Sunday, March 11, 2012


After about one hundred years of listening to singers and teaching them, it is very hard for a new singer to blow me away. Until last night, that is. Kate Lindsey, a young mezzo, who has sung at the Met and various other venues, did just that. In spades!

She sang a vocal recital of French music at Smith College that was perfection in every way. Her insight into the songs was complete and her vocal technique easy and varied. The timbre of her voice and her complete involvement in everything she sang reminded me of the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberman. She has a dark rich low register which moves easily into the top of the voice. Only occasionally did she become a bit shrill up there. Afterwards I told her that I hadn't heard singing like that in a long time. And I really meant it.

Her program began with a number of songs by Claude Debussy including both the Chanson de Bilitis and Fetes Galantes cycles. The second half of the program contained songs by other French composers who lived in Debussy's Paris. The entire weekend of programs at the college entitled 'Music in Debussy's Paris' was fashioned by Jane Bryden, a Professor of Voice at Smith.

Ms. Lindsey's pianist was Craig Terry, who was equally accomplished and involved. He played several solo works of Debussy between groups of songs. This is a tradition that goes back several decades. As a young person, attending Community Concerts at the Kellogg Auditorium in Battle Creek, Michigan, I remember that whenever there was a vocal recital, it was de riguer that the pianist perform a solo group.

Today Ms. Lindsey returned to Smith to present a master class for some of the vocal students in the School of Music. She had some very good interpretive advice for these young singers. But they are young. As Auntie Mame said to Agnes Gooch, 'You've got to live, Agnes, live!' Of course after Agnes had lived, she came home pregnant. So, young singers, that is not necessary to gain experience.

I was less happy with some of the physical things she had the singers try. Often she would have another singer come forward so the performer had a live person to react with in the presentation of the text. This worked fine.

However she got very physically involved with the students as well, massaging their backs and shoulders, standing behind them with an arm around them in a sort of musical bear hug while they leaned on her to achieve the pelvic tilt she was after. Anna Hamlin, my long ago voice teacher and former head of the voice faculty at Smith, had a much easier way to achieve this pelvic tilt, if that's what you want. She simply said 'Sink in your pants, girls!' I know that were I to lay hands on a student in this way I would probably be arrested. I guess it's a 'girl on girl' thing.

Ms. Lindsey is a very talented young singer and I look forward to following her career with interest.