This past weekend, The National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM) held it's regional conference in Oakland, CA, and asked me to perform and accompany on two occasions.
On Friday night, April 27, 2007, I performed with the wonderful Jeannine Anderson. She chose 2 pieces, Senza mamma from Puccini's Suor Angelica and an arrangement of the spiritual "Witness" arranged by Hale Smith, in that order. Both were riveting performances. Jeannine explained the scene from Suor Angelica, the torment of the lead character, who had been living in a cloistered convent (punishment for having had a child out of wedlock) upon learning of the death of her child six months after the fact. It is a very difficult and moving role to perform.
Hale Smith's arrangement of "Witness" is wonderful; full of angular rhythms and lush, jazz influenced chords. I had so much fun accompanying Jeannine for both pieces!
On Sunday afternoon, April 29, 2007, NANM held their annual spirituals concert. Normally, the concert is packed with numerous attendees, including fans, patrons, other musicians, etc. However, this year the audience was relatively small, though enthusiastic, thanks to the disastrous tanker accident that destroyed part of a major freeway system in the Bay Area that same morning. Nonetheless, we performers gave our all!
I performed my own arrangements of a pair of spirituals: "Heav'n, Heav'n" and "Ain't Gon' Study War No Mo'", which were both very well received. Despite my exhaustion at having played for 3 church services that morning, and having rehearsed before the concert with the sopranos I was to accompany (oh, and did I mention teaching on Saturday 9-2 and then playing another church service that afternoon, and then practicing until midnight!?!), I played with joy and energy. It was easy to use the knowledge of the origin of the spirituals to motivate me to bring my best to the music.
I accompanied Yolanda Harden on improvised arrangements of "Were You There" and "Hold On". Yolanda did a great job, and audience loved both pieces! Finally, I accompanied Hope Briggs on Roland Carter's arrangement of "Is There Anybody Here" and Margaret Bonds' "He's Got The Whole World In His Hand". Hope was wonderful and will be featured this summer in the San Francisco Opera's production of Don Giovanni, singing the role of Donna Anna.
I love accompanying great artists! I'm so grateful for the opportunity and look forward to doing more!