I’m Matthew O’Donnell, a bass-baritone-singing, basketball-playing, gallon-a-day-water-drinking, music-all-day-eating-and-breathing, almost-never-sleeping freshman voice major here at NEC.
I happen to be stuck here on this imaginary island after straying away from a concert tour of Bermuda at coordinates- 25.0000° N, 71.0000° W- (Some people have called this strange area I am in the Devil’s Triangle, but I think I’m just getting stir crazy from not having my tunes and fresh drinking water.)
If you are reading this, please, kindly send the following selections on a solar powered iPod with at least a 50-gallon drum of fresh water and a compass to the above coordinates. Better yet, make that an iPhone with GPS, and please tell Ms. Washburn that I think I’m going to be late for Monday’s rehearsal!
For some reason being here all-alone is making me very reflective on my music choices.
Tunes to place on that iPhone you are airdropping (don’t forget to charge it first!):
1. Mozart-Le Nozze di Figaro, Non Più Andrai
This is the tune that I learned from my first classical vocal teacher, Stephen Bryant, and was my audition piece for my entry into the Juilliard Pre-College Program.
I love this piece and had the opportunity to sing it a number of times in some really neat spaces. I sang this most recently at a sing-in with the NY Choral Society. My parents made me go with them and suggested that it would be a good excuse to work on my sight singing before coming to NEC. I was glad I joined them. (Please don’t tell them, just concentrate on getting me that water.)
3. Eric Whitacre-Cloudburst
This is an amazing piece that I had the chance to sing with my High School Chorus in Nutley, NJ, as well as with the All National Chorus at the Kennedy Center. This piece uses the human voice to make environmental sounds in addition to some really cool close harmonies. I never get sick of hearing, or singing, this work. (Is that really the wind?)
4. Dan Hill-Sometimes when we Touch
Old school introspective. Call me a softie…I just like it.
5. The King’s Singers-Oh my Love is like a red, red Rose
Just great choral singing…in tune and musical! (Water….water…)
6. Dietrich Fischer Dieskau-Im Wunder schonen Monat Mai
The best of the best…A big influence on who I am striving to be.
7. Luciano Pavarotti-Nessun Dorma
Why do people on all of those talent shows insist on singing this?
Probably because they never heard it REALLY sung or perhaps they need to drink more WATER!!!!
8. Mumford and Sons-Thistle and Weeds
Something draws me to their music…perhaps the folk-like quality yet it’s still modern.
9. John Williams-Buglers Dream
Prolific composer John Williams is someone that I really like. Since I was a young lad I was hooked on this Olympic Theme and can relate to the message of hope and inspired perseverance (and eventually being rescued) that has become his trademark.
10. Z. Randall Stroope-Amor de mi Alma
I had the opportunity to sing this under Mr. Stroope last year with the All Eastern High School Chorus. Mr. Stroope is intense and this song is about all things love…in life and in death…save me… - - - … I’d love a glass of… - - - … oh yea…- - -… make sure it’s an iPhone…not an iPod…
11. Tower of Power-You Met Your Match
Feel good soul music…5 horns and this one has guest Joss Stone.
12. Chanticleer-Die Lorelei
I heard this group from San Francisco and was blown away. They sang this and had the audience in the palm of their collective hands. This song is about giving the sailors a message where perhaps the Sirens are beckoning. Are the fair maidens of the sea calling too close to the rocks? Look, for crying out loud….OK…help me out here…iPhone and water…better yet a boat, sub, canoe…you get the idea.
Forget Die Lorelei…here are the guys singing Ave Maria! Maybe those Navy guys can find this place!
Hope to see you soon!
NEC Freshman, Vocal Performance
Hi there! My name is Jonnie Comfort (or “Comfy” as a couple of friends lovingly named me). When I found out we were only allowed 60 minutes of music for our Desert Island Recording picks, I tried to organize what songs I would want to bring. This is difficult when your library of music on iTunes lasts 13.4 days. So, I picked music that I listen to constantly and could never tire of. I hope you enjoy my list. I’m kinda an opera buff so it is mostly classical (and by “mostly” I mean that there is only one non-classical song!). This first set of songs are arias that close friends and/or colleagues sang and that I completely fell in love with second I heard them. Eccomi… Oh Quante Volte from I Capuleti e i Montecchi by Bellini Montserrat Caballe Allons il le faut… Adieu Notre Petit Table from Manon by Massenet Beverly Sills Temerari! Sortite!- Come Scoglio from Cosi Fan Tutte by Mozart Elisabeth Schwarzkopf No Word from Tom from The Rake’s Progress by Stravinsky Dawn Upshaw —- Funnily enough when I first heard Maria Callas I reeeeally disliked her voice and didn’t listen to her for a long time. That is, until I heard this piece and now I honestly cannot get enough of her. She is one of my favorite singers and I could easily bring solely albums of her singing. But then this list would not be very interesting and I would miss Caballe way too much! Addio, del Passato Bei Sogni Ridenti from La Traviata by Verdi Maria Callas —- This is one of my favorite arias with my favorite singer. Her voice is amazing and when she sings in her upper register…..ugh. It gives me feelings of happiness. “Casta diva” from Norma by Bellini Montserrat Caballe —- This is one of my favorite interpretations of Schubert’s Erlkonig, for the sole reason of how distinctly Jessye Norman created the four characters (Narrator, Son, Father, and Erlkonig). It was between this or Mild und Leise from Tristan und Isolde (see what I did there? technically it is not apart of the list but it is here in spirit!). Erlkonig by Schubert Jessye Norman —- I know, I know…these are not the original words but I really love her ornaments in recording…and her. But can you blame me?! Morirò, ma vendicata (Enchanted Island) from Teseo by Handel Joyce DiDonato —- Tosca was the first opera I saw. I was given free tickets to the Met through a family friend and sat in Orchestra, Row J. To this day Tosca is my favorite opera and this aria is just beautiful. Oh, and it is Caballe again… I just like her, okay?! Vissi D’Arte from Tosca by Puccini Montserrat Caballe —- I feel as though this would be such great calming music. A good time for when I start to draw a face on a coconut while on the island and talking to him. It? Anywatm I chose this song cycle by Debussy! Fetes Galantes by Debussy Frederica von Stade —- Wait…what?! I have 2 minutes and 46 seconds left, and there is never a bad time for some Barbara! Don’t Rain on my Parade Barbra Streisand Jonathon Comfort NEC Freshman, Vocal Performance
I am Michael Alexander Gonzalez, but you can call me Mike, or Mikey, or my mom’s favorites, Mango Marmalade or Googly Bear. I used to bear the title Pumpkin Pie, but my brother grew jealous…
I am a Sophomore Vocal Performance Major at NEC, born in South Florida from Cuban parents. When I first heard about the ‘Desert Island Recording’ theme I was going to originally bring all this classical music, which would be fine, but realistically, I’d rather have songs that remind me of those I care about and bring happy memories. So sit back, scroll down, and prepare to go down my memory lane.
1. Bonnie Tyler - I need a Hero
I know, you’re asking yourselves how I came upon such a gem. Well, this is the song that reminds me of my best friends Derek, Sam, David, and my brother Robert. We have been great friends since childhood. One day, while we were enjoying the splendors of summer, BOOM, my friend Derek played this song for us. It had EVERYTHING; an awesome chorus, piano, drums, and the lyrics are just great. So since that fateful day, Bonnie Tyler has brought a smile to my face just thinking about my good friends.
2. Kansas - Carry on My Wayward Son
Now, I mentioned my brother, and you will hear a lot about him since I love him to death. We used to watch Supernatural and also play Rock Band. Both featured this song. In fact, we’d always end our nights playing this song on Rock Band because it’s so GREAT! Need I say more?
3. Engelbert Humperdinck - Lonely is a Man without Love
My mom took me to school every day, from kindergarten through high school. Whenever we got into the car I had two choices; 1. put in head phones and ignore mother dearest, or 2. listen to Engelbert Humperdinck. Let’s just say I grew to love this song and sing along to it at 7:00 a.m. in Miami traffic. Good times.
4. Mel Brooks - Keep It Gay ‘The Producers’
I love comedy and Mel Brooks has always been there to make me laugh. When I first heard of his Broadway show, I was seven. I truly couldn’t appreciate his music. But when my brother (told you he’d be mentioned a lot) reintroduced me to the musical, I fell in love. I could truly appreciate the witty and sarcastic humor that his songs show. This one is by far my favorite. I will be able to laugh while trying to pry open a Coconut!
5. Mel Brooks - I wanna be a Producer ‘The Producers’
This song just has such a nice feel to it. It makes you want to sway from side to side. My brother and I always sing this together. I get a nice laugh every time I think about how out of tune he goes (sorry, bro).
6. Giacamo Puccini - Nessun Dorma ‘Turandot’ Sung by Luciano Pavarotti
Turandot was the first opera I ever laid my eyes on and it was love at first sight. After the opera, I went home and looked up Nessun Dorma on Google. I then clicked on the first link with Luciano. Again, Love at first sight. He is my inspiration and no doubt would help me through my lonely island days.
7. Geatano Donizetti - Una Furtiva Lagrima ‘E’lisir D’amore’ Sung by Luciano Pavarotti
This diamond of an aria was first brought to my attention by an old teacher of mine. He said “Listen to Luciano Pavaortti sing Una furtiva Lagrima in 1972. You won’t be disappointed.” And I wasn’t. My mom cried about two minutes into it, and I cried about 4 minutes in. It is utterly breath taking and Luciano’s beautiful voice only makes the aria that much more intense.
8. Ernesto Lecuona - Siboney Sung by Placido Domingo
This song holds a special place in my heart because it is written by the most well-known of Cuban composers, Ernesto Lecuona. His ‘Siempre en mi Corazon’ (Always in my heart) lost in in the Oscars to ‘White Christmas’. My great grandmother was a pianist and singer who actually performed with Ernesto when he was younger. Just hearing this song being brings back memories of listening to my great grandmother humming his tunes.
9. The Killers - Mr. Brightside
I have loved this song for some time, mostly because of the rhythm. Another reason is because my roommate and I really love this band so we listen to their music all the time. They have a great sound! It also helps that this song was featured on Rock Band 2. Remember that brother of mine? I would beg him to let us end the night playing this one, but Kansas always seemed to win…
10. Franz Schubert - Der Erlkonig
I fell in love after hearing about this piece in Music History class in high school. I hope to one day learn it. I chose Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the singer because of his flawless performances.
Well, there you have it! That is my (short) list of songs I cannot live without. Yes, it is diverse, but it holds many happy memories from throughout my life. I am glad to have had the opportunity to share it with you all!
All the best,
Michael Alexander Gonzalez
NEC Sophomore, Vocal Performance
I’m Deirdre Kellerman, the 1st year graduate choral conducting student at NEC. I’m in a pretty amazing program. Not only do I get to work with the Chamber Singers and Concert Choir on a regular basis, I get to sing with them, too! Choir rehearsals are quickly proving to be the highlight of my week and I’m excited to share our work with you all.
When we were asked to each write about our “Desert Island Recordings”, a lot of music immediately came to mind. 60 minutes of music is not very much… but I gave it a shot and here is my list of I-can’t-live-without-it songs.
1. Franz and the Eagle - The Goat Rodeo Sessions
I would list this whole album if I could!
2. L’heure exquise (Reynaldo Hahn) - Susan Graham
Susan Graham’s album, La Belle Epoque, is perfect. I love her voice and her interpretation.
3. This Is How I Know - Ron Sexsmith
This man is a songwriting champion. This is from one of my favorite albums, Exit Strategy of the Soul.
4. Motion Picture Soundtrack – Radiohead
I love the vibe of this piece. Definitely one of the songs I’d want if I was stuck on a desert island.
5. One Voice - The Wailin’ Jennys
Lots of personal attachment to this song. Reminds me of my choir back home, Xara Choral Theatre!
6. Awake My Soul - Mumford and Sons
Everyone needs a little Mumford to get them through the rough days.
7. Amor from Bolcom’s Cabaret Songs - Measha Brueggergosman
I’m a huge Measha fan. I think she’s hilarious and she is such a great performer. Make sure to watch the video past the first minute!
8. Simple - k.d. lang
I love k.d. lang and I love this song!
9. Chelsea Morning - Joni Mitchell
I also love Joni. She’s the best.
10. Fire and Rain - James Taylor
For those long, lonely desert island days…
11. All Will Be Well - Gabe Dixon Band
Again, one for the rough days. Desert island anthem!
12. Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes
Could play this on repeat for hours.
13. You’re the Top - Ella Fitzgerald
All hail Queen Ella.
14. Safe Here - Craig Cardiff
I think this is one of the most comforting pieces of music ever.
15. Way Over Yonder - Carole King
I adore this lady. This song is just one of my favs.
Keep checking in on the blog to see what my fellow Chamber Singers absolutely cannot live without!
Choral Conducting candidate, MM, ’15
Hello! My name is Zach, and I’m back for this school year’s first post on our blog! The theme of this semester is Desert Island Recordings, and I’m really excited to share mine with you. For those who are unfamiliar with the topic, it is one that people ask musicians pretty frequently. “If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only bring so much music to listen to for the rest of your life, what would you bring?” It can be in any genre and any style, and I’m sure throughout the Chamber Singers we’re pretty much going to run the gamut. For this exercise, Erica limited us to 45-60 minutes, which means I only have a couple DAYS worth of music to cut. So, with that spiel completed, I hope you enjoy my Desert Island Recordings!
Sred Shumnogo Bala—Pyotr Tchaikovisky
When I was around 14, I participated in the New York State School Music Association’s (NYSSMA) Solo and Ensemble festival for the first time, and the song I sang was a song called “At the Ball.” It was a translation of a song by Tchaikovsky, and it was the most hauntingly beautiful melody I had ever heard. It tells the story of a man dancing at a ball when he sees the face of a young woman dance by, and notices that, despite her happy smile and beautiful laughter, her eyes are terribly sad and pensive. He loses her in all the dancing, but on some lonely nights, he thinks back to this ghost of a woman and wonders if he loves her, all the while knowing that just asking the question means he does. It’s a truly special song, and it has a special place in my heart. And it also took me a LONG time to find in Russian again! This is Dmitri Hvorostovsky losing himself in it
While I was searching for The previous song, I stumbled on a series of recordings by a man named Boris Gmyrya, who was a Soviet singer back in the 50’s, singing a large amount of Russian romantic art songs. I bought 3 albums and probably 70 songs worth. This one is undoubtedly my favorite. I could listen to it on repeat for longer than you would expect. It Translates in English to “Doubt.” I hope you like Hvorostovsky, because here he is again!
Sweet Baby James—James Taylor
When I was a child, my mother read us all sorts of stories every night that she could. On the nights that she couldn’t, and sometimes even after she did, our dad would come in and sing us all sorts of songs. We heard the Beatles, Crosby Stills and Nash, and, our favorite, James Taylor. This was my favorite song as a child, and the one I will never forget.
Intermezzo for Strings—Franz Schreker
I don’t really remember how I stumbled onto this remarkable composer, but sometime about two years ago, I did. And I learned his fantastic music right in the middle of NEC’s Mahler Unleashed festival as the Chamber Orchestra performed its “Mahler’s Contemporaries” concert, which featured Schreker’s music. I was drawn to the performance, and it was magical. And then I downloaded it and listened to this song (another I could play on repeat endlessly) and I fell even more in love. I listen to it all the time now. Another haunting, delicate melody. It’s fantastic. Hopefully, if Erica lets me, I can tell you more about Franz Schreker later in the semester, because he fits very well into NEC’s Truth to Power theme this year, and especially with our first choir concert devoted to Anne Frank and her time.
If I were to choose a favorite classic rock band, I would have to choose The Zombies. Their songs were so jazzy, and their harmonies so much more complex than the average band back then. And I especially love them singing this great song by George Gershwin from “Porgy and Bess,” that has since become a classic. Maybe not operatic, but so satisfying.
Broken Heart—Motion City Soundtrack
When I was in high school, I went through a musical crisis. I started to realize that I didn’t like any of the bands on the radio. My solution? Listen to all my sister’s music. The result was my discovery of Motion City Soundtrack, now one of my go-to bands. This song, definitely one of their most angsty, became one of my favorites because I think it’s a very well written.
The Promise of Living—Aaron Copland
The only reason I’m a musician right now is because I, on a whim actually, attended the New York Summer School of the Arts at SUNY Fredonia in upstate New York. The program opened my eyes to the entire classical community and the viability of a life performing classical music. The finale of the program every year was Copland’s Promise of Living. I also performed this in Marching band. I’ve done it a lot, and it never grows old. It is still so incredibly beautiful. This version is only instrumental, but the vocal version is spectacular too.
Solitary Hotel—Samuel Barber
This song is so mysterious, and so enchanting. It is to me one of the best examples of setting text in the history of art song. Samuel Barber is also one of my all time favorite composers. With a text pulled straight from Ulysses by James Joyce, it is a powerful piece. I encourage you to take a listen to Thomas Hampson’s interpretation. It is chilling.
I Hear an Army—Samuel Barber
Yes. He’s worth two. The first time I heard someone sing this song live, the performance was so incredibly intense that he made his accompanist cry. Of course, the accompanist may have been crying at how hard the piano part is. It doesn’t sound as pleasing as some of the others, but the finale pulls at your heart unlike any song I’ve ever heard.
Sleepy Time Down South—Louis Armstrong
I love Louis Armstrong. That’s pretty much it. He makes me happy. In fact, I can’t think of a person he doesn’t make happy.
One of my favorite lieder, this song is also one of Schubert’s beautiful melodies, which is saying something. And Thomas Quasthoff has the perfect voice for it.
Man Up—Book of Mormon’
I’m also a big fan of musical theater, and the funniest show out there is probably Book of Mormon, by Matt Stone and Trey Parker. I’d like to put the whole show on here, but I can only afford so much time, and this tune is my favorite from the show. It also conveniently has a great summary of many of the other songs from the show, which would be an excellent memory trigger when stranded on a desert island.
And there we go. That’s about as close to 45 minutes as I can make it. These are the bare essentials, what I would survive with if I had nothing else. I hope someone enjoyed reading it (sorry the explanations got a bit lengthy). Enjoy the rest of the blog!
NEC Junior, Vocal Performance
Welcome back, dear Readers, and welcome to you Readers who are new to the NEC Chamber Singers blog Facing Front!
So many wonderful performances and opportunities are programmed for the NEC Choral Department this year, from a New England premiere of James Whitbourn’s “Annelies”, an Advent celebration of the music of Benjamin Britten, to several symphonic performances this spring, featuring works by Beethoven, Shostakovich, J.S. Bach and Brahms. Thousands of notes and just as many words in more than seven languages are on the docket of things to be learned and experienced for the 2013-14 season. I encourage you to become a regular follower of this blog as the Chamber Singers share their thoughts with you regarding the process and performance experience.
A new twist on the blog for the first half of this year will also highlight Chamber Singer opinions on “Desert Island Recordings.” Allow me to explain: the students were challenged to compose a voluntary blog entry that would share with you not only their experiences at the Conservatory, but also their most treasured 45-60 minutes of music. These 45-60 precious minutes are to encompass the only recordings they would be permitted to bring if they were stranded on a deserted tropical island (yes, they will have their playback device to enjoy those minutes!). I, for one, cannot wait to read/hear their choices! It is a common misconception that classical conservatory students only listen to classical music. I think the selections these students make will end up pleasantly surprising many!
We hope you enjoy the updates our NEC students will provide over the course of this new academic year. And don’t forget - you are ALWAYS welcome at our (wonderfully FREE) performances!
Erica J. Washburn
Director of Choral Activities
New England Conservatory