I Can't Believe It's Over

The last day of SongFest truly turned out to be the busiest, most emotional, and most incredible day of the entire month. 

9:00am: Jake Heggie gives the final morning masterclass of the program, ending the series on the highest note possible. 

11:00am: Take a much needed nap, have lunch, and then pack.

2:00pm: Thomas Hampson masterclass. There he was, Thomas Hampson, American Baritone, speaking in the very Sean Connery-esque way that Thomas Hampson, American Baritone talks. He's a towering figure, very strong and definitely built for resonance. Unfortunately, we didn't really hear him sing. He talked about his "Hampsong Foundation" to all of us and gave us some insight into the history of American art song, and then invited the first of three singers to come forward. Two baritones and one mezzo sang in the masterclass, and two of the songs were by John Musto, who unfortunately could not make it to the class. Some memorable moments were when he worked with one of the baritones on taking "red wine" breaths to equally find space in their mouth and their nose rather than having an uneven balance; and when he helped a singer with cerebral palsy find her balance so that she didn't have to hold on to the piano while singing, drawing out one of the most powerful performances I've seen.

5:00pm: The studio artists give their last concert, based on works by the siblings Felix Mendelssohn and Fanny Hensel. This was probably the least structured concert we've produced so far. There were no poetry classes leading up to it unlike the Song as a One Act Play concert, there were no group songs to learn unlike for the French concert, we simply enjoyed masterclasses with NEC's Karen Holvik during the week and then presented our songs in one smooth and organized parade. I was the second person in the lineup, singing "Frühling" by Fanny Hensel. This concert was a wonderful way to finish out our time as studio artists - it wasn't too stressful, there was actually a bigger audience than we all expected for a concert that was wedged between two other huge events, and we could all focus on the joy of hearing each other one last time. 

7:30pm: The American Song Book Concert. This was it, the big finale of SongFest, the concert where the forty or so students chosen to be a part of the cast gave the rest of the program a night of pure celebration. At the helm of the project were the married couple Amy Burton, who directed the show, and John Musto, who played piano. But, to say that John Musto "played the piano" is an understatement - he dug into that Steinway with so much soul that somehow every song was a uniquely powerful journey that the singer(s) responded to in a palpable way. The numbers included classics like "She's Always a Woman to Me" by Billy Joel and "Someone to Watch Over Me" by George Gershwin, and comedic gold in numbers like "I'll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book", "Tchaikovsky and Other Russians", and "Pal-Yat-Chee" (a hick spoof of "Pagliacci"). Some of the real standout performances came from Deborah Rosengaus, who gave a raucous and hilarious performance of "Find Me a Primitive Man" by Cole Porter, Jack Wilkins, who brought the house down with his "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" by George Michael, and Ilanna Starr, who sang Barbra Streisand's "Anyplace I Hang My Hat" with such smooth smoky vocals that together with Musto's playing it seemed like the hall suddenly turned into a sauna. My involvement in the concert was at the very beginning of both of the acts as a part of a trio that sang two numbers from the musical "Guys and Dolls". It was a thrill to be the first voice heard in both halves of the concert, and the energy between the three of us was easy and so much fun. If videos come up soon, I'll have to post them. This concert was the best possible way to end the month, no dispute. We even sang an encore song to Rosemary Ritter to thank her for her twenty years of making the program all that it is. I can't believe I got to be a part of such a special evening.

9:30pm: All the goodbyes. As soon as the concert ended, I realized that I had a half hour to change, finish up packing, and say goodbye to just about everyone I'd met over the last month. Obviously I didn't get to say as many goodbyes as I wished I had, but I told John Musto that singing with him at the piano was one of the best performance experiences of my life, and he responded very dryly with "Stop, I'll give you forty five minutes to quit talking like that". What a guy. The most touching goodbyes were with my little quartet that I hung out with so much while at the program and will miss so, so much until we meet up for a reunion sometime in the near future. Thank goodness Natalie is about to be at CCM with me! Truth be told, the whole studio program was an absolutely great group of people and I'm going to miss them all dearly. Thank goodness that in this world of classical singing, it's so small that I can be fairly confident that I'll reconnect with most if not all of them again in the future. I'm having some severe separation anxiety, and it's only been 24 hours. 

10:00pm: Uber to the airport and catch my 11:58pm red-eye flight to Saint Louis, where I performed in honor of my late Great Uncle Norbert in a church patriotic concert at 3pm the next day. If there was any good reason to give up my last night of celebration in Los Angeles, it was definitely for this. What an insane, amazing, and emotional 36 hours. What an insane, amazing, and emotional month.

Please enjoy a slideshow of some of my favorite pictures from this journey. I can't believe it's over.

Sam KrauszComment