The vocalists of Music for Three (mezzo-soprano Ellen Graham, soprano Jackie Stevens, and mezzo-soprano Lauren McAllister) sat down with us to discuss this week’s concert.
Join us on May 12 at 7 PM at the 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati.
CSB: Could you tell us a bit about your past experiences singing together?
LM: I have been singing with these awesome performers for several years. We have worked together on a variety of concerts with many ensembles in Cincinnati. Jackie and Ellen are phenomenal musicians with gorgeous voices, and I am so glad to take part in this unique project with them!
JS: Lauren and I have done so many gigs together, I can’t count them. We love working together. One of my favorite experiences with Lauren was performing Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater with Cincinnati Chamber Opera. It’s a two woman show of baroque yumminess, and we’ve been talking about doing it again ever since!
Additionally, Ellen and I both sing at Knox Presbyterian, so we see each other twice on a weekly basis. Outside of church choir, we have done a few other choral gigs together, so I am excited to work with her in a closer capacity.
EG: Jackie and I sing together at Knox Presbyterian and Collegium Cincinnati, though our first time singing together was actually a gig singing Finnish folk music for trio women’s voices, so this is a format we are familiar with. Lauren and I met in the Cincinnati Opera Chorus, but sing together with a variety of groups.
CSB: What past collaborations have you shared with the composers on this concert?
EG: This is my first time working with Cincinnati Soundbox and this group of composers. I am looking forward to future collaborations, though!
LM: I have worked with Rachel since we were both students at CCM. I have premiered several of her works, including a piece for voice and percussion for last April’s Soundbox concert. I have performed choral works by Laura Harrison and Julia Seeholzer while at CCM. Stephen Variames and I work together often; I performed his set of songs for Mezzo and Baritone for the Lynx Project’s Autism Advocacy Project, and I have been fortunate to read through many of his other works for voice. We also have something exciting in the works for next year — stay tuned!
JS: Oh gosh, where do I begin? Ellen Harrison has been a wonderful mentor and friend to me over the past few years. I have sung and recorded many of her pieces for solo voice and obligato instruments and participated in a recording session of one of her choral pieces. I find her music hauntingly beautiful and love singing it!
Julia and I did our masters degrees together and I premiered a song cycle of hers on one of my doctoral recitals. I find her music edgy and powerful with moments of beautiful tenderness. I cannot wait to see what she contributes over the course of her compositional career.
I am excited to perform Laura’s piece! She and I have been trying to make our schedules line up for years, so it will be lovely to finally perform one of her works. I look forward to growing more familiar with her music.
Stephen Variames and I go back way back to 2015 when we were at CCM together. We have gigged together on many occasions, and he is a fantastic musician and collaborator. This is the first time I get to perform a composition of his!
I have performed a few of Rachel’s pieces before and have really enjoyed them! Her music tends to be very free in structure, which can lend itself to more artistic freedom for the performers, making every performance a unique one. I am excited and terrified to sing in Chinese!
CSB: How have you approached the new works written for this concert?
LM: I spend a lot of time with each text, then I focus on the interplay between voices (for example, which voice highlights an interesting harmonic structure or an important segment of text?).
EG: After Lauren and I sorted out who would sing which mezzo line in which pieces, I started by learning the texts for each work.
JS: New music requires a special kind if diligence. A lot of time has been spent at the piano getting to know the unique harmonic languages of each of these composers. Also… Chinese and Polish… Need I say more?
CSB: Were there any specific challenges you faced while preparing these pieces?
LM: This concert has given me the opportunity to push myself linguistically. This will be my first experience singing in Polish, and I am still very new to singing in Chinese.
JS: Chinese and Polish are new to me! That has been challenging.
EG: I have never sung in Polish before.
CSB: What are other upcoming projects on your radar?
LM: I am grateful to have a busy few months ahead! I am excited to travel back and forth to Austin to sing with the choral ensemble Conspirare. I have a second Cincinnati Soundbox concert featuring voice, percussion, and bass, I am covering the role of Ännchen in Queen City Opera’s Der Freischütz, and I have two upcoming recitals in the works to be announced soon.
JS: I’ll be singing the soprano solos in A Child of Our Time with Walnut Hills High School along with Lauren.
EG: I am making my mainstage debut with Cincinnati Opera singing the role of Dryade in Ariadne auf Naxos. The spring has been busy, so I’m looking forward to a little break after that.