CCPA Freshman, Sophomore Vocal Showcase: a chance for new voices to shine
By Daniel Johanson
Each fall, Professor Mark Crayton puts together a production of operatic repertoire in English for incoming freshman and sophomore voice majors to sink their teeth into as they begin their singing journeys.
At first glance, this may seem like a simple idea, one that most music schools in this day and age are doing, but the reality is much different. This experience, of having students who have just entered the collegiate realm of singing and acting singing lead roles in scenes, is really quite unique.
Saturday’s Chicago College of Performing Arts Freshman and Sophomore Vocal Showcase had a runtime of an hour and a half, but the truly amazing feat was that not one of the 20 or so singers in the program were left by the wayside.
Nicholas David Metzger, a tenor in his first semester at CCPA, has seen this firsthand as a transfer student.
“I have a few friends from other schools who do not get to have as many opportunities when they first get to college,” he said. “It shows the trust of the faculty to allow students they do not know well to have a chance to perform.”
The faculty’s trust does not go unrewarded. Although the singers are younger in age, they are definitely not young in talent.
Throughout the entire show, there was not one singer who gave the impression that they did not deserve to be where they were.
Some schools, especially those with large graduate programs, do not offer undergraduate performers the opportunity to have firsthand performance experience. Observing him work, it’s clear that this is what Crayton has in mind.
“Freshmen and sophomores normally are at a huge disadvantage,” he said. “Our program is one of the few that does something like this, giving them a leg up with scene work.”
With a renowned operatic performing career gracing the biggest stages of Chicago, New York and London, Crayton is definitely familiar with the demands of the career his students are embarking on.
“The whole goal of the Freshman and Sophomore Showcase is pushing professional standards on students fresh out of high school so they learn that this is the norm,” he said.
For the amount of material presented in both musical and dialogue form, it was truly refreshing to see how well prepared the students were.
This year’s showcase featured scenes from the English composer/librettist pairing of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, more colloquially referred to as Gilbert and Sullivan.
Gilbert and Sullivan works are ones with a very specific style. They fall into the category of operetta, meaning that rather than being made up entirely of music like opera, the scenes are interspersed with comedic dialogue that helps to progress the stories along.
These moments of acting can prove hazardous for most performers trained formally in singing, but the students held their ground, delivering a fair amount of laughs.
The ease in Gilbert and Sullivan is that it is in the vernacular—meaning the language of the audience—which allows for most, if not all, of the humor to communicate from singer to audience quickly. This also provides one of the greatest challenges in this repertoire, which
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