5.6.20 On this day... Celebrating Katie Procell
As always, I hope you are keeping safe, wearing masks when you are out, and are keeping up your spirits during this time. One of the things we have been doing while spend a lot more time at home has been going through my "nostalgia box," and finding what to keep, what to archive and scrapbook, and what to toss. So many concert programs from my own music and other people's events! One special program I uncovered was dated May 6, 2018. It was Katie Procell, singing Olivier Messiaen's surreal and glorious Harawi: Chants de l'amour et de la mort. Little did I know that when I went to that concert at An Die Musik, it would shape the course of my musical career for years to come. Facebook at some point developed a cute "friendversary" program, but since I'm still off that platform, I'd like to take a moment to celebrate this amazing artist, collaborator and friend.
I decided to go to Katie's concert purely based upon the repertoire. I think I had vaguely heard of name in the Baltimore artosphere, but did not know her abilities or anything about her. Harawi is one of my favorite pieces of music, which, because of its range, timescale, and well, Messiaen-ness... is very rarely programmed, so I had to make time to witness it.
And am I ever glad that I did! Katie is an enchanting performer, bringing not only a masterful command of pitch and color to her interpretation of a work, but successfully emoting in a way which further draws you into the present, temporal experience of the performance. One shouldn't lean back and close one's eyes when Katie sings... that would be missing a key component of the drama!
After the performance, I approached Katie about working together on a concert of some kind - something I would help promote and organize and we could come up with a program that included one or two of my pieces, sort of in the mode of the American Masses concert that I had co-produced several years earlier with conductor and vocalist Joshua Glassman. I will never forget our meeting at The Bun Shop to discuss this idea, with Katie counter-offering that we should just do a concert of only my work. That a performer would be interested in that idea was staggering to me, but I was hardly going to say no! So we put together a program of my pieces setting or involved American poetry, which became All In The Sound: Songs on the Poetry of Whitman, Williams, and Stein.
Since that first collaboration, Katie and I have worked on several other concert projects together, including La Noche Pura: Canciones Hispanas y Españolas, which was produced both in Baltimore and at Spectrum NYC's Brooklyn location and May She Love: Songs & Opera Celebrating Sappho & Stein. In her stamina, range, and adventurousness with my music, Katie has been one of the greatest champions of my music. She is one of the reasons that my vocal repertoire has, until recently, skewed so heavily towards the soprano range, and was directly responsible for the creation of a number of my text settings:
All in the Sound for Soprano & Piano (2017), texts by William Carlos Williams
Beyond Dimension for Soprano & Harp (2018), text by Vicki Hearne
Entwine Our Tongues: Sapphic Fragments for Soprano & Reeds (2019), texts by Jordi Alonso, after Sappho
Desiderata: Ten Pieces of Wisdom for Soprano & Alto Saxophone (2020), text by Max Ehrmann
For believing in my music and acting on that to bring my music to life, there is really no end to what I could say to thank Katie for being such a powerful collaborator, and humoring all of my harebrained schemes (and helping bring them to life)!
It was my plan to work with Katie this late summer to record a full-length album of my works for soprano; safety-depending, I still hope to make those plans a reality! Even beyond my song repertoire, Katie has worked to bring my vocal music to life in so many ways. I am so excited for her definitive, powerful take on those pieces of my repertoire she hasn't yet covered, and for the album release concert - always looking for the next collaborative opportunity! Below are a smorgasbord of Katie Procell performance videos from our collaborative time together. I hope you watch and enjoy (same thing) all of them!
from La Noche Pura: Canciones Hispanas y Españolas (2018)
Thank you again, Katie, for all of the joy and music you have brought to my life and to so many other's lives as well. I hope everyone continues to stay safe, and follows genuine medical advice, rather than the continued disastrous example of our leadership. There is going to be a massive push to internalize the idea that money matters more than our lives. The sacrifice we need to make is staying away from each other, not dying to keep corporations afloat. Please take care of yourselves and the artists in your community as we continue through rocky times. Katie's voice will certainly make the time pass beautifully.