with it though.
Charlie:† Did they like it?
Elizabeth:† They loved it.† I recall there were relatives of Mihaud present at that concert.
Charlie:† Did you get to meet them?
Elizabeth:† Survival Fragments is another specialty piece.† You should be able to sing intervalically as well as melodically.† These arenít conventional scale-based keys that you are singing in.† They take a long time to learn, to find the notes.† The music isnít intuitive.†
I worked with Robert Selig, the composer, on the creation of these songs.† He asked me how high a note could I sing and still get the words out.† At the time I was a Masters student and a fellowship student at Tanglewood and he was a resident composer there.† He was also my theory teacher at New England Conservatory.† He wasnít used to writing for singers so weíd sit together and heíd ask me lots of questions about what could he compose for a singer.†
I always had a secret ambition to compose but no talent for it.† Other than cadenzas, I never wrote anything worthwhile.† It is fun to work with someone composing for a singer, especially if the singer is me (laughs).†
He asked a lot about what my voice could do.† If he put that on the paper could I actually make it happen.† There are some high bits in it that were written for me but the piece has been sung by another soprano or two.†
I felt his music was important enough to be worth my time and effort.† I dťbuted them in New York, I sang them again in Boston and on National Public radio.
Charlie:† Who should attempt these?
Elizabeth:† If you donít open the score and slam it right shut when you see all those ledger lines, may be you are crazy enough to try it.
Charlie: †What is there to say about these Strauss songs?
Elizabeth:† I put them in to resolve Survival Fragments.† Survival Fragments are so serious and dour that you need something uplifting to send people home on a happier note.† Two of them would have been enough but I did 4.† Those are 4 of the 6 Brentanos.† Clemens Brentano was a German poet who was a good friend of Wolfgang Goethe.† They raised many a glass together.
Charlie:† How tough are they to sing?
Elizabeth:† They are more challenging than the other things we just talked about.† They take breath control and capacity.† They have long phrases.† I love the texture of the songs.† The one that is really a coloratura song is Amor.† That one is a good study if you are looking to sing Zerbinetta later on.
Charlie:† Performing Zerbinettaís aria created some memorable moments for you.† Do you have a good voice for Strauss?
Elizabeth:† My voice has a similar timbre to an Austrian coloratura.† The Austrian coloratura has a warmer sound than the Italian one.† Other singers have specialized in Mozart and Strauss.† One of them being Elisabeth Schumann who sang under Straussí direction.† She was one of his favorite sopranos at the Vienna opera where he was director for a while.† The role of Sophie in Rosenkavalier was created for her.
Strauss wrote the opera Salome and asked Elisabeth Schumann to sing it and she told him finally, ďAlright Iíll sing Salome in one production but Iíll never sing Mozart again.Ē† And Strauss said, "The price is too high."† So she didnít do Salome.† She recognized that it would probably spoil her voice.† I identify strongly with her.† Iíve listened to some nice recordings of her and read a book that she wrote.
Singing the 1974 Debut Recital
Charlie:† Iím glad the Leonard Bernstein pieces are on the website.† There needs to be light-hearted stuff like that.
Elizabeth:† One thing that doesnít come through in the website is my comic side.† I did a lot of comic stuff at the opera.† I did Strauss operettas were I was supposed to be funny, and I was.† Whatís recorded is all the serious poetic stuff.† Comedy is something I did in operas but wasnít my serious singing.† I played the fool plenty.† Thatís probably why I only did one Lucia.† They didnít know I was a dramatic actress.† I did a lot of comic roles because of the nature of my voice, light and youthful.† I played soubrettes.†
Charlie:† Were there any good comic roles that you liked?
Elizabeth:† Sure.† The work was fine.† When you are working in an opera house as part of the ensemble cast--they give you a role; you do it.† The first role I did in Augsburg was in a comic opera called The Merry Wives of Windsor by Otto† Nicholai.† I sang Frau Fluth.† She was a comical character.† I did Norina a couple of times in Don Pasquale.† Sheís a funny girl.† There were lotís of Adeles in Die Fledermaus.† I did soubrettes from other Strauss operas.† Instead of† Queen of the Night, for most of the years in Germany I was singing Papagena.† Sheís a silly girl.†
When I performed with someone like Hager it was always something serious.† He didnít know anything about my funny bone and thought it was curious that I was playing comic roles in the opera and the things I sang with him were all so serious and spiritual like the Mozart C Minor Mass.
Charlie:† The Leonard Bernstein songs are adorable.
Elizabeth:† There Iím acting the part of a 10 year old.† The second half of the debut recital is American stuff like Baby Doe.† You wonít be singing that in Germany. Summertime is an encore piece.† I wasnít going to do the role of Serina because Porgy and Bess is written as an African American opera by George Gershwin, who stipulated that in America only African Americans would perform it.† He lifted that ban for European opera houses but most of those houses hire at least the solo ensemble with the correct singers.† Then they black face their choruses, they canít hire an entire chorus.
Charlie:† How about some background on the Debut recital.† Wasnít it your first public performance outside of a school setting?
Elizabeth:† It was a debut in several senses.† I had left Grosse Pointe as a long-haired Joan Baez type and gone to conservatory.† Our parents wanted me to do a debutante party in the old tradition, the white dress and the red rose and the whole thing.† I said, ďBut thatís not my life.† Iíll debut as a singer, Iíll give a recital.Ē† The appropriate debut age would have been Junior year.† I didnít feel ready so I waited until í74 and gave what I felt was representative of the work Iíd done in those 4 years.† I came home as a very young, but polished ready to go singer.† I wanted my debut for my parentsí friends to reflect where I was and where I believed I was going.† I wanted to make an impression where they would take me seriously in my chosen area.† I think I accomplished that.† Thereís a picture in the other room you might want to scan of me with a very large grin on my face, looking very relieved.† This was more of a social occasion than a music occasion.† It was about and for my hometown and my parentsí friends.
Charlie:† Wasnít that the first time most of them had heard you sing?
Elizabeth:† It was a revelation for many.† I remember the nicest compliment I got was from a gentleman who came up to me and said, ďMy wife dragged me to this concert and, I will tell you, I liked it a lot, I loved what you did.† But please, donít tell my wife because she will start dragging me to all this stuff.Ē† I told him, ďYouíre secret is safe with me.Ē
Charlie:† Good story.† So the event was a recital with a nice reception afterwards?
Elizabeth:† A very nice reception.† I was aware that I had something to prove.† I craved their respect, I didnít want to be like Trumanís daughter.† I did more hometown performances in later years.† Those are not for your career, those are for the folks at home.† Once I got a bad review in the paper for one of them and I wondered, what was he doing at our party anyway?† I didnít need, want, or expect a review for a home town gig.
Charlie:† You once told me, a way to tug on the audience a bit, is to sing something that is slightly sad, slightly happy.
Elizabeth:† Yes.† I like to think that artists universally have this skill and instinct to do that.† It can be a technique but it shouldn't be a mannerism, it should be sincere.† I like to take a lullaby, if it's a romantic lullaby, such as the Sandman by Brahms and work with the metaphor between sleep and death.† There were problems in earlier times of infant mortality so that a lullaby can become not just a soothing fall-asleep-my-child, it can also be a song about grieving.† If you are looking at your child and you are thinking, this is my child, please stay alive.† It is an ďif I should die before I wakeĒ sort of thing.† To sing a lullaby with poignancy, my lovely darling baby in whom I joy, and yet I'm fearful and sleeping is like death and soon you have these mixed feelings.† It is sort of like the vibrato again.† You are modulating, you are varying the feeling, letting the emotion tremble a bit to give it depth and more meaning.† A mixed emotion can often get to people more than a flat emotion that seems contrived.† The human soul is complicated and something with more layers to it is going to seem more sincere than if you play it straight or flat.† It's part of programming.
Charlie:† What is there to say about Hodie
Elizabeth:†† Canton audio speaker company commissioned that.† They wanted a Christmas album, which we didnít have so we developed one.† We included German carols arranged by Bach.† The Benjamin Britten set was written for chorus and harp and I thought, how about soprano and guitar?† We arranged them and adapted the harp part for guitar.
The Corale Variations by Praetorius is an instrumental work based on the ďIn Dulci JubiloĒ, which is the old hymn.† So I worked myself into it and made it into a kind of 4 tier cantata.
Charlie:† So ďCorale VariationsĒ is another arrangement made by you and Felix?
Elizabeth: ††Yes.† The John Jacob Niles pieces are our arrangements.† In fact, we should credit Peter Faust for some of that.† The number 17, Lulle, lullay is my arrangement.† The other two were arranged with help from Peter Faust.† Iíd like to see Felix make guitar scores for those.
Elizabeth:† Thatís mainstream stuff.† Lennox Berkeley is a revered British composer.† The songs are right up my ally vocally.† They were perfect for me.† They were an interesting challenge for Felix and we performed them a lot, we loved those.
Charlie:† What about Thea Musgrave?
Elizabeth:† Sheís a prominent and respected composer here in America.† She lives in California.† The pieces were very worthwhile so we did them.† We performed those a lot too.
Charlie:† They were written for guitar already?
Elizabeth:† Yes, Half-Light is an album of songs written for guitar and high voice and not arrangements.
Charlie:† How did you come across the Daniel Pinkham pieces?
Elizabeth:† I worked with Danny all during school days in Boston.† I asked him if he had any voice and guitar pieces and he responded with Antiphons.† He literally handed them to me.
Charlie:† How did you learn about the Confiding songs?
Elizabeth:† I was asking around for British or American pieces.† Gunther Schuler recommended I look into those.