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June 1, 2010

“Summer Breeze”

Categories: Music

Summer Breeze
Llettesha Sylvester’s Senior Recital
May 22, 2010
University of the Southern Caribbean, New Building Auditorium

General comments

The location and setting were ideal for a recital. No microphones or amplification were employed – this allowed the audience to hear the true skill of the artiste(s). The lighting and decoration were wonderful. It aided the setting, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb.

The volume of the keyboard was set at a comfortable level. I’ll take the time to say that I appreciated this. The trend in modern media seems to suggest that the accompaniment should be on par or louder than the singer – this most disturbing trend has destroyed the true meaning of “song”. The volume setting was also indicative of an understanding of classical works – there were no acoustical boosts in the classical era, and thus patrons would have to grab the best seats to enjoy the works. Unfortunately, the current era’s ‘technology’ has made for lazy listeners.

Llettesha has excellent command of the stage – indeed a stage presence that causes the audience to pay attention to what she’s doing… and to what will happen next! What one can term her “lack of movement” was actually movement indeed – every head/hand movement was in step with her performance, and indeed was a sign of incredible control. There is no need for superfluous gestures when you’re in control.

She has a brilliant understanding of musical idioms – she shapes her syllables brilliantly! I had many wow moments… including the final vocal phrase of “Summertime”… but we’ll get to that. Also noticeable was a superlative control of dynamics. Thankfully I had a seat quite close in, so I enjoyed that.

The accompanist did justice and captured the essence of each piece. This was no easy feat… of a repertoire that included diverse styles, from different localities/time periods. Music isn’t merely about getting notes right… it is chiefly about portraying images and pictures intended (or imagined) by the composer.

Songs

(Please note: some of the links are not active anymore.)

Agnus Dei (from Coronation) – W.A. Mozart

(Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXahJYGkYX4)
Excellent opening piece. The piece allowed us to understand the range and aptitude of the singer quite early. It had a calming effect; it was a welcome exit from the blaring loudspeakers that were more prevalent at the time (i.e. national elections).

Laudamus Te – Antonio Vivaldi

(Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMQRlOWuBmc )
Wonderful! This was a most delightful duet. A contrapuntal masterpiece, it held my attention from start to end; it contained such beautiful musical idioms! Both singers were quite capable, working well together and had good stage presence. Great pronunciation as well.

Standchen – Franz Schubert

(Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjjXgkXX5ZY )
This was one of my favourites on the night. Excellent choice – a lovely play between the minor and major keys, and captivating mood changes. What took me in this piece was her vocal control. This is where she nailed the dynamics. I kept looking for signs of unease – but (as were the other times I checked during the recital) there were none to be seen.

O liebliche Wangen – Johannes Brahms

(Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7xFIpzBRxw – third part, begins at 5:35 )
The other revelation came to me here. Llettesha’s understanding and execution of the songs in foreign languages are above par. At this, I was quite amazed. She really performed these Lieder well (this, and the one before). The suspense of this piece was riveting.

O mio babbino caro – Giacomo Puccini

(Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ul9OTShQ_rc )
Well placed in the set. One of the joys of this recital was the ability to hear the differing styles/time periods, and note the differences. The Italian set (this, and the following one) were beautiful. Italian calls for powerful vocals, and she was more than up to the task.

La Ci Darem La Mano – W. A. Mozart

(Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEDnmGnYb6I )
This was easily the crowd favourite. These two young singers captivated the minds of the audience. Excellent stage presence. Both seemed quite comfortable with the mood of this piece – they were able to capture the essence of this love song so well! And their singing was not compromised. Strong command by the male voice, and lovely subtleties in the female. Their facial expressions added credibility to their execution (especially Llettesha’s at the end!) This piece attracted the loudest round of applause for the evening – and quite well deserved.

Love’s Philosophy – Roger Quilter

(Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rc_jLfA-SA )
This piece made me recall again Llettesha’s excellent interpretation of music. Excellent pronunciation – one must understand that ‘true English’ is not the native tongue of the Trinidadian. Excellent upper register – she’s seems quite comfortable with this range.

Because of Who You Are – Sandi Patti

(Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h73oI-0BJck )
(Singer: Raevae Chrysostom)
Lovely and timeless piece. Raevae passionately executed this classic. I saw someone who believed the words that she sang… I raise this, because this isn’t quite common. When you convey your beliefs through your confidence and gesticulations, the audience keys into this, and are positively affected. She handled this quite well. And, of course, the high note at the end. Wow. I was shocked.

Ride on King Jesus

(Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFM9GjwZBxw )
Spirituals need different skills. They can grab your attention if the singer is adept and soulful… if not, well, it’ll be different. Llettesha did quite well on the vocals of this. My only constructive criticism of the evening – the intensity was felt in her voice, but not as much visually. Spirituals are associated with convincing gesticulations as much as with convincing vocals. But it didn’t take away heavily from the performance!

I Could Have Danced All Night – Frederick Loewe

(Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XApSFvSnub0 )
Wonderful selection, and wonderful execution of this Broadway piece. Both the vocalist and the accompanist did well together here to recreate the feel of this timeless piece. This was one of the better renditions I’ve heard.

Summertime – George Gershwin

(Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JpPkp1f0So )
I must confess my bias for this song straightway. This is a beautiful, lilting number, and one of my favourites. Again, Llettesha’s understanding of this piece was above par, and contributed positively to her execution of this piece. The glissando at the end – wow! What excellent control of the voice! Excellent use of dynamics here, excellent pitch, excellent stage presence. Coming in as the penultimate number, I appreciated her ability to still hang in there to nail this song. Hats off to the accompanist here. My favourite of the evening.

Climb Ev’ry Mountain – Richard Rogers

(Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSCs_0f18Hk )
Motivational, positive and classic. A good note on which to end the recital. Pun intended. Brought back a few memories too. In my primary school day, this was a song that was mandatory for choirs. Llettesha still had enough energy to deliver this number, and she hit the final note quite cleanly!

Closing Remarks

Having missed Llettesha’s run at T&T Music Festival 2010, I could not afford to miss this treat – and I was very happy that I attended. I was moved enough to write this commentary.

Llettesha already has a fine set of attributes that make her a world-class musician. I must mention that humility is one of the greater skills needed in music. One must have a mind that’s open to differences of styles, era and language. This is indeed something that Llettesha possesses, and she will continue to grow exponentially as she continues to be open.

Let me roundly thank those who contributed to her musical development (Mr. Murray, USC, her family), and her many supporters and well-wishers.

I pray for her success, and for the purity of her talent. There are many who would accept mediocre standards (and will pay big money for it), but the musician must not settle for less than excellence – indeed, no artist should. I hope that she resists the urge to ‘settle’, as many do for money.

Climb every mountain my dear, forge every stream; follow every rainbow, ‘til you find your dream.


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