Creating new audience for classical art song.
My name is Laura Wayte. I am a classical soprano and teacher of singing, and am working at ways to get my art form, Vocal Chamber Music, in the public in new ways.
I am looking for financial support for Songs@Tsunami, a vocal chamber music series presented at South Eugene’s Tsunami Bookstore. This series will present monthly concerts of art song in the 80-seat performance space at Tsunami Books.
Art song is music composed to be performed in large rooms, as opposed to concert halls. It developed in the 18th century and became a large part of the salon culture in Europe for the next two centuries. Intellectuals, artists, musicians and their friends and supporters would gather together in grand homes during the Enlightenment period for evenings of discussion, sharing and performing. All music written for that setting is called chamber music to differentiate it from music written for performance in much larger concert halls.
Classical song, or art song, is a form of chamber music that combines poetry and musical composition. The poems were not originally written as lyrics, and the music is not beholden to any rules but to be expressive of the poem. These songs are immersive and emotional. They invite a listener to experience a poet’s words differently than through silent reading or spoken word performance. It is a musical communication between the artists and the audience that serves to inspire and awaken the listener.
There are two issues I would like to address through this concert series:
Audiences do not know about this wonderful art form.
This art form is misunderstood.
To the first point: I am amazed by how people respond to my performance of art song.When I perform art song to an audience of people who think they don’t like classical music, the invariably love it. They find it relatable and beautiful and interesting and moving.
Secondly, (and one of the reasons they say “I don’t like classical music”) the art form is associated with intellectual and economic elitism. If I say I am soprano, or an opera singer, someone unfamiliar with the music often feels unable to participate because they don’t speak other languages, aren’t rich and don’t associate with wealthy people who do attend classical music.
Bugs Bunny introduced classical music to the masses, very memorably, by making fun of Wagner and Rossini operas. The cartoons were delightful and are credited by many current professional musicians with having piqued their interest when they were children. The cartoons were funny because they made fun of the stereotypes of wealthy, upper-class industrialists and nobles presumed to be the legitimate audience. Bugs Bunny entered that world and made them look silly.
I would like to do something slightly different by abandoning the elitism all together. I would like to present the music in spaces that invite more types of people to participate. I would like to avoid expensive, dark concert halls where there is great distance between artists and audience. I am completely convinced that the music and poetry can be relied upon to bring all the grandeur that an audience requires to enjoy and engage.
Tsunami Books is a community space and a book store. They sell new and used books and present regular, well-attended performances by poets and folk musicians, as well as poetry slam competitions. That warm, well-loved space makes me feel I am in a club house of books and community, and that I am welcome to come just as I am, ready to engage with literature and arts of all kinds. The clientele of the store are locals to South Eugene - well educated and searching for honest communication and community.
Please consider helping me to bring this gift to Tsunami Books and to South Eugene.