When a friend falls sick the least you can do is relieve them of their, one night only, Jessye Norman sings the American masters tickets and, surprisingly enough, I did - I am such a good friend.
After an enchantingly expressive recital of songs of the great American songbook singing songs by Bernstein, Gershwin and Duke Ellington, with nimble-fingered Mark Markham playing some hot keys, I had a bit of a gushy moment in front of the diva herself - err, unprofessional. After a tiny wave as she was driven off for a late-night supper at The Delaunay, I skipped on home to write this article.
So, in that same gushy way, here are five reasons on why we all love Jessye Norman (everyone except Ed Seckerson, but it's ok, he was busy nattering to Fiona Shaw):
1. Norman has more honorary doctorates than I have bow ties. She has received honorary doctorates from Yale, Cambridge, the Juilliard School of Music, the Boston School of Music, Harvard, the University of the South, the Manhattan School of Music and 23 more academic institutions.
2. Her eternal laugh. More of a giggle - it's so casual, as if to say "Ha ha, I know".
3. She is an athlete, well, she makes an effort to do one hundred lengths of the pool. I'm sure that keeps her up-right at the ripen age of 66.
4. Her dress sense. From her hair wraps and turbans to her dresses. At this festival hall gig she glided onto the stage with a little help from her spotlight in a big purple number. Perhaps one could describe her as the Lady Gaga of our humble genre.
5. That voice. My friend turned me through her rendition of 'Stormy Weather' and asked me if I had synesthesia what colour would I use to describe her voice, my answer: purple, a deep, rich, purple. But, from a technical perspective, how do we categorise 'that voice'? Well, she is often described as a dramatic soprano mainly based on repertoire but one would describe 'that voice' as a Falcon voice; the Falcon voice is an intermediate voice type between the soprano and the mezzo soprano that is similar to the dramatic soprano, perhaps one could coin the term 'soprezzo'.
Despite all this vocal analysis, Jessye Norman, naturally, says it best herself in an interview with the New York Times she said; "As for my voice, it cannot be categorised--and I like it that way, because I sing things that would be considered in the dramatic, mezzo or spinto range. I like so many different kinds of music that I've never allowed myself the limitations of one particular range."
That voice is something else. As Norman gently eases her way into the number it's like a bird is taking flight and then as the recital goes on we are just gliding through a fresh breeze. I am entranced and captivated, so much so that I am alone in a room with her, she is looking right at me, staring into my eyes and telling me about some foggy day in London town, summertime, the man she loves and how I should climb mountains. Her voice is rich, dark, pure, fruity - it's like the best chocolate you have ever tasted.
I've exhausted my metaphorical dictionary and I'm starting to sound like a critic, so I should stop now. So, now that's out of my system, I need a good strong G&T.
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