Tag Archives: Jessica Bayne

A Marvelous Party

“I have been to a marvelous party.”

Thus wrote/sang/chanted Noel Coward in 1938 and I lived it last Saturday night.

The “marvelous party” was “Encore”, ostensibly a fund-raiser for OperaLex to raise money to support the Opera Program at the University of Kentucky.

What it was, in practice, was a resounding celebration of much that is special about living in the Bluegrass.

To begin with, it was Keeneland, in May; intoxicatingly green, lush, and bursting with life…or at least the assurance of life after Derby.

Then there was the 1938 Rolls Royce convertible just inside the entrance. Is that what it takes to get a good parking space?

Then there was the wine-tasting (thank you Liquor Barn) and the mingling of Lexington’s arts supporters with the singers/students/nascent citizens of the UK Opera program. Seeing Houston Tyrrell (you’ll see him next in GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING) discussing the merits of a box of stunning South American red wines with Ben Kaufmann (you saw him in last year’s GRAND NIGHT) was jarring. I’m not completely convinced of who was advising whom, but the entertainment value…priceless.

And then the dining room; it was a palace of glassware, auguring well for the meal to come.

From the stage, Jenna Day came back from her home in Los Angeles to guide us through the evening and share her passion for this program and these students. She introduced Dr. Everett McCorvey and Dr. Tedrin Lindsey.

The spirit in the room got higher and higher;

  • Tedrin’s program for the evening included selections from the past season; LA TRAVIATA, SHOWBOAT, and BOUNCE the basketball opera.
  • Cameron Mills’ and Rex Chapman’s delight for being in the room was obvious and incandescent.
  • The passion and the talent of the singers could not be resisted.
  • Tshegofatso Clement Baloyi broke everyone’s heart with his “Ole Man River”
  • Michael Preacely and Taylor Comstock delivered world-class performances and inspiring personal stories.
  • Jessica Bayne defined class for us all.
  • Emilia Bustle charmingly explained to us that “Life Upon the Wicked Stage” isn’t what a girl supposes.

These young people come to the University of Kentucky to sing and learn to sing and learn to teach others to sing. Tell me again how Lexington, and Kentucky, and the planet is not made better by that. They are with us for two, three, four, five years. They and Lexington are made better by their time here. It is a kind of gardening of talent, and scholarship, and citizenship. Saturday’s Encore event was a kind of harvesting and renewing of that gardening.

Next year, I propose we measure the height of every participant as they enter the event, and again as they leave. I’m convinced that everyone is two inches taller for having been there.

Verdi and an Unexpected Question

Verdi and an Unexpected Question

Sometimes I find myself in the middle of something wonderful and BAM! It suddenly dawns on me I’m in the middle of something wonderful.

This can often happen in a theatre rehearsal, occasionally several times in one evening.

It’s always jarring, sometimes scary, and always to sought again and again.

Today, it happened at lunch

I attended a preview luncheon for UKOT’s production of Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA.

  • Portofino’s served a fine meal – check.
  • I got to chat with one of the best actors in the area; Tom Phillips – check.
  • The room was packed – check.
  • Everett McCorvey gave an update on UKOT’s activities;
    • LA TRAVIATA opening next week.
    • BOUNCE the basketball opera opening with a world premiere in Lexington in November (opera/basketball/Lexington – talk about the “best of all possible worlds”).
    • SHOWBOAT in the spring.
    • The opera outreach program has booked two shows (schoolchildren K-8) in over 50 venues throughout the state.
    • Singers being recruited to Lexington from all over the planet and accomplished singers and citizens being exported all over the planet. We are infesting the planet with remarkable young people.
  • Check, check, check, check, and CHECK!

Then three of those young performers blew the luncheon-ers and the walls of the room away with excerpts from LA TRAVIATA. Thabang Masongo was confident and polished. Jessica Bayne was passionate and vulnerable. Michael Preacely was gigantic and……Michael Preacely!

And the music of Verdi is sublime and emotional and important on a cellular level.

All of these delights and miracles were expected.

What was unexpected was a question from one of my tablemates, a first-time attendee of these luncheons; “Obviously, these singers come to UK with a gift. What does the opera program do to enhance that gift?”

Everett answered with an impressive description of the instruction and coaching that each student receives. Michael spoke of being taught to apply the facts of instruction to the acts of performance. Jessica spoke of the variety of instructors and the nurturing ambiance of the UK opera community.

I thought of two things I have watched Everett instill in students for 26 years.

  • “Participation” means more than signing the guest book. It means coming to class/rehearsal/performance having practiced and being prepared to share that practice/improvement immediately and eagerly.
  • Our students believe they belong in every room and have a contribution to make in every room. The room may or may not be about them, but they are prepared and confident and competent to make any room better.

BAM!

Something wonderful.

And I’m living in the middle of it in my home town.