By Mae Kristy Calacal
Amidst all of the student performances and recitals, one adjunct professor at the College wanted to give music faculty their time to shine.
Christopher Sierra, a voice instructor, invited faculty members from different colleges to help host his event, “Crossing Genres,” which was created to showcase the versatility of classical singers. The event was held on Saturday, March 2 from 8 to 9:30 p.m. in Mayo Concert Hall.
Sierra wanted audience members to realize that classical singers can sing in all genres. Any singer looking to improve their talent, according to Sierra, should try stepping out of their comfort zone by singing in genres they may not have considered before, particularly those included in commercial music, such as theater, jazz and contemporary pop.
Sierra quelled myths about classical singers, particularly the idea that singing in other genres will damage their vocal cords. Learning to cross genres actually has the potential to enhance their vocal technique and improve adaptability.
“Classical singers are just as likely as commercial singers to be diagnosed with a voice disorder,” Sierra said.
He then presented examples of artists who accompanied classical music with other genres, such as Cristina Ramos, a 2016 contestant on “Spain’s Got Talent” who performed an opera rock rendition of “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC.
After the lecture, the overhead lights shifted from the audience and spilled onto the stage. Four vocal studies professors from different colleges and the main faculty singers of the night — Sierra (tenor), Elise Brancheau (soprano), Bridgette Gan (soprano) and Scott Johnson (baritone) — opened with Richard Rodgers’s 1933 song, “Sounds of the Earth.”
For the remainder of the show, viewers were treated to a rotation of performances from compositions that spanned both decades and a variety of genres.
As a tribute to his Peruvian roots, Sierra chose Chabuca Granda’s “Fina Estampa” as his first song. To balance out the rolling of his “r’s” and the upbeat and finely sequenced notes from guitarist John Orluk Lacombe’s tugging of metal strings, Sierra later sang the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody,” which is the famously-feature ballad in the 1990 movie “Ghost.”
Sierra later shared his inspiration for the show — while getting his doctorate, he immersed himself in classical music, only to later realize that he hadn’t spent much time with other genres he loved.
“I used to think I was going to be a pop star,” Sierra said.
He hoped that audience members will see that all genres are of value.
“Commercial music is virtuosic,” he said. “It deserves the same space and attention as classical music.”
Brancheau covered the slow, piano-heavy “Samson” by indie artist Regina Spektor. She fluctuated evenly between high and low soprano as she weaved through the verses and chorus. Later, she would be on her feet for the lively folk song “California” by Joni Mitchell.
Johnson sang Jason Robert Brown’s “Someone to Fall Back On.” He later countered the sentimental number with “The Dynamo of Volition” by Jason Mraz. He bopped his head to the staccato rhythm of the piano. Pianist Martin Néron matched Johnson’s lightning-speed rhymes.
Before performing Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” Gan partnered with Johnson for a duet. They sang “I’d Give It All For You” by Jason Robert Brown in perfect harmony with one another. They incorporated some theatrics to the number by simulating lovers in a conflict.
Johnson turned away from Gan as he sang, “God knows it’s easy to hide, easy to hide from the things you feel.” The distraught-looking Gan responded with, “God knows it’s easy to run, run from the people you love.” The duo joined hands as the song came to an end.
Gan and Johnson were interested in the recital because they shared the same concerns as Sierra — hyperfocusing on only one genre.
“There’s this stigma with classical music,” Gan said. “It isn’t just, ‘Oh, you studied opera? You have to do opera!’”
In the middle of the show, all four singers came out to perform. They gathered around the grand piano, where Néron pulled the cover over the keys and began playing. The group broke into an a capella version of Adele’s hit “Send My Love (To Your New Lover).” Sierra provided the harmony to Brancheau’s and Gan’s buildup to the bridge as their voices echoed throughout the hall.
At the end, the quartet took their bows and welcomed the thundering applause of the crowd.