The Songbook concert series involves the guest singer selecting twelve songs of their choice. The songs are then delegated to a group of master arrangers who, in turn, arrange them for a six piece ensemble that is comprised of three classical musicians and three pop/jazz improvisers with the intention of exploiting everyone's respective strengths. The programs also include an instrumental that feature the classical players.
This concept has been a staple in our programming for the last ten years. Since 2005/06, we've presented a Songbook show every season with the exception of one. The idea originated in 2004 when Sandy Castonguay, who was then the Director of Programming for Roy Thomson/Massey, invited us to open for kd Lang. It was a great opportunity to see if we could indeed appeal to a non-classical audience.
When it came down to figuring out what to perform, it proved more difficult than I had imagined. Everything that came to mind seemed inappropriate for kd's audience - and then it struck me. A few months earlier, we had presented a program of American songs. The first half was performed by Melissa Stylianou accompanied by Rob Piltch on guitar and Roberto Occhipinti on bass - a set of standards performed straight up by a jazz singer with jazz musicians. The second half was a set of art songs by Copland, Bolcom, and Ives, performed by soprano Anita Krause and myself.
It occurred to me to take three of the songs that Melissa performed with bass and guitar, and expand the arrangements to also include three classical musicians - piano, violin and cello. That way our set could include both jazz standards as well as a couple classical pieces performed by the piano trio. The result was such a success, that I decided to do a full evening of arrangements with Melissa the following season. That was our first Songbook program.
Every one of these shows has been a completely different adventure because each singer's tastes/choices of songs have been so different. This year
is no exception. Most of the songwriters on this program are new to us.
I'm thrilled to be sharing the stage with Brent Carver and my remarkable colleagues. I hope you can experience it with us.
Listen to tracks from previous Songbook Concerts:
, Songbook 5 with Sarah Slean