Last Sunday night, March 1, I drove to Trinity Episcopal Church for the Meridian Song Project’s free “All About the Bs” concert. I simply wanted to satisfy my curiosity about what Steven Stolen, managing director of the Indiana Repertory Theatre, sounded like as a singer.
However, the 75-minute program was a TREAT, and went way beyond satisfying my curiosity. It was accessible and beautiful – exactly what my heart, mind, and body needed at the end of a stressful weekend.
Stolen sings with his whole body and evokes a full range of emotions. Man, what he can do with his voice! I don’t have the vocabulary, experience, or training to write critically about music, but I can tell you that my own breathing slowed as I listened. Also…well, I know this will sound bizarre, but I could feel grimy stuff being cleared away from my aura as I listened, too.
The content of the concert was an eclectic mix, but that seems to be the mission of the Meridian Song Project: to offer “eclectic vocal music programming.” I don’t think I knew there was such as thing as “vocal chamber music,” or if I did, I didn’t know that that was what it was called.
It’s my new favorite thing.
Resident Artist Steven Stolen was accompanied Sunday night by two guest pianists: Gary Walters and Stephen Strugnell. The three men brought to life music by such diverse composers as Ludwig van Beethoven, Benjamin Britten, Burt Bacharach, Irving Berlin, and the Beatles.
I was moved in spite of my lack of musical background by Stolen and Strugnell’s interpretation of Beethoven’s “An die ferne Geliebte.” Stolen said that it was a rare piece not only because it was the first “song cycle” ever written but also because it was “through composed.” He sang it in German, I think, but the audience could follow along in English in our programs. I especially loved how the piano sounded like a “little brook” when the singer sang about one. I found myself in tears at same time that the singer sang, “And tears are our only consolation.”
At the end of the Beethoven piece, everyone in my pew breathed, “Wow!” together.
Several pieces had been arranged by pianist Gary Walters. When he and Stolen performed “Alfie,” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, I felt as if I were hearing it for the first time. The pace was very slow and gentle, as if the singer were seriously asking, “What’s it all about?” and promising, sincerely, that if “when you walk, (you) let your heart lead the way…you’ll find love any day…”
Speaking of finding love, if I ever get married, I now know that I want Irving Berlin’s “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket” played at my wedding. I had never heard that funny song before, but I knew exactly what the singer meant. It delighted me.
Some of the pieces by Benjamin Britten, too, had me tapping my toes and even laughing out loud.
Stolen introduced the final piece, a collage of Beatles songs arranged and accompanied by Gary Walters, by saying, “This ends with ‘Let it Be,’ which is a rock anthem, and anyone who knows me knows that I do not do rock anthems, so we’ll see how it goes.”
I am glad he made an exception. Listening to Stolen’s and Walters’ interpretation of “Let It Be” was a powerful ending to an already truly enjoyable experience.
The next Meridian Song Project offering will be Bach’s “St John Passion.” It will be presented by the Meridian Song Project, Meridian Vocal Consort, and the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, with Steven Stolen as Evangelist and Kyle Ferrill as Jesus. Michael Messina will conduct. I assume it will be free, as this program was. I predict it will be another treat.
Here’s the thing, though: my paper program from Sunday night says that the “St John Passion” program will be at Trinity Episcopal Church at 33rd and Meridian Street in Indy on Friday, March 27, 2009 and at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Carmel on Sunday, March 29, 2009. However, the Meridian Song Project website says the opposite (St. Elizabeth on Friday, Trinity on Sunday.) So…if you’re interested in going, I recommend calling the location of your choice to pin down the date and time. Trinity’s phone number is 317-926-1346. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s phone number is 317-846-3850.
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com