Rivers Sings World Debut of “Turning Back”

Phillips Academy’s vocal coach, Krista River, has a voice to die for. Often described by audiences and critics as “gorgeous,” “magnificent,” “superb” and “a treat,” River’s crystal clear voice astounds those who hear it. While recovering from a nasty sinus infection, however, you might expect River’s voice to be hindered by the illness but, as shown by last Sunday’s Faculty Voice Recital, her performance proved beyond a doubt that River could perform beautifully under pressure. The performance was extraordinary and her praises well deserved; the recital was of such high caliber that River went on to perform it at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall the following Tuesday. A performance at Carnegie Hall is especially noteworthy for someone who “used to be a cellist…I didn’t think I wanted to be a musician.” However, as a member of a small part-time ensemble that performed in Santa Fe, River met a teacher who “opened another world for me…she taught me to do things I didn’t know I could do, and she was a real inspiration.” River is now a vocalist who was praised by the New York Times for her “shimmering voice.” In addition to teaching voice here at Phillips Academy, she travels for a busy performing schedule (her 2007-2008 season includes performances in Massachusetts, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and Missouri). “I love music and I also love that singing combines text and music. You get so much to work with as far as expression goes,” she said. This expression was clearly evident in River’s performance, where she often gestured with her hands and used her facial expressions to accompany her music. Sunday’s recital featured the world premiere of “Turning Back,” a piece composed by Scott Wheeler. River performed in one of Wheeler’s operas last spring, and she said, “He wanted to write something for me, so he wrote this piece in the fall specifically for this recital.” In addition to the world premiere of “Turning Back,” River chose to perform some of her favorite pieces in an effort to create a “cohesive program that represented different time periods and languages” (she performed songs in English, French and German). “I love the Schumann and Ravel pieces because they tell vivid stories that I connect with. The process that Schumann goes through is emotional, and the Ravel piece has three distinct, evocative and powerful stories,” she said. To end the program, River chose two pieces from English composer and playwright Noel Coward, which she called “clever, sophisticated and moving. I wanted to end with something light because the rest of the program was heavy.” Although the recital only lasted for about two hours, the work that goes into a recital took much longer. “I’ve been working on this music for years; it takes months and months, sometimes a year to learn a recital program. It’s very intensive,” River said. In addition to River, Judith Gordon, Adam Kuenzel and Jan Muller-Szeraws performed on the piano, flute and cello, respectively. Pianist Judith Gordon said, “My favorite part of almost all concerts is how quiet it is on stage and how beautiful it feels to find what the pulse is, what the quality of sound is…in rehearsal there’s a lot of ‘blah, blah, blah.’ There isn’t that pure start and finish because it’s so informal.”