What can we say about bass-baritone Joseph Parrish that we haven't already said? We were curious to see how many times we have reviewed this gifted artist who seems to be singing everywhere these days, especially after being chosen by Young Concert Artists in 2022. We believe the first time was in Pauline Viardot's Cendrillon with City Lyric Opera as the Baron Pictordu. His gifts were already evident and noted.
Yesterday we heard him again, thanks to Carnegie Hall Citywide at St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church with collaborative pianist JoyAnne Amani whose fine playing kept up with him every step of the way. There were two instances however, when Mr. Parrish elected to accompany himself, a situation we perceive as rather miraculous. To be excellent in one art is impressive. To be excellent at two? Astonishing!
The program was untitled but every song was about love! There was plenty of variety from German lied and French mélodie to songs of The American Songbook. We have learned from our dear Steven Blier that the category doesn't matter. If a song is well written it merits our esteem.
Mr. Parrish opened the program with a pair of songs by Henry T. Burleigh, a composer who, as Mr. Parrish shared with the audience, was the first to record spirituals on paper. But we were not to hear those spirituals yesterday; we heard his love songs--four of them, all of them tender and melodic.
One of Mr. Parrish's most appealing features is the manner in which he addresses the audience, as if he were in a room full of friends, completely natural and without any pretension whatsoever. The sanctuary was packed and the members of the audience were held spellbound.
His fine technique includes the use of rubato and dynamic variation for emotional effect, as well as the generous use of gesture and facial expression to tell a story. This was most notable in his performance of "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" from Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady in which he created quite a portrait of Henry Higgins.
We have heard him before accompanying himself in "Calling You" written by Bob Telson for the film Baghdad Cafe and we are always happy to hear it again. He sang it simply and played the spare searching accompaniment with depth of feeling.
After a generous program ranging from Schubert, Debussy, and Duparc to Dizzy Gillespie, Cole Porter and Jerome Kern, this versatile artist ended with a more recent song by Adam Guettel which emphasized the importance of community. We then realized that Mr. Parrish had created a community within the audience. Somehow we think everyone there felt both loving and loved.
An encore was demanded and we believe it was Luther Vandross' "Only for One Night" in which we heard a fine falsetto!
© meche kroop