Lucy Shelton at 75

I have fallen behind in my blogging, but here’s a first step toward catching up.

I was at Merkin Hall for Lucy Shelton’s 75th birthday concert in February. All her musicality and a remarkably large fraction of her voice remain intact. I would not have thought her capable of portions of the cycles Carter and Knussen wrote for her, but she certainly was. An array of her students filled out the numbers she did not take on, including Kristina Bachrach, who has done my stuff. As an encore, Gil Kalish accompanied Lucy in Ives’s, “Songs My Mother Taught Me”, one in which Gil used to accompany Jan deGaetani – Lucy’s teacher. Not a dry eye in the house, I think, at least not mine.

Lucy means a lot to me, not just because of her excellent artistry, not just because she did my music on several occasions (Holy the Firm, The Cloud of Unknowing, Songs and Dances from “The Tempest”) but because she was a regular with what was then called the  20th Century Consort, and was accompanied regularly by my piano teacher, Lambert Orkis, who was that group’s pianist. Hearing her repeatedly early on in my compositional life taught me something about what singing could be. I played a four-hand Crumb piece with Lambert several times with the Consort, so heard Lucy a fair bit. I remember sitting in on rehearsals of Dick Wernick’s A Poison Tree at Penn when I was a student – that might be the first time I heard her.

Bravo, Lucy – and thank you.

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