A Gathering of Musical Power:
PACC’s Artists in Residence
Artists in Residence: Andrea Hart, Jay Lane, Joanna Porackova, and Jeffrey Brody
(This article by Kathleen Fink appeared in the Arlington Advocate
in two parts in January and February 2015.)
Park Avenue Congregational Church (PACC) in Arlington Heights is blessed with four outstanding multi-talented Artists In Residence. They are being showcased in the PACC Concert Series this season, which provides the perfect excuse to tell you something about them. They have carved out fascinating careers well suited to their individual skills and interests while bringing great joy to their students and audiences.
PACC has been offering Arlington and surrounding communities a diverse range of top musical talent for 24 years with the help of PACC Concert Series producer Merrith Sabo-Jones and the PACC Concert Committee. For details on upcoming concerts featuring the Artists in Residence see www.pacc-ucc.org/events/concertseries, or call 781-643-8680.
Besides his roles of Music Director and Organist at PACC, Jeffrey Brody is active as conductor and vocal coach including to Met-level opera stars who often seek him out for his expertise on Wagner’s music. He has also composed over 80 pieces including two operas. As Music Director of Longwood Opera, he conducts auditions, works with singers in rehearsals and then plays piano reductions of full orchestra scores at the company’s performances in Needham, MA. Through his auspices, talented young singers gain performance experience while ticket costs are kept reasonable for the audience.
His passion for opera (and particularly Wagner) began in childhood. When he was studying pipe organ at Boston University, he happily volunteered to accompany voice students. His experience as a rehearsal pianist, audition accompanist and vocal coach as well as careful musical preparation allowed him to take advantage of fortuitous opportunities, so that he was able to dedicate his career to the music he loves.
Appointed to the musical staff of Seattle Opera in 1986, he has served as Assistant Conductor and Prompter for that company’s acclaimed summer production of Wagner’s Ring. He has also done musical preparation for the Opera Company of Boston and Boston Lyric Opera. As Music Advisor of the Boston Wagner Society, he selects repertoire and artists for their concerts and is a frequent contributor to their quarterly, Wagneriana.
He made his orchestral conducting debut with the Richmond Festival Orchestra in a 1995 program of original works and has guest conducted at the Harvard Musical Association Orchestra, among others.
His compositions, published exclusively by Ashbrook Music, include works for orchestra, chorus, chamber music and organ. They have been performed in the most prestigious venues on three continents, including Boston’s Symphony Hall, Washington’s National Cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Venetian festival “la città, la musica e il sacro”, the Temple of the Shinji Kai in Shiga, Japan, and on National Public Radio.
Recent major commissions include Beowulf, a Musical Legend for soloists, chorus and orchestra, written for performance in the Vienna Musikvereinsaal, as well as his second opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray, which opened Longwood Opera’s 25th Anniversary gala season in June 2011 with critical acclaim from the Boston Musical Intelligencer.
Mr. Brody enjoys a most distinctive artistic relationship with the Salem Philharmonic Orchestra, which has presented 20 of his original works and arrangements since 1999. Recent seasons brought performances under his baton of his Violin Concerto written for Maestro Alan Hawryluk, two Essays for Orchestra, and a highly-acclaimed Concerto for Flute and Orchestra.
The 2009-10 season included performances with the Arlington-Belmont Chamber Choir, the Parkway Concert Orchestra and the Harvard Summer Orchestra. The 2011-2012 season brought the premiere of Rhapsody on Armenian Themes for Piano and Orchestra. The 2012-2013 season brought the premieres of the Symphonic Suite from Dorian Gray with the Salem Philharmonic and the Paul Madore Chorale as well as a newly-commissioned work, Symphony in Three Movements, for the Seattle Chamber Orchestra conducted by Maestro Johan Louwersheimer.
A finalist in the 1999 European International Composers Competition, he has also received numerous ASCAP awards. Several of his commissioned choral and organ works are available on AFKA and SPC compact discs.
Mr. Brody is a member of the International Siegfried Wagner Society; the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; the National Association of Teachers of Singing; the American Guild of Organists; and the Boston Singers Resource, for which he has served as audition adjudicator.
In honor of the many years of his artistic collaboration with the late Boston Symphony Orchestra organist, Berj Zamkochian, the Gomidas Organ Fund presented Mr. Brody with the baton used by Dr. Charles Munch, Music Director and Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1949-1962.
Andrea Hart, Youth Music Director at PACC, has been active as performer, teacher, and director in various musical realms for over 25 years. She knew from an early age that she wanted to pursue music and studied both piano and flute through High School. During her major in music at Boston University, she found she was also drawn to the managerial and educational roles that are so necessary for music to thrive.
As Program Director of Creative Arts, a community school for the arts, Andrea was involved with activities that included program development, faculty hiring, fund raising, and budget management while also doing some teaching and performing. She later served as General Manager and Booking Representative for Libana, an internationally renowned ensemble performing and promoting women’s music from many cultures. Her logistical talents were put to good use planning Libana’s travels – with many fragile instruments in tow – all over the country and to many locations abroad.
Most recently, Andrea has been teaching piano and flute at the Cambridge Friends School and in her private studio, as well as serving as Youth Music Director at PACC. She sees her role at PACC in broad terms bringing children and youth into the life of the Church through both instrumental and choral music, including directing an active Youth Choir. She seeks out and cultivates relationships with children and finds ways to get them performing and exploring from easily learned rounds to more challenging choral music, or for others, sharing their instrumental talents with the congregation.
For Andrea, one of the greatest gifts of music is the interpersonal and artistic connection. She enjoys forming relationships with people of all ages in order to help them appreciate the joy of making music to the greatest extent possible. She also finds musical performance builds their general confidence. She is the proud parent of two children who have, not surprisingly, developed their own great passion for music.
In addition to performing regularly in PACC concerts, Andrea’s career has also included performances and collaborations as pianist, flutist and chamber musician with several Boston area ensembles and with students and faculty at the New England Conservatory, Berklee College of Music, and Boston University. She has directed musical productions for area schools and churches, in addition to her music teaching at Cambridge Friends School. Creative Arts, and Shady Hill School. She has sung with the Boston Cecilia, the Longy Chamber Singers, the Mudville Madrigal Singers and as soloist for several Boston area church choirs. In addition to her Bachelor of Music from Boston University, she holds a Masters in Education from Harvard University.
Jay Lane & Vox Lucens
A voice teacher, choral conductor and organist, Dr. Lane first studied the piano and double bass, then in college studied conducting and the pipe organ. Through his work as an accompanist and church organist, he became fascinated with the voice, and after obtaining a Doctorate in Musicology from Yale, he went on to study vocal technique at the McClosky Institute of Voice.
Presently, Lane teaches voice at PACC in Arlington, as well as Maynard, and Newburyport Massachusetts. He enjoys working with students of all ages, but is particularly interested in improving aging voices and in helping those with vocal disorders. He explains that the core of the process in the McClosky Technique is one of getting rid of unneeded and counter-productive effort. Among other things, it is necessary to learn to relax the jaw and muscles surrounding the larynx, and to align the body for proper breath. Each singer is different and progress is normally a matter of gradual improvement. He finds the work rewarding, as each singer finds his or her unique sound.
An accomplished church musician, Jay has served as organist and choir director at First Baptist Church New Haven CT, the Episcopal Church at Yale, and Church of the Good Shepherd in Acton MA; presently he is the music director and organist at First Religious Society UU, Newburyport MA (www.frsuu.org), where he also directs the Candlelight Chorale, a community choir that performs major choral works.
As a choral conductor, Dr. Lane has directed numerous musical organizations, including the Wakefield Choral Society, the Yale Bach Society, and the Gilbert and Sullivan Societies of Yale and MIT. In 1999, after only a year of singing with a capella Renaissance chorale group, Vox Lucens, Dr. Lane was offered the Director position when the existing leader moved away. Other members of the group knew the repertoire, and Dr. Lane was experienced in the required tasks. He continues to greatly enjoy working with this community of advanced singers and has become quite knowledge about the music they sing. He has since released three recordings of 16th century polyphony with them, and together they have produced numerous concerts, both sacred and secular. Dr. Lane finds it most interesting to conduct while at the same time singing with the group, given that up to 12 independent musical lines can be in motion at one time.
Vox Lucens began in 1998 as a group of friends who got together to sing madrigals for the enjoyment of it. They eventually began giving concerts of their Renaissance music with its rich polyphonic structures and luminous sound. Vox Lucens rehearses at PACC as well as regularly performing there.
The singers work together to develop programs combining popular favorites with lesser-known works, often in their own editions. They approach the repertoire and rehearsals with a sense of fun, and in performance enjoy bringing out the dramatic aspects in the music, particularly in the secular repertoire. The choice of the name Vox Lucens, Latin for “a shining voice,” echoes not only the ensemble sound but also their goal to shed light on the wide variety of styles and textures of the Renaissance repertoire.
Upcoming concerts with Vox Lucens:
Featured works: Franck, Chorale no. 1; Elgar, Sonata no. 1, 1st mvt.; Bach BWV 541
Although a renowned opera singer known for her versatile dramatic soprano voice, Joanna Porackova had no exposure to opera as a child and would have never dreamed that she would become an opera star. She sang in church including much Gregorian chant, but her dream was to become a violinist and she studied that instrument through High School.
She played violin in a folk music band, and in parades as a small child as well as teaching younger students. She was Concert Mistress playing first violin in the high school orchestra as well as winning awards in competitions. She remembers with gratitude that her parents trusted her with an expensive bow.
Her passion for healing led Ms. Porackova to Boston to study pediatric nursing. She obtained an M.S. in Nursing, and worked in intensive care for many years as well as being a Professor of Nursing at Indiana and Boston Universities, and the Mass College of Pharmacy. She would always sing to babies in intensive care and to her special coma patients, and somehow found time to join the John Oliver Chorale. One of her medical colleagues told her that she had a world-class voice and that she needed to study with Iride Pilla, who was head of the Voice Department at Boston Conservatory at the time.
The year she taught nursing in Boston in the morning and then drove to New York to study with Michael Trimble was a very busy but fulfilling time in her life. As she began to enter and win singing competitions, she eased out of nursing and studied singing abroad with the help of a scholarship.
She sang lead roles from the start of her opera career. She described singing opera as a spiritual experience and also a great responsibility to the composer, the music and the audience. Experience with the strong emotions involved with intensive care served her well in developing her dramatic opera characters.
She has been celebrated for her “soaring majesty” (Opera News) and “huge vocal and emotional range” in both the mezzo soprano and soprano dramatic repertoire. The Boston Globe praised her as a “powerful soprano with a heartfelt, involving sense of the music’s inner drama” and the Boston Musical Intelligencer noted that her “warm smooth voice rang out over Wagner’s heavy orchestral texture…clearly at home in the role of Brünnhilde” and praised her for “using her impressive instrument to full dramatic effect” for the mezzo soprano solo in Verdi’s Requiem with the Masterworks Chorale.
The New York Times praised her for singing with “great fervor and skill” as Magda Sorel in The Consul directed by the composer, himself, Gian Carlo Menotti, at the Washington National Opera, and for “transmitting the character’s obsessive passion and warmth” as Senta at Katharina Wagner’s directorial debut of Der Fliegende Holländer in Würzburg Germany.
Joanna has been engaged with the Aix en Provence, Salzburg, and Opera North (Canada) Festivals, Paris Opera Bastille, Grand Theatre de Tours, Klagenfurt, Würzburg, Bern, Stralsund, Hong Kong, Boston Lyric, Opera Boston, Seattle, Connecticut, Anchorage, and Boston Bel Canto opera companies. She has performed the title roles of Norma, Tosca, Aida, Medea, Turandot, Dalila, Carmen, Salome, Isolde and La Wally as well as the Komponist, Amneris, Brünnhilde, Sieglinde, and Santuzza, to name a few.
In her teaching role, Ms. Porackova seeks a deep understanding of each student, their unique qualities and reactions. As both music and healing are part of her soul, it is not surprising that she teaches a healthy vocal technique emphasizing breathing, and release of tension. She sees value in studying old forms such as bel canto and she continues Michael Trimble’s practice having her students do vocal exercises while holding yoga positions.
Her professional relationship with Jeffrey Brody brought her to PACC where Ms. Porackova continues to perform on a regular basis in the Concert Series. Mr. Brody’s highly respected skills at coaching opera singers on pronunciation and other aspects are much appreciated by Ms. Porackova who often sings Wagnerian roles. She uses PACC not only for her own vocal practice, but teaches there including several students from the PACC community. She welcomes new voice students at every level.