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 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!
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… 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.
JS: Polish is 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.