This summer, we are reuniting with wonderful artists from past projects. Mezzo Brittany Fowler of recital project UNBOUND IDENTITIES and Venere in EURIDICE joins us for FAR AND NEAR, a concert of classical and popular music that explores distances both big and small.
Far and Near
June 25th @ 7:30pm
United Palace of Cultural Arts
1410 Broadway, NYC 10033
Tell us a bit about yourself - who are you and what do you do?
I'm a mezzo-soprano who grew up on military bases around the world. Check back with me on what I do outside of music - starting a new job soon ;)
What part of NYC do you live in? And what’s your favorite thing about living there?
I live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It's a heavily Polish neighborhood, slightly industrial but also very warm and cozy and within easy reach of the East River. Lots of artist types here (though mostly studio art, photography, and/or film)! I love sitting in Transmitter Park by the water with a good book on a sunny day.
The theme of Far and Near is the distance between where you are and where you long to be, both literally and figuratively. Have you been on any interesting journeys lately?
I went back the Philippines in 2016 (after not having visited in some years) and made a pilgrimage with my relatives from Manila to Illocos Nord, where my grandparents are originally from (where I haven't been in over 20 years). The mountains, the beaches, the farmlands full of dragon fruit and mangoes - what I remember most are the scents and how quickly they brought back childhood memories.
You used "pilgrimage," which is a word that carries a lot of significance. What was the purpose of this pilgrimage? And did you feel you had changed after having this experience?
Hmm, good question. I hadn't been back to the Philippines in a really long time (over a decade) since my grandfather passed away, and I came back specifically for a massive family reunion (200+ people on my grandmother's side). I think I imagined that going back after so long would be some transcendental experience, but in reality it was just that - reality: childhood artifacts and nostalgia brought back into bright lights and sharp focus, loved ones emerging from hazy fond memories as older, complex people. I didn't really feel changed as much as I felt relieved - relieved that I got this chance to experience everyone as real life human beings again and not just as sentimental memories with all the rough edges sanded down.
We believe music is meant to be shared and can be life-changing. How has music shaped your life?
My strongest memories of music are in the Philippines - family members singing karaoke at a children's birthday party, dragging a karaoke machine onto a beach wedding, singing in the middle of shopping malls. Because of this, for me singing especially is a fundamental human need. You don't need to be amazing at it - but our voices cry to be heard, and even if it's not around a campfire, we try to find ways to sing with others.
If you could travel back in time and have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?
Maybe Winston Churchill? I mean mostly because I will be eating and this person needs to be able to hold a conversation full of interesting topics and stuff because my mouth is full.
Dream vacation destination?
I fixated on visiting Sri Lanka and Rajasthan for the longest time, but now I've added Patagonia to the mix!
Far and Near is part of the Lobby Series at the United Palace of Cultural Arts, an important arts and community resource, and also the Uptown Arts Stroll, a month-long festival celebrating the arts in Northern Manhattan. Can you share an experience you've had in which music helped bring a community together?
Most recently - I was at a pasta-making party where I didn't know most of the people there except for the Italian hosts. Most of the guests were European scientists - physicists, biologists. Word got around that I was an opera singer and the hosts encouraged me to sing. I usually don't like to do so out of fear of "showing off" but because the host was a dear friend, I said I would sing something small. I sang a short Italian folk song I knew, but what surprised me most was how after, the scientists wanted to sing folk songs too. It started with one outgoing biologist, but soon the shy ones offered that they had songs they wanted to share too.
Everyone started looking up lyrics to songs they knew, asking if anyone else knew them too. A psychiatrist timidly admitted he knew how to play chords and offered to accompany the songs. Soon the group was singing - Italian folk songs, Soviet chants - off key, in jubilee, fumbling in different languages but joyous none the less. Who doesn't love to sing? Who doesn't have strong memories associated with song?
What I realized was that most people - if they aren't designated a "singer" - aren't given a chance to relive those. Sometimes as a professional singer you're greatest gift is encouraging others to express and address their deepest needs.