Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sabbath Songs - It's Finally Here!!!

Well, I can finally announce the release of my CD Sabbath Songs! I have put a lot of hard work and effort into this, and am very pleased with the final product. The arrangements are wonderful, and I worked with some of the best in the business!

For purchase information and clips, CLICK HERE.

If you have any questions about the project let me know. Once my distributor releases the CD on their website and when it goes to Deseret Book I will let you know.

Special thanks to everyone who helped make this possible: to Dr. Clayne Robison and his compiling of the books and continued support throughout the project. To all of the performers who worked with me: Deanna Lunt for her sweet soprano sound, John Allen Kovalenko and his amazing fiddling fingers, and Larry Blackburn for his incredible accompanying. To the arrangers, particularly Dan Carter who did the majority of the pieces, and whose pieces will most likely make up the majority of Sabbath Song III. To Clive Romney and his recording studio, to Cyrus Gardner for his mixing & mastering. And finally to my family and parents for their wonderful support.

I hope you enjoy the CD.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Salut, demeure chaste et pure, & Faust plot summary

On my continuing quest to find and prepare the best arias for auditions, I have recently learned "Salut, demeure chaste et pure" from Gounod's Faust. What a beautiful aria, and what a crazy opera! I guess if you have read Goethe's Faust Part I you know what I'm talking about.

Here is an Eric Hanson summary of the opera:

So this old guy, Faust, decides that he wants to kill himself because knowing stuff doesn't bring him any pleasure. He curses being old and decides that real happiness only comes to young people. Then poof, the devil shows up (Mephistopheles), Faust makes a deal with him that if he can be young again he will give the devil his soul (is this ever worth it to anyone?).

Of course the devil is pleased, Faust is made young, he goes to a town square full of young people, meets this girl (Marguerite) who is sister to a man about to go off to war (Valentin). The devil sings with a few of those guys including Valentin who he taunts by not showing his sister enough respect (huh?). As soon as Faust sees Marguerite he decides he must have her (that sounds familiar). As you must have guessed, another man is also in love with Marguerite (Siebel - who in real life is actually a woman as this is a pants role, but they choose to ignore that for the duration of the opera).

Faust goes to her garden, and thinks the poor little shack she lives in is just great, and sings to it (so ladies, if the tenor serenades your house, does that really work?). That is the aria I'm working on now.

To sum up the rest: After hearing Marguerite sing Faust must have her and runs to her (I'm sure the shack was full of jealousy - no aria Gounod?), she is full of guilt afterwards, her brother Valentin returns from war and finds out that Faust knocked her up, they duel, Valentin dies and while he dies he curses his sister, she goes crazy and kills her baby right after she's born (whoa), Faust visits her in prison and she goes so crazy upon seeing him that she feints and dies, and Faust ends up in the devil's service.

You see, selling your soul to the devil never works out in the end.

Here is a recording of Araiza singing the aria:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Costa Rica - An Educational Success

I know that I've been back from Costa Rica now for almost two weeks, but now that I've separated myself from the experience a bit I can look at the whole thing a little more objectively. It should be a requirement for every aspiring/studying singer to do a concert a two abroad before graduating. Just like the recording process, I learned more about my voice in my week at Costa Rico than several years of instruction could have taught me.

As an attempt to sum up, here are three lessons I learned:
  1. Trust your training/teacher: several months ago Stanford and I had a really good conversation about what to do when you travel. The main thing I took away from that message was how important it was to hydrate. As Stanford suggested I took nasal sprays, mucinex, and thought about drinking a lot of water (and then really did it when it became necessary). The Cujus Animam (the tenor aria in Rossini's Stabat Mater) I've been told is one of the most difficult arias in all of the tenor repertoire. Now I actually believe! It ends with a glorious (at least intended to be glorious) D flat, which just happens to be a half step out of my range. I had no trouble whatsoever singing it in the confines of my voice studio, but as soon as they put me in front of an entire orchestra and we began competing with each other I couldn't even squeak it out. The last rehearsal before dress rehearsal just before I sang I reached down and took a giant swig of water, and next thing I knew it was there. I took the cue, drank a ton of water the day of the dress rehearsal, and it was great.
  2. Follow your instincts: the night of the first performance came, and I was pleased to see that the stage manager had put water bottles by our chairs so I knew I would be safe. In the beginning of the Stabat Mater there is a big number with the chorus, and then it leads right into the aria. When the first chorus number was over my throat screamed at me to turn around and take a drink of water, but for some reasons I ignored the feeling, thinking that it would be rude of me to stop the whole show just to get some water. As soon as I started singing the Cujus Animam I knew I was in big trouble. The D flat squawked miserably and I quickly came off of it, but of course the damage had been done. I sang the rest of the concert extremely well, but it didn't matter - that was the tenor note everyone had come to hear, and I blew it.
  3. Learn from mistakes, don't get discouraged, and don't make them twice: luckily for me we had one more performance Sunday morning, and this time I went to the conductor and told him I would be taking a drink of water before my aria. He said that would be just fine, and asked why I hadn't done that Friday night (oops). So I did, and it was amazing. The D flat was the best it has ever been, and the entire ensemble performed with great energy. I was proud of myself for not letting Friday night's fiasco get me down.
I think every singer reacts differently to travel, but apparently my body gets very dry. Last year in Graz, Austria I became frustrated because every time I sang it sounded like I was fatigued even though I knew I wasn't. I thought it was allergies, so I took some medicine and it still didn't get better. Now I know that it was a hydration problem, and thankfully I won't ever make that mistake again!

Unfortunately for me, the reviewer came Friday night. I think his review said something to the effect (and I'm paraphrasing), "the tenor Eric Hanson did not satisfy, and I'll just go ahead and skip the embarrassing details." I just laughed, then yelled, then laughed. Oh well, you win some you lose some :). In the end I came away with a real feeling of victory and gratitude for education.

Here are some pictures:
Here we are with the maestro
(Me, Young Ju Lee, Karen Esquivel, Zamira Barquero, Chosei Komatsu)

This is the view from my hotel room

Young Ju really wanted Korean food, so Gustavo found this place (Little Seoul). You must try toasted rice!

The Costa Rican National Theater

The stage we performed on - small but beautiful

The ceiling of the National Theater

There we are!

And again!

This is a group of Karen's old students we taught a master class to, they were great!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My First Book!! - How to Listen to Music

I'm very excited to announce that I have published my first book! I have been working for some time now on a guide to getting more out of listening to music. In my experience most people just listen to gain an immediate emotional response, and unfortunately discard a lot of music that if they gave it some time would get an even greater response from. I wrote it for non-musicians, but I think anyone can gain some insight reading it. It includes some basics about the composition process, ways to listen for rhythm, melody, harmony, form, etc., and much more.

CLICK HERE for more info.