Cantamos Artist Interview: Heather Jones

 Mezzo Heather Jones. Photo credit: Jessica Osber Photography

Mezzo Heather Jones. Photo credit: Jessica Osber Photography

We’ve got an amazing group of artists assembled for CANTAMOS, our first project of the 2018-2019 season! We’re delighted to work with Heather Jones again, who was part of our 2018 summer retreat. Heather loves to travel, explore, and bike, and is a quintuple threat as a perfomer: in addition to singing, she’s trained in stage combat, dance, piano, and guitar!

Get to know more about Heather in the interview below.

Cantamos

November 5th @ 7:30pm

United Palace

4140 Broadway

New York, NY 10033

Part of the United Palace Lobby Series. Doors open at 7:00pm. Tickets available now.

Please introduce yourself: your name, your voice part, your favorite non-classical song, where you were born, and the best thing about living in New York City.

Hi, I'm Heather and I'm a mezzo-soprano from Charleston, SC. I've lived in NYC for around 5 years off and on, and I think the best thing about living here is the access to every single type of food you could imagine, and the fact that you can eat most of it any hour of the day. My favorite non-classical song to sing in public is "As We Stumble Along" from a musical called The Drowsy Chaperone, and my favorite song to dance to at home is "Do What You Wanna" by this great New Orleans based group called Rebirth Brass Band.

Variety of and access to food is definitely a huge NYC indulgence! What's your favorite place to grab a bite to eat?

I love Jin Ramen for ramen on the upper west side, Chandni for Pakistani food in Flatiron, Pio Pio for beautiful plates of Peruvian food, and Peaches Hot House for spicy fried chicken in Brooklyn. I'm in the market for a great Mexican restaurant if you know of any...

Tell us a bit about your background as an artist.

My parents are both artists and classical musicians, so being around opera and orchestras and performing in general has always been both exciting and comforting, like I'm "home." I went to an arts high school and did a lot of musicals with a regional theater in my hometown, but stopped performing in shows or as a soloist in order to pursue a degree in music education. Long story short, I found my way back to performing, and I'm not sure if I have one favorite genre to sing, but I've definitely found a new love for Mexican pop songs after learning the music for this concert.

 Beirut, Lebanon. Photo credit: Heather Jones

Beirut, Lebanon. Photo credit: Heather Jones

What drew you to be part of CANTAMOS?

Two years ago I sang a concert of Cuban Renaissance music that was a collaboration of a musicologist named Miriam Escudero, the Hispanic Society of America, the Cuban Cultural Center of New York, and a NYC-based chamber orchestra called Sonnambula. We performed music that had been totally forgotten and then rediscovered and transcribed, and our audiences were thrilled that we had showcased the Cuban contributions to what people usually think of as an Italian genre of music. So many parts of the world were making music at the same time throughout history, but we rarely ever hear about the amazing catalog of classical music from Spanish-speaking countries. SO, that's a long winded way to say that I was really happy to be able to share more Spanish-language music spanning hundreds of years and several countries, especially with such a fierce group of musicians.

Yes, the idea that "classical" music was being created and performed all over the world and not just Western Europe really deserves more exploration. In what ways was the Cuban Renaissance repertoire similar to other Renaissance repertoire you've sung? In what ways was it different?

Honestly, the Cuban renaissance music was very similar to the Italian renaissance music I've studied, but maybe with a little more rhythmic playfulness. Polyphony, a mix of choral and solo voices, double choir, and the ranges for voices were similar. I think more than anything it illustrated that the beauty and complexity of Renaissance counterpoint wasn't a feature of *just* one region, and that many other composers were doing their own take on the style all over the world. Uncovering "European" music from Cuba shifted the emphasis from thinking that everyone in Italy was a genius composer to realizing that Renaissance counterpoint was a beautiful style of music in history, and genius composers everywhere were expressing themselves that way.

 A contemporary musical theatre recording project from this summer. Photo courtesy of Heather Jones.

A contemporary musical theatre recording project from this summer. Photo courtesy of Heather Jones.

What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made while preparing for CANTAMOS?

The Baroque pieces from Los Elementos are incredibly poetic and beautiful and surprisingly straightforward. I've found that translating Italian Classical and Baroque texts are usually pretty convoluted or metaphorical and confusing, but the imagery in “Rompa la tierra” is so direct and visceral.

 Heather rehearsing with harpsichordist Dylan Sauerwald. Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Heather rehearsing with harpsichordist Dylan Sauerwald. Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Which piece are you most looking forward to singing and why?

“Jurame!” I'm a sucker for shmaltzy vocal arrangements of pop songs, and I've heard probably a dozen different recordings of this one song, but none of them are quite as grand or operatic as the one I'm singing. It will be fun.

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And why should people come see CANTAMOS?

Well, aside from the fact that the all-Spanish program itself is unique and hard to see in the NYC classical music scene, I would say people should come because they'll see a group of singers who all truly love what we're singing. Musicians produce concerts for tons of different reasons, but I can bet that the chance to sing this particular music is what made us all want to be a part of this project. So come enjoy it with us!

 

Visit heatherjonesmezzo.com for more about Heather and her upcoming schedule.