From Sorting Records to Performing Live: Clift Music Librarian Wendy Heckman

When music lovers showed up at the Timken Room of Graves on Saturday night, they expected a standard voice recital, but the performance of Wendy Heckman, Clift Music Librarian, was nothing short of drama, filled with personality and flare. At the beginning, Heckman launched into “If Music Be the Food of Love” by Henry Purcell, solidly accompanied on the piano by Christopher Walter, Instructor in Music. From the beginning her clear tone shone through the chords, reverberating around the room and drawing the audience’s rapt focus. The joyful lyrics with the theme of song set the perfect note for the rest of the recital. The program continued with selections by Handel and Mozart. Heckman said, “I never thought I could sing Mozart.” Yet she brilliantly and expressively executed a pair of his arias. Post-intermission, Heckman skipped ahead a century with “Les Roses d’Ispahan” by Fauré, imbued with fervent emotion that only seemsed to deepen as the performance continued. Though Heckman sang in French, the audience could feel the highs and lows of the bittersweet love song. With a smile, Heckman began her rendition of Ziggy Elman’s “And the Angels Sing,” which tells the story of two people meeting to the pleasure of the angels. The joyful jazz song transported the audience to yet another time period, bringing refreshing variety to the program. Next Heckman sang Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” continuing in the jazz genre. As Heckman crooned the smooth notes of the swinging lullaby, listeners became transfixed and couldn’t help but rock from side to side. Before her next piece, Heckman requested a strange prop: a bright, fluffy, purple scarf. Left to wait upon the piano, the scarf was witness to a lovely duet of “Bess, You is My Woman,” from Gershwin’s famous opera “Porgy and Bess.” Don Wilkinson, Adjunct Instructor in Music, sang as Porgy and Heckman as Bess. Wilkinson began with a full, resonating voice, but fear that he would overwhelm his partner quickly dissipated as Heckman reciprocated with her quieter, though no less commanding voice. The piece showcased Heckman’s prowess in low and high pitches and operatic vibrato. The communication in the duet allowed for even more poignant emotion. Heckman saved the most dramatic moment for last. After wrapping the scarf around her neck and moving the music stand to the side, she truly commanded the stage with a selection from “The Enchantress” by Victor Herbert. “I long to be a prima donna,” she trilled, garnering plenty of laughs as she strutted about the stage. “Art is calling for me!” The theatrical conclusion to the recital left listeners smiling and impressed. The audience thanked Heckman with a standing ovation. “I feel like I’m making a spectacle of myself,” Heckman said of her performance, and perhaps it was true, but never in a negative manner. Heckman’s spectacle was born from her impressive voice and charismatic personality, which kept the audience engaged. Heckman said that “the sublime and the ridiculous” influenced her choice of music. She pulled off both themes wonderfully, her technical mastery only eclipsed by her emotional grasp. “It was very difficult for me to do this,” said Heckman. Though she has sung all throughout her life, going from choirs to smaller groups, she lacked formal training until the age of thirty. She claimed stage fright, but whatever fear she had could hardly have shone past her warm smile. “I love to sing,” she said.