CCPA student sings his heart out at Grace Episcopal Church
By Tom Cicero
“Can she excuse my wrongs with Virtue’s clock?”
These were the opening lyrics of Chicago College of Performing Arts graduate student Benjamin Brunette’s vocal program, which took place at Grace Episcopal Church in Chicago Nov. 7.
Brunette is a seasoned veteran when it comes to performing in front of an audience. He has performed with the Minnesota Opera, Opera Cleveland, the Grammy Award winning Grant Park Chorus and Orchestra, and the University of Minnesota Concert Choir, among many others.
Accompanied by award-winning pianist Saori Chiba, Brunette took to the stage as a part of the church’s weekly rotation of musicians from Chicagoland universities, including Roosevelt and DePaul University.
Brunette started his program by singing four songs by John Dowland, which were written more than 400 years ago. He continued by singing four songs by Franz Schubert, and finished by singing three songs by Georges Bizet.
The latter two performances were in German, which had the audience guessing as to whether Brunette was bi-lingual.
“I’m not necessarily bilingual,” he said. “I had to take diction classes which means we had to be able to speak in the language and read in the language. That doesn’t mean we know what we’re saying, though. A lot of the language skills just [come] from translating songs. When you’re doing a song in the different language and you have to translate it, you get two texts you memorize. I’ll remember what I’m saying in English, and I’ll remember what the words are in German.”
In attendance were his boyfriend and other close friends and family, and as he sang, his face seemed to mirror the tone of the songs he was singing about. Whether it was a song about love, or a song about loss, Brunette seemed to capture the audience with his ability to absorb them into the songs’ stories.
The songs he performed were more like mini-plays rather than simple songs, which goes along with Brunette’s self-proclaimed “singing-actor” title. When he sings, he said he tries to keep his mind focused on the stories of the songs.
“I’m thinking about the story,” he said. “I’m putting myself in the story. Whatever the words mean — whatever story I’ve created — I kind of try and put myself in that world and see everything around it and live in it.”
The songs may have been composed long ago, but the stories within the songs were relatable to modern day.
“One of my favorites by Schubert is ‘An den Mond,’ which means ‘of the moon,’” Brunette said. “It’s about a man who’s sitting beneath a tree and trying to coax the moon to come out. It goes on to say, ‘Reveal yourself so I can find the spot where my lover sat, so I can go there.’ The last part is basically saying, ‘Weep for me because I’m so sad I can’t find my lover.’”
While Brunette enjoys classical music, he also has a soft side for pop music.
Brunette stated he is a fan of the artist Lorde, and regretfully admitted that he also enjoys Miley Cyrus.
With the Grace Episcopal Church performance under his belt, Brunette is preparing for a showcase in February, as well as his upcoming graduation in the spring.
Grace Episcopal Church, located at 637 S. Dearborn St., host different performers every Thursday at 7 p.m.
To see a bit of Brunette’s performance, visit rutorch.com.