The latest iteration of the Sarasota Music Club program/meeting took place in the stately Sanctuary of the Oak Street Presbyterian Church. The Sanctuary has been rebuilt since I last saw it. It is now lighter, more open, and has warm, pleasant acoustics, friendly to listener and performer alike. Bravo!
The performer on February 18 was Anne Tormela. A beautiful piano was on the platform, but Tormela chose to use a microphone and amplified sound box loaded with a series of recorded piano accompaniments for her long and varied program. As can easily happen with a set-up like that, the volume level and balance of highs/lows varied considerably from one song to the next, resulting in occasionally jarring segues. This was easily adjusted by Miss Tormela ‘on the go’, as she gracefully twisted the amp’s dials as needed, but would not have occurred with a live accompanist.
And herein lies a tale that unfolded to me as the morning progressed. The word intentional kept occurring to me. Tormela is a very intentional performer. She will have accompaniment, even if an accompanist is not available. She will have a smooth-running program, so she teaches herself how to manipulate the controls on the amp while simultaneously singing, without missing a single word. She will look smashing, so she does TAE-KWON-DO to keep her fabulous figure really fabulous.
And on that day, it all worked. The show unfolded (mostly) smoothly, the equipment was modulated appropriately, and she looked great.
She bills herself as a Lyric Coloratura Soprano. Nothing on this program suggested Coloratura, but Lyricism was plentiful. Soprano, absolutely, as her high notes rang out powerfully enough to have filled the stage at Lincoln Center, while her low notes needed the mike to be heard. As with all the equipment, she handled the microphone skillfully. Intentionally.
Tormela wants to bring opera to more people, so she has formed Manhattan Lyric Opera, which “…specializes in shortened classic operas…in ‘user-friendly’ performances…” which, I expect, can be put on anyplace, without needing much lighting, sets, or elaborate costumes. Just another good thing that she will see happen. It seems like she fits a term I heard recently…SPRAKKAR, from the Icelandic language, meaning ‘Exceptional Woman.’ Sprakkar. (Like my wife, Barbara.)*
Among the sixteen songs she performed were two from Victor Herbert’s “Naughty Marietta,” an aria from Verdi’s “Falstaff,” and popular songs by such as Gershwin, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jerome Kern, Jule Styne, and Frederick Loewe. In each, her clear soprano was notable for being absolutely on pitch. Like Peggy Lee, she can lift a subtle eyebrow, or make a slight movement of arm or leg to suggest dance or the emotion of the text. A prime example of this was shown in her breathless “I Could Have Danced All Night.” They were all done well, but my favorite of the morning was a beautifully re-harmonised setting of “Amazing Grace.”
Even though Tormela handled the gear well, I have to say that I really prefer natural sounds…live voices, real musicians, actual instruments. If they must be electronically amplified to compensate for poor (or outdoor) acoustics, so be it, but, at heart, living musicians performing for living audiences. That is what the Sarasota Music Club has been about for over 90 years. Intentionally.
*I had to add that, because…well, you know.
dale jensen, 2022
[Editors note: All future Sarasota Music Club performances are scheduled to be held in First Presbyterian Church of Sarasota’s Sanctuary.]
Photo credit: Victoria Chertok