|John Brancy, Annie Rosen, Theo Lebow, Paul Appleby, Julia Bullock, Michael Barrett and Steven Blier
Last night at Weill Recital Hall, New York Festival of Song threw itself a party. They called it a gala recital; we call it a love fest.
There isn't a shadow of a doubt how much Maestro Blier cares for the young singers he has championed and likewise how much they care for him. He has nurtured their careers, coached them, taught them, encouraged them to develop in new directions and gotten them up onstage with programs of songs that are always as meaningful as they are entertaining.
They have learned well and we have witnessed their artistic growth over the past few years. Each and every one has broadened his/her reach and increased their versatility. Retreats at Caramoor have contributed to these Emerging Artists and the scope of the program continues to grow, gathering fans everywhere.
There was no printed program last night--it felt more like a celebration than a recital. What joy to hear good songs without amplification, all treated with the same respect given to the repertory from other centuries.
Readers will forgive us, we hope, if we cannot correctly quote the correct title of each song and its composer. We will do our best to share our wonderful memories. Mr. Blier narrated in his customary engaging manner and accompanied with an occasional relief from Mr. Barrett who is Associate Artistic Director of NYFOS.
Mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen began the program with a torchy ballad-- Bob Telson's "Calling You", to which Mr. Blier's piano contributed some harmonically interesting ascending figures. She clearly knows how to get a song across, which is true of all of these young artists. Later in the evening she sang "J'attends un navire" from Kurt Weill's Marie Gallant. Ms. Rosen sang it with passion and intensity. Whew!
Baritone John Brancy sang a soulful version of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" to a wild piano arrangement. Later in the program he sang "I'm a Jonah Man" with as much substance as style. We always enjoy whatever Mr. Brancy gets his hands on. Later he sang "If Ever I Would Leave You" from Lerner and Loewe's Camelot--a real romantic stunner.
Tenor Theo Lebow sang "The Judgment of Paris" from Offenbach's La Belle Hélène, in fine French; he sang it with such excellent dramatic instincts that it wasn't necessary to understand the French. Later he sang a Swedish song, the title and composer of which we did not catch. Mr. Lebow has a fine flair for languages.
Tenor Paul Appleby has admirable dramatic instincts married to a fine voice and we have enjoyed hearing him for years. Last night he sang Paul Simon's "So Far Away From Home". And he sang something from a song cycle by William Bolcom which we did not recognize, with four hands at the piano. We enjoyed him the most in his duet with Julia Bullock-- "Only Make Believe" from Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern's Showboat. These two gifted performers gave a sincere and affecting performance that had an interesting twist at the end when Mr. Brancy joined the twosome and made a threesome.
Ms. Bullock, a soprano of incomparable artistry, could sing the phonebook and we'd be enthralled. When she performed "Little David Play on Your Harp" we forgot we didn't like "spirituals". Now we do! That's amazing when a performance can turn you around like that!
The program ended with the entire cast performing a song about which we know nothing. Was it "Zumba"? It matters little. Everyone enjoyed themselves, as did the audience.
Long may NYFOS thrive. Viva NYFOS! They sing the songs. We sing their praises.
(c) meche kroop