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Vedrana Kalas Sings for Bosnian children

A Golden Voice for a Golden Cause: A Benefit in Albany

By: Thomas Dyer - 09/26/2013

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Kalas sings "Songs my mother taught me", Dvorak
Kalas sings "Songs my mother taught me", Dvorak
Kalas’ voice fills the space
Kalas’ voice fills the space

Ouvre ton coeur
Vedrana Kalas, soprano
Michael Clement, piano

Saturday, September 28th at 7:30pm

Emmanuel Baptist Church
275 State Street, Albany, NY
Donations to the Bosana Foundation accepted at the door

This Tuesday I attended a preview concert given by the young Bosnian/American soprano and soon to be mother, Vedrana Kalas.  Ms. Kalas lives in Albany now, having emigrated from a war-torn country with her family when she was a teenager.  She is coming to terms with having a child who will not have the same ties to the Bosnia she loves, yet this concert was conceived as she began to think about how many more privileges her child would have here than back in her homeland. 

[My husband and I] are grateful for all that we have, and therefore I am creating an opportunity for all of us to share and open our hearts.

Or “Ouvre ton Coeur”, as her recital is titled after one of the songs.  All proceeds will go directly to the Bosana Foundation whose programs offer long-term support to orphans and other mariginalized children in Bosnia as per its mission:

We hope that through empowerment and education of youth that history will not repeat itself and that Bosnia and Herzegovina can once again be a country that boasts peaceful  multi-ethnic  and multi—cultural traditions”.

Ms. Kalas’ program is filled with gypsy, folk and children-inspired tunes.  She begins with Ravel’s “Cinq mélodies populaires grecques” - a personal favorite of mine, with a distinctly exotic flavor is woven into the music.  The audience is brought in an almost palpable way to a new (or old) country where we can smell the musk of a church and feel the wind that blows against the faces of the girls gathering crops in a field.  Singer and pianist move and breathe as one, making this difficult music easy to watch and hear.  While the poetry is mostly joyful, an undeniable melancholy comes through in some of the settings played so sensitively by Michael Clement.  

This juxtaposition of beauty and quiet sadness, unspoken loss and unbridled hope, could not have made for a more appropriate way to begin the afternoon and are carried on in the next set of gypsy songs, “Cigánské melodie”, by Dvorak.  A highlight is below in translation from Ms. Kalas’s very good Czech:

A les je tich kolem kol

The forest is quiet all around; only the heart disturbs the peace. 

As black smoke gushing, tears flow down my cheeks and so then dry. 

They need not dry – let other cheeks feel them!

The one who can sing in sorrow will not die, but lives on and on.

At once rollicking, proud and poignant, the lush accompaniment filled the vaulted hall, but did not dilute the present moment with reverb as can so often happen in large churches.   

In a set by Bizet, Ms. Kalas showed off her powerful instrument and evenness of tone which was particularly nice when she let it ride lightly and did not try to overly darken it.  She had fun with the music and the audience had fun along with her. 

Ms. Kalas has an intimate connection with each of the pieces she chose, but when she arrived at the final set of the afternoon, a group of lullabies in her native dialects of Serbo-Croatian, her body seemed to relax.  She sang as if speaking, as if simply telling us the story.  It was enchanting.  The first song, called “Cvjetak ┼żuti” or “Yellow Flower” is an old folk melody that has no formal setting.  The talented Mr. Clement created the accompaniment to the tune of what Ms. Kalas sang to him during rehearsals.  There were tears in the eyes of some of the audience because it was so lovely, and it was also so real. It was as if we were watching her open her own heart.     

This concert was thouroughly enjoyable and lasting just about an hour will be a fun evening out for the entire family.  The church is set up with several small activity tables nearby some of the concert seating so that kids can keep busy while listening or even lie on the floor to watch.  Afterall, as Ms. Kalas says, “This recital is not about me; it’s about the children.”

If you can't make the concert this Saturday but still want to contribute you may do so here at the support page Ms. Kalas has created.  

About the artists:

In her recent appearance as Mimi, Vedrana Kalas, soprano, "touched hearts, bringing a specific vocalism to every situation she was in" (Berkshire Review).  In her performance as Norina she was acclaimed for her "glorious, dramatic, soaring voice and enchanting personality" (Troy Record).  Some of her other operatic roels include Violetta (La Traviata), Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Euridice (Orfeo ed Euridice), Vittelia (La Clemenza di Tito), Suor Genovieffa (Suor Angelica) and Constanze (Dialogue of the Carmelites). In this area, Ms. Kalas has performed with Hubbard Hall Opera Theater, Mosaic Arts, RESONANZ, and Opera Saratoga. Equally comfortable as a concert solist, Ms. Kalas as sung with the Octavo Singers in Haydn's Creation and will appear with them again in May 2014 as the soprano solist in Mozart's Regina Coeli

Pianist, Michael Clement, has studied at the Eastman School of Music, the Chautauqua Institute, The University of Arizona and the university of Southern California.  He was a pianist for the Tucson Symphony, Assitant Conductor for Long Beach Opera, director of the Opera Workshop at California State University and has served on the staff of Florentine Opera of Milwaukee.  Locally, Mr. Clement has served as Musical Director of Opera Excelsior, an staff accompanist for Skidmore College and the College of St. Rose.  He has appeared as a solist with the Belflower Symphony, CETA Symphony, and Japanese Philharmoic of Los Angeles.  He currently serves on the musical staff of Opera Saratoga and is a musical director for Hubbard Hall Opera Theater.  Mr. Clement is also Minister of Music at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Albany and a pianist for the Mendelssohn Club of Albany.  He regularly presents concerts at Emmanuel and recitals around the Capital District and elsewhere.  He is an in-demand accompanist and vocal coach and maintains and active teaching studio in Niskayuna. 

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