We’re getting started up at Caramoor with this year’s Vocal Rising Stars residency. Every year has been so intense and so different, with a new program and a new group dynamic. This time we’re working on a French-American program that ranges, NYFOS-style, from Roussel and Poulenc to Rorem and Irving Berlin. The group numbers were really hot from the very first day, including a ridiculously good rendition of the finale, “The Boy From New York City.”
I didn’t know baritone Eugene Chan had a 60s backup singer living within him, but he does. (He’e also a fabulous interpreter of Poulenc.) Canadian mezzo Kristin Hoff sings American jazz with a kind of abandon I don’t associate with Canadian mezzos. She sounds like Diane Schuur without the glass-cutting rasp. Meredith Lustig floats the faux-raga “Un sapin isolé” by Maurice Delage perfectly, and breaks my heart with her rendition of “A Tree in the Park” by Rodgers and Hart. Brent Ryan has wit, charm, brains, and a killer high C; he’s nailing all his songs.
We usually have a couple of live-wire, ringleader personalities every year, but this time the energy is more introverted and sweet. There doesn’t seem to be a lightning-rod in the bunch, just four serious, smart, hardworking people making art together. Rehearsing the Blitzstein quartet In Twos, Meredith said, “I just can’t hear the other singers well, I can’t feel the blend.” And I blurted out, “Well, maybe you should all just lie under the piano together, that’s the best place to hear everything.” She said, “Great, I’m game.” Me: “Really?” Meredith: “Yeah, really,” as she assumed the position. Soon everyone was lying under the piano and singing In Twos. The ensemble was vastly improved, and the spirit of the song was palpable. “So…how was that, Meredith?” I asked. “Somewhat better…” was her answer.