Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dawn Upshaw Brings Jazz Down Under For Australian Tour

Soprano Dawn Upshaw (left) with composer Maria Schneider
"The last time she toured here with the ACO was also in summer, in February 2009, when she sang works by Bartok, Golijov, Dowland, Schubert and Schumann. This time she'll introduce a work written for her by friend and colleague Maria Schneider, a nine-song cycle titled Winter Morning Walks that uses the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Ted Kooser. A performance of this earned her a Grammy award for best classical vocal solo. Upshaw doesn't see her musical diversity as a trip along a musical vector. 'No, I don't see a straight line anywhere,' she says. 'It's more adding on to the structure of my musical life. I don't see myself so much on a path as exploring.' Born in Nashville, Tennessee, the daughter of a minister in the United Church of Christ, she felt that music must have some kind of message. 'My musical upbringing was centred on the civil rights movement, and I grew up listening to recordings of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. The message was that music could inspire people so much that things could really become better. I want to be engaged in the world that I'm living in, and I think that's what stirred my interest in particular in working with composers. I really feel I'm jumping right in with music of my own time.' Upshaw fell in love with Schneider's music when a friend introduced her to a recording of Schneider's Concert in the Garden. She started going to Jazz Standard in
New York with her daughter around Thanksgiving each year to listen to the music. She and Schneider had some common bonds: they both came from the Midwest and both had been through chemotherapy. 'I thought maybe she could write something for me,' Upshaw says. 'After the first piece that she wrote for me with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, I immediately wanted her to write another piece, because I thought there was really something coming.' Upshaw had a date to play with the ACO at the Ojai Festival in California in 2011, and that's where Winter Morning Walks had its premiere, with three of Schneider's jazz players – Scott Robinson, Jay Anderson and Frank Kimbrough – joining the orchestra.They are also coming to Australia for the ACO tour. 'They improvise, and the combination works really well,' Upshaw says. 'It's just a beautiful piece, and using the poetry of Ted Kooser seems just right. The marriage of music and text is very moving to me.'" [Source]

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