Sylvia Stoner and Noah Palmer in Bennington
Discussing Their Upcoming Gig
By: Chris Buchanan - Jul 06, 2017
Originally from the midwest, Sylvia Stoner is now the Artist-In-Residence in voice at Skidmore College and is happy to call the northeast her home. Noah Palmer, who lives in Chatham, NY, is the Artistic Director of the Northern Berkshire Chorale in Williamstown, Massachusetts and accompanist for Albany Pro Musica, the Capital Region’s leading choral ensemble.
In order to get our local audiences better acquainted with this musical duo, we invited them to answer a few questions about themselves and their experiences working together on this program.
Q This is a question for both of you: When did you know that you wanted to become musicians? Was it something you fell into because of the lessons you took, or were you always drawn to your art form?
N. Palmer: I've always been a musician! My dad started me on 'piano games' when I was three years old--and I'm continuing the tradition by making up 'piano stories' with my own four year old son, Lev.
S. Stoner: My grandpa immigrated from Poland, and my grandma was a first generation Polish-American. She saved for many years to buy a piano and taught all 5 of her children to play. I was raised in a family of “wonder-women”, which included my mom, grandma, and aunt. Music was made, enjoyed, and valued in our home. I did not start voice lessons until high school, but loved music from birth!
Q Noah, I know that you have extensive experience as a solo pianist, as do most of our other performers in this concert series. Can you tell us what is it like to be a collaborative pianist? What is different in this context?
The greatest challenge involved in collaborating with singers is the multifaceted nature of our preparation--in addition to meeting the technical and musical demands of the accompaniment, we also have to know the vocal line, understand the diction and translated meaning of the text, understand how the vocal line interacts with the accompaniment, and ideally be able to sing the vocal line while playing the accompaniment at the same time!
Q That sounds like a lot of work! And Sylvia, what is it like to be a collaborative soprano?
Maria Callas is quoted as saying that the singer and pianist are "tutto insieme," or always together. One cannot truly explore the depth of art song or opera without both the voice and piano playing together. As a collaborative artist, I like to exchange ideas with the other artist on how to approach the shaping of musical phrases and explore how the musical is constructed and how that construction serves the text. This collaboration is always an exciting discovery process. "Making music" makes songs written centuries ago seem like they are just being heard. As collaborative artists, we find a new interpretation by working together.
Q That makes sense. Although, as you know, singers, and particularly sopranos, often are pegged as being divas.
A I have to constantly remind myself that I'm special, seriously. There's tons of diva jokes about sopranos, but rarely does a lyric soprano feel like a "diva." There are many, many talented lyric sopranos out there [and] in order to continue being an artist, you have to find something special in yourself and celebrate it!
Q How long have the two of you been collaborating?
A Sylvia and I have recently developed a wonderful artistic partnership. We met about a year ago and have worked together on a lot of repertoire. However, this will be our first public performance together, and I'm thrilled!
Q You both have performed all over the world, do you have a favorite performance moment that comes to mind?
N. Palmer It's hard to choose just one favorite performance moment, since there have been so many fantastic moments. I recently accompanied a concert with Albany Pro Musica. After singing a dramatic a capella composition about peace and love, I went back to the piano for the next piece, Morten Lauridsen's stunning "Sure on this Shining Night," with a deep inner feeling of peace and inspiration--everyone in the chorus felt it together. It was deeply moving.
S. Stoner Wow! Hopefully, every performance can feel like my favorite. It's always thrilling to sing with an orchestra, as I did last spring with the Skidmore orchestra in Samuel Barber's "Knoxville: Summer of 1915." One of my most memorable performances was singing Rusalka's "Song to the Moon" on the water with various fire pits glowing around me in an art installation called "WaterFire."
Q Sylvia, can you tell us about the program you will be presenting at the Bennington Center for the Arts?
A I think we are at a point where women have found their voice and are heroically demanding justice and recognition. Seeing the recent "Wonder Women" movie inspired me to celebrate this legacy of women whose superpowers come in the forms of music, poetry, and narrative. I'm excited to celebrate music by female composers and poets, including Barbara Strozzi, Clara Schumann, Alma Mahler, Nadia Boulanger, Gwyneth Walker [and] Emily Dickenson.
Q I know you plan on walking the audience through the text and context of some of these beautiful songs as well.
"Wonder Women: Sounds of Superwomen from Myth and Music"
The Bennington Center for the Arts is located at 44 Gypsy Lane in Bennington, VT and boasts seven large galleries, a covered bridge museum, a collection of Native American artifacts and art works, studio space and a lovely 315 seat theater equipped with a world class Fazioli piano.
The theater will open at 7:30pm and all concerts will begin at 8pm. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door, children 12 and under are admitted for free. Tickets may be purchased by calling The Bennington Center for the Arts: 802-442-7158. More information can be found at www.TheBennington.org or www.Sonatina.com.