Chautauqua Voice Program Students Learn By Doing in First Concert

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Performing a mix of repertoires ranging from Ravel to Debussy, students in the Voice Program will sing in their first regular concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in McKnight Hall.

Head Vocal Coach Don St. Pierre said the philosophy of the department is that one learns by doing, as well as by lessons.

“We try to make sure that as many students as possible get performance opportunities,” he said. “We can find out so much about these singers by letting them do what they love doing, which is performing in public.”

He said the Voice Program is lucky that there exists such a loyal and supportive audience that shows up to the Wednesday concerts. Today’s will feature 10 students, seven of whom are new to Chautauqua.

“The audience will get a chance to hear some new voices,” he said. “And they will also hear voices that have been here before, and see how the kids have grown in the meantime.”

Like the Sing-In, this first concert will function as an introduction, but with a more elaborate program and longer performance times for each student. St. Pierre said even though the Sing-In is not supposed to feel like a stressful audition, it tends to be nerve-racking.

“This concert, however, feels like, ‘Oh, a concert! I get to perform!’ ” he said.

Different students will sing different numbers of pieces, and the program for the evening will range from the baroque Handel to the contemporary Libby Larsen.

Back at Chautauqua for the second summer, Michael Hawk will be performing Ravel’s three-song set “The Don Quichotte à Dulcinée,” which he performed recently at his senior recital at SUNY Fredonia.

Hawk said his first year here was shocking because of the strong voices he encountered.

“Last summer was kind of a culture shock for me, but in a good way,” he said. “I went back to school in the fall and brought every major breakthrough I had with me.”

Calvet Young, who is new to Chautauqua, will sing three songs by Bellini. His impression of the program thus far has been positive.

“These are the most talented people I’ve been able to perform with,” Young said. “Which is really cool, but also kind of scary.”

He said having gone through the Sing-In, performing at this first concert will feel like a weight is lifted off his back.

Amy Yarham, from Perth, Australia, is also new to the Voice Program. She will be performing two arias, from two different operas; Que fais-tu, blanche tourterelle? by Gounod and Mozart’s Smanie implacabili. In the Gounod aria, Yarham will play the part of a 7-year-old boy, but in the second one, she will sing as a girl.

“I go from like a cheeky little boy, to a young girl throwing a temper tantrum,” she said. “I will try to bring that into my acting, which I personally feel is so important for presentation. I love bringing [characters] into the world, not only in my singing, but also with my acting.”

Kresley Figueroa, a veteran of the Voice Program, will be performing Ariettes oubliées by Debussy.

“It’s so gorgeous, and it’s so cool because Debussy is impressionistic, so it’s a lot of sounds that you won’t typically hear in opera,” Figueroa said. “If you love opera, this may be something you’re not accustomed to, but they are beautifully written for the voice. This set is also very sensual, so if you’re looking for romance, bring a dinner date.”

Andrew Manzella

The author Andrew Manzella

Andrew Manzella is a reporter and feature writer from western New York. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in journalism from SUNY Buffalo State.