A Musical Launch

For a couple years N and I have talked about starting a professional choir here in the Triangle, and last spring we decided to stop talking and make it happen. There isn’t a professional choir here that specializes in early music, nor one that performs across the entire 3-city area, so that gave us inspiration for our group: Voices of a New Renaissance.

VOANR logo

Our first concerts are tonight and tomorrow. We’ve gathered ten of the best singers from around the Triangle,

Voices of a New Renaissance members

(one of them missing from this photo, but official group photos coming soon!) and our rehearsals so far have been thrilling.

The program for this weekend is titled Sacred and Profane and it explores both the sacred and the secular sides of vocal music. We’ll sing Renaissance favorites like Palestrina’s “Sicut Cervus” (and its little-performed second part, “Sitivit anima mea”) and “Hosanna to the Son of David” by Weelkes, plus selections from Britten’s multi-movement “Sacred and Profane” which is stunning, and Craig Wiggins joins us for lute songs by Dowland and his contemporaries.

N is conducting, and I volunteered to manage the business aspects of the group, along with singing in the choir of course. I always need to have a project going, and I’ve enjoyed the organizational and promotional aspects of the smaller groups I’ve managed, Les Sirènes and the Swara Sonora Trio. Running VOANR seemed like a logical next step. N and I have been busy getting everything up and running, but so far it feels like everything is totally under control. Are we crazy?

If you’re in the Triangle area, please join us tonight or tomorrow. Complete concert details are on our website, www.voanr.com. If you’re far away and you want to follow VOANR’s progress, find us on Facebook or join our email list.

And wish us luck!


Fly on the Wall: Recording

This is my view for most of this week:

TCA recording view

I’m making a recording with Tucson Chamber Artists — all world-premiere recordings of music by American composer Stephen Paulus. It’s going very well so far. I enjoy the intensive, focused work that recording demands. It’s completely different from my usual performing experience. I’m in sneakers and jeans, making the very best sound I can at each moment, trading the spontaneity of connecting with a live audience for inner focus on musicality and perfection.

You’ve seen recording sessions in movies and videos; when you think of making a recording you probably imagine the musicians in a studio, wearing headphones and performing behind a glass wall, like in the great ’80s video We Are the World. That’s not how it works in the classical music world.

Classical music is usually recorded on-site in a concert hall or church. This week we’re at Catalina Foothills High School’s beautiful auditorium, the best small hall in Tucson. No one but the producer and recording engineer are wearing headphones. There are A LOT of microphones scattered about the stage:

TCA recording

The engineers will later be able to do some mixing of how much sound from each mic is used, but it’s not like pop music, where you can record one instrument at a time. Everyone plays or sings everything on every take. It’s exhausting but exhilarating too.

Our GRAMMY-winning producer Peter Rutenberg sits behind stage with the engineers and calls out his feedback and requests over a speaker, his disembodied voice commanding us to take it again, this time with more/less/better/higher/lower/softer/louder whatever. Peter requested several modifications to our usual mode of singing, including silent clothing and jewelry (no taffeta or jingly earrings!) and covering our stands with towels to reduce page-turning noise.

recording stands

Breaks are crucial to give the voice, legs, and brain a rest. There’s plenty of socializing and laughing during breaks, but sometimes we’re quiet too. Even during a one-minute pause when Peter and Tucson Chamber Artists’ conductor Eric Holtan discuss something, we plop down to go somewhere else mentally for a moment.

recording break

I must confess, I have spent a fair number of free minutes vegging out with this (darn you, Candy Crush, why are you so addictive?):

Candy Crush screen

One more day to go. I’m looking forward to the words “it’s a wrap!”, to celebrating with my colleagues tonight, and especially to hearing the album when it’s released this fall.

Delight in Dallas

In my lifetime I’ve probably flown through Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport over 100 times. I’ve never been outside the airport to experience the city it serves, but my singing travels take me through DFW sometimes ten or more times a year. I’d say I’m a pretty experienced DFW flyer.

So here’s my expert advice: if you have more than an hour’s layover, head to Terminal D. Even if neither of your connecting flights has anything to do with Terminal D. Terminals A through C are serviceable but there’s nothing nice about them. They have low ceilings, stale air, and restrooms too far apart. Terminal D, by contrast, is a great work of aviation architecture, or at least a nice place to spend an hour between flights.TerminalD

It’s airy and light, surprisingly quiet, and several degrees warmer than the aforementioned other terminals which force me to carry on a jacket just for my layovers. Terminal D has nice food selections, shopping options, and public art.DFW floor


There’s even a section of comfy armchairs away from any boarding gate, but I forget exactly where that is and couldn’t find it today. Terminal D rivals Charlotte for pleasantness, and pleasantness is hard to come by during a day of air travel, unless you’re fancy enough to belong to an airline lounge.TerminalD-art


In case my frequent repetition of its name hasn’t burned Terminal D into your brain, I have a simple mnemonic for remembering which terminal it is. Once I flew through Dallas with my friend Aryo and we had an argument about whether it was D or E that was the nice terminal. He may have been trying to get my goat, but he insisted it was E. I was 100 percent sure it was D. I told him, “D for delightful.” I was right, of course. I don’t mess around when it comes to Terminal D. As I began writing this post, I realized that one could also, more obviously, remember “D for Dallas.” So there you have it. One more travel day made more Delightful (or at least less oppressive) by DFW’s Terminal D.