We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Monday, December 21, 2015


David Gordon, Emily Gu Siegel, and Larry Long

We all know where great matches are made; Chelsea Opera joined forces with Kindred Spirits to produce a fine family-oriented Christmas entertainment--Bending Towards the Light...A Jazz Nativity.  Chelsea Opera is well known to us and has been reviewed by us many times; we have spent many evenings enjoying their productions.  Kindred Spirits is new to us; it was created to educate through music. Their Children's Jazz Choirs educate inner city children, teaching them songs of the great American composers.

The jazz artists on the program, although unknown to us,  seem to be famous in their field and the source of a great deal of energy, shaking the rafters of Christ and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. We spotted drums and piano, trombone and trumpet, and more types of saxophone than we ever knew existed.  They seemed analogous to the several fachs of the human voice. Moreover, we spotted a teeny tiny trombone! We even witnessed some wildly competitive tap dancing.

This was a highly American version of the nativity story. When we first arrived in New York, we recall attending Dave Brubeck's "La Fiesta de la Posada".  Lo and behold, there was Brubeck's arrangement of "God's Love Made Visible" played on the piano by Adam Asarnow.

But the loveliest song was "Bending Towards the Light".  Early in the program it was sung by Chelsea Opera's own Leonarda Priore, substituting for the absent Deborah Voigt who could not have sung it any better. We think of Ms. Priore as an opera singer but she clearly has a way with jazz as well, in this arrangement by Anne Phillips who also conducted and performed as a Guardian Angel.

An adorable youngster, pictured above, gave it a second hearing.  Music by Bob Kindred, lyrics by Henry Timm and Anne Phillips. It's penultimate iteration was sung by the company and the final one was performed by the band. We were glad that this jazz was pre-Ornette Coleman and quite listenable. We heard some fine scat-singing as well.

The program was first presented in 1985 at St. Peter's Lutheran Church and since that time has been performed at St. Bartholomew's, the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, Avery Fisher Hall (a name we choose to preserve in spite of the renaming), Birdland, B.B. King's (in Spanish), and venues all over the United States.  Last night it was co-produced by Ms. Priore, Lynne Hayden-Findlay and Ms. Phillips.

It was quite a celebration and a perfect example of synergy, when forces combine to create something that is unique and greater than the sum of its parts.

(c) meche kroop

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