Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, presented several graduate students in an hour-long concert on April 13, part of the Kennedy Center’s Conservatory Project. I especially liked pianist Richard Marshall’s performance of the Adagio from Adagio and Fugue in C Major, BWV 564, transcribed from organ to piano by Ferruccio Busoni, and bass-baritone Calvin Criggin’s rendition of Shendandoah, arranged by Lee Musiker.
On May 18 Carol Starr and I heard Kathleen Battle and Cyrus Chestnut join the Heritage Signature Chorale at Strathmore Center in Maryland for a concert entitled Underground Railroad. Classic spirituals were interwoven with readings from Frederick Douglass. Battle has a rather slender voice, which was sometimes overcome by the magnificent 60-voice choir, but her solos were artfully done. Chestnut is a powerful pianist, even with the piano on short stick.
The next day Comin’ Up Shoutin’, was another gospel concert that I enjoyed with Fran Simms. You can hear The Washington Chorus sing “Ezekiel Saw the Wheel” and other great songs from the Civil Rights Movement. Guest artist Melanie DeMore led the chorus in some Gullah stick pounding and improvisation that was new to me and lots of fun.
Steve and I saw Show Boat on May 21 performed by the Washington National Opera. We enjoyed seeing Shelby’s Potomac School classmate Alyson Cambridge sing a leading role as Julie. Those wonderful Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein songs Make Believe, Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man, Why Do I Love You?, and of course, Ol’ Man River, played through my head for days afterward.
On June 2 I heard a Joint Recital by Vanessa Naghdi, soprano, and Melanie Ashkar, mezzo-soprano, accompanied by pianist Laurie Bunn at Cherrydale United Methodist Church. Both singers are recent college graduates who study with Elizabeth Vrenios, whom I remember from my days at American University. Melanie is Roger Nucho’s niece and has sung with our church choir. It was a delightful program of works by Purcell, Gounod, Handel and Donizetti. My favorites were the duet Viens, Mallika from the opera Lakme by Leo Delibes, and four songs by Charles Ives that Melanie brought to life with her expressive face and gestures. Such talent and youthful beauty!