Steven Blier: Piano
Michael Barrett: Piano
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Orpheus with his lute
Marc Blitzstein: Cross-Spoon
Lauren Worhsam and Theo Hoffman
William Bolcom: I knew a Woman
Antonin Dvorak: Mé srdce casto v bolesti
Edvard Grieg: En svane
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Spring waters
Sergei Rachmaninoff: To her
Anonymous Spanish: El dulce de America
Enrique Granados: El mirror de la maja
Jorge Anckermann: Flor de Yumuri
Ernesto Lecuona: Como el arrullo de palmas
Paul Appleby and John Brancy
Gabriel Faure: En sourdine
Francis Poulenc: Tu vois le feu du soir
Stephen Sondheim: Talent
Fats Waller: Aint-cho glad
Michael John Lachiusa: Heaven
Carmichael: Old buttermilk sky
Adam Guettel: Awaiting you
Jonathan Larson: Hosing the furniture
Franz Schubert: Die Taubenpost
John Lennon and Paul McCartney: In my life
Julia Bullocks and Theo Hoffman
After happily basking in a lot of instrumental music lately, the time had come to focus on the wonderful capacities of the human voice. And that is just what my visiting friend Nicole and I did on Tuesday night at New York Festival of Songs’ 30th anniversary celebration in Kaufman Music Center’s Merkin Concert Hall after a super-busy day filled with business, because we kind of had to, and pleasure, because we definitely wanted it. That was also the perfect opportunity for Nicole to reconnect with a lot of people she used to work with and for me to become acquainted with NYFOS’ mission and artists.
For that very special occasion, the very special program featured an impressively wide range of offerings, which is the least you can say when names like Sergei Rachmaninoff, Ernesto Lecuona, Hoagy Carmichael and Lennon & McCartney appear on the same page. And to top it all off, the performers were an extraordinary group of singers, two of whom, Julia Bullocks and Paul Appleby, I had heard previously and was very much looking forward to hearing again.
The concert started with baritone Theo Hoffman singing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Orpheus with his lute”, which happens to be the first song ever performed on a NYFOS stage. This interesting bit of trivia, and the many entertaining introductions that would precede almost every tune, were provided by Steven Blier, NYFOS’ co-founder and artistic director. NYFOS’ other co-founder and associate artistic director Michael Barrett was also there, and both men seamlessly shared accompaniment duty at the piano, with the occasional help of Jack Gulielmetti at the classical guitar, David Ostwald at the tuba and Eric Borghi at the percussion.
The four ladies who took the stage at various times had a lot going for them, each in her own special way: the perky soprano Lauren Worhsam, the soulful soprano Antonina Chehovska, the sassy soprano Julia Bullocks and the veteran mezzo-soprano Mary Testa. The three gentlemen seemed to have just as much of a ball and we all got to indulge in Theo Hoffman’s liveliness, tenor Paul Appleby’s dreaminess and baritone John Brancy’s somberness.
There of course had to be an encore involving all the singers for a “song that everybody knew”, and we concluded the festive event with a rousing performance of The Beatles’ notorious ode to reggae and silliness “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”.