It's very exciting~ I've been selected as one of 28 Quarter-Finalists for the American Traditions Competition. After an intense application process and pre-screening, the judges selected just 28 contestants from all over the United States, to compete as part of a week-long festival in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, in late February. Unlike so many competitions, this one reimburses travel costs, and provides host-housing during the festival.
Each of these contestants specialize in versatility of the voice- as they must demonstrate the ability to sing across all genres, from Opera to Country and Folk Songs to Jazz and Hymns & Spirituals, to Broadway! I am very excited about befriending and hearing other people who love these genres as much as I do.
A description from their website states: "The American Traditions Competition was established as a world renowned arts institution located in Savannah, Georgia. It was established to provide a forum for showcasing tomorrow's vocal talents and superstars; and to celebrate the diverse repertoire of standard, classic American music."
This song: "The Sweetheart Tree"---was my favorite clip that I submitted for the application (I also submitted Star Dust, and Girl in 14G, which you can watch on my youtube page); but this simple Johnny Mercer song, has special meaning for me- I remember singing it as a kid when my Mom gave me a bunch of old sheet music from my Grandfather's Piano Store. I never knew my Papa Kurtz; he died from Heart Disease before I was born, but I have been told lots of stories about him by my 98 year-old Nannee (grandma) in Nashville, TN. That stack of old sheet music was well-loved by me, because for some reason just knowing it was labeled by my Papa and sitting in his store in the 50's and 60's always took me to a different place. Sometimes, a simpler place. At least, that's how I imagine it. Like this song.
I have been honored to have the privilege of performing on stage at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall this past weekend in New York City. It was simply an amazing experience to perform there as First Prize Winner of the Barry Alexander International Opera Competition. I was so impressed by the caliber of singers performing that day!
The most common question I've been asked is:
What did I sing?
As some of my friends know, I am passionate about arranging a cappella spirituals and hymns, in order to highlight their words, and allow expression that isn't bound to a piano or other accompaniment. So, I sang my version of "He Never Said a Mumblin' Word", a traditional American Spiritual. And afterwards, a woman I didn't know said to me, "Rachel, You've changed my life. You've ministered to me. There are things in my life I am going to change now for the better. Thank you for that gift." It was so powerful to hear of her experience as I shared this part of myself.
This is what music is, and how it helps us to become better people. I know that it is just one small instance of the effect that happens with music all over the world; when humans embrace their humanity, and connect with one another on a spiritual level. Music allows us to access that connection, simply by being in the same room and sharing with each other.
After the spiritual, the amazing pianist Eric Sedgwick joined me and we picked things up with "Girl in 14-G" by Jeanine Tesori, just before intermission. The song was originally written for Kristin Chenoweth, it's a comical song about a girl who has just moved into a new place and soon finds out that the quiet apartment she thought she had, has an opera singer below her and a noisy jazz singer above her. I performed it this summer as well and that video is here.
And the final piece on the Winner's Recital was Bell Song, from Lakme. I love this aria for it's beautiful story and captivating technical difficulty!
My husband Trent was there, and my Mother Melinda as well, we had such a great time in NYC.
I owe so much to my family, they are the best!
Special thanks to Mr. Barry Alexander and Mr. Cosmo Buono for organizing such a fantastic experience for the winners.
And to the audience that filled the hall, you filled my heart. Thank you.
~ Rachel Sparrow
That's my motto!