Sarasota Music Club heard our last program of the 2018-19 season in the Sunnyside Village Eicher Auditorium on March 15th.
The printed program said it would be in the “Chapel,” which would have been a happier acoustic choice, but that was not to be. Too bad, because the main performers, Johanna Fincher, soprano, and Luis Gonzalez, baritone, deserve the better acoustics.
Fincher and Gonzalez both have excellent voices, well-trained, and fitting together very nicely in timbre, volume and musicianship. In appearance and mannerism, she is coy and winsome, while he is suave and charming. In a program of love songs, they gave a believable impression of two people in love in those songs they shared, especially the Gershwin classic, “I’ve Got A Crush On You.” In a solo song, “It’s Love” by Leonard Bernstein, Gonzalez added physical involvement that really helped ‘sell’ the song. Likewise, Fincher was more emotionally involved as she sang “O Mio Babbino” from Puccini’s Giannini Schichi. In both of these, the singers had the texts firmly in hand, or more properly, in memory. And that leads me to my main disappointment with this program.
When it comes to communicating with an audience, singers have such a huge advantage over us wind instrumentalists. They have words, and faces, and especially eyes. We wind players have pieces of wood or metal stuck in, or on, our faces, and the necessity of making an embouchure (just a fancy French word for distorting our mouth to control the tone production), which prevents our using words. Singers, meanwhile, have full use of words to tell a story, and expressive eyes, eyebrows and hand gestures to give the story emotion. That is, if their eyes are not otherwise occupied. On this day, on most of the songs, the performers needed to keep sending their eyes back to the music, to read the words. On my copy of the program, I wrote the letters ‘HIM’ again and again, standing for ‘Head In Music.’ With their eyes frequently darting back to the printed page to read the words, these singers lost their best means of connecting emotionally with the audience.
In previous blogs, I have written often of the importance of an accompanist. This person sets the tonal stage, providing rhythm, harmony, tempo and general atmosphere for a given musical selection. We in the music club have been fortunate to hear some excellent accompanists over the past several years. This was not one of those times, and the wrong notes and tempos contributed by Ms. Smith spoiled, rather than supported. These singers, and their audiences, deserve better.
That said, these small concerts provided by the Sarasota Music Club are very welcome additions to the rich tapestry of music events we in this area enjoy.