The Final Stretch

So, here we are, counting down the days to the very last performances of SongFest by putting our noses to the grindstone and trying to avoid what's become known as "Week 4 Syndrome". Week 4 Syndrome is a combination of feeling exhausted, wanting to get these shows over with, and never wanting this month to end that's resulted in a lot of brain scattering and a lot of scheduling madness. Many of the students here also ran into another problem - we have too much money for food! We were all given a lump sum of money to use on food at the Colburn Cafe at the beginning of the program, and for many of us, it was actually hard to spend $638 on food over a month. Many people, including myself, entered the last week of the program with still more than $200 on their cards. So we've eaten like kings this week, and honestly I'm not complaining. 

Libby Larsen teaches one of her own songs.

Almost all the biggest names have gotten in town - we now have John Musto, Libby Larsen, Jake Heggie, Bill McGraw, Amy Burton, and Martin Katz under one roof and all living in the dorms across the hall from the students. The only big guy we're still missing is Thomas Hampson, and he gets in town on Saturday. Wednesday morning was Libby Larsen's first appearance, giving a masterclass of her own songs. I must say, for a 66 year old, she looks still quite young and has a TON of energy. Larsen is known as the greatest female composer of art song alive, and one of my favorite cycles of hers is called "The Birth Project", which she wrote for CCM Professor Gwen Detwiler and SongFest teacher Audrey Luna. Later on Wednesday I had my last coaching with Jennifer Tung, who's been my main coach and pianist throughout this entire month. She and I have turned out to be remarkably similar. She actually got a voice degree in her undergrad as a singer who was a pianist at first. After her undergrad she ended up going the piano/vocal coaching route, and now her home is as a coach at the University of Toronto. She's an absolutely remarkable coach, and one that the studio artists were very lucky to have.

But the biggest thing that happened on Wednesday was the Martin Katz masterclass on Schumann's Dichterliebe that I had been very excited to sing for since long before the program started. I sang the two-paged fourth movement, and was actually the only one in the masterclass to only sing one movement of the cycle. When I sang, Katz didn't have too much to say. He said my German was in great shape, asked for the phrases to have more direction, I sang it again, and then he asked if I was singing anything else, which of course I wasn't. The whole thing took maybe eight minutes. 

American Song Book rehearsal

Thursday, Jake Heggie appeared and gave an extremely interesting morning masterclass on his own works. He's got one of the brightest personalities of anyone I've ever seen. He would hold hands with people on stage, he would sense that someone was intimidated by singing for him so he would twirl them around a couple of times and say "Okay now we've danced with each other, you can be comfortable with me!" Learning from the greatest living composer of American opera is one thing, but getting to know what kind of a person he is is a whole different experience. We all love him to death. At noon, I saw a young artist group concert that included a smorgasbord of songs that all belonged under the heading of "Honest American". My classmate Page Michels was in the concert, as well as two other Colburn Fellows and one of the guys performing with me in Saturday's American SongBook concert. He sang a song called "Prayer" by Morten Lauridsen that I instantly fell in love with. I've already asked him to send me the music. After that concert, I had a German masterclass and rehearsal for the American SongBook double booked with each other, so we did our best to make that work, and then I finally made it over the to Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum is quite literally right next to the Colburn school. I have to walk past it to get almost anywhere, and it's free on Thursday evenings! After the museum, I again finished the day with another three hours of American Song Book rehearsal.

Friday, I had dress rehearsal for the American Song Book and dress rehearsal for the studio artist Mendelssohn concert back to back from noon to 4pm. Both shows are in great shape, and I can't wait to share what I can of them with you after tomorrow evening. Tonight starts the final marathon of activities with a Shakespeare concert directed by Martin Katz. The last morning masterclass tomorrow will be given by Jake Heggie, followed by a Langston Hughes inspired concert directed by Matthew Morris, followed by the big Thomas Hampson masterclass, followed by my studio artist Mendelssohn Concert, followed by the big finale that is the American Song Book Concert. Somewhere in there, I need to pack. Wish me luck. My plane to Saint Louis leaves at 11:58pm tomorrow night after the concert, so I'll already be home by the time I can post about my last day here, but I can pretty much guarantee that it will be summed up as being unforgettable and amazing. 

Sam KrauszComment