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High C in a Yellow Barn

Music review
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Mon Oct 1st, 2018

Michael Patterson and Cassandra Whitehead. Photo by Tonia Shoumatoff.

Late Sunday afternoon in Lithgow near St. Peter’s Church with meandering brown cows in the distance, soprano Cassandra Whitehead in a newly renovated barn presented a bouquet of song: favorite Broadway showpieces, German lieder, and opera classics with accompaniment by Michael Patterson on a1926 Chickering. Both performers are second year music students at Bard College; Cassandra majoring in voice, Patterson majoring in conducting.

Stephen Kaye introduced Whitehead and Patterson with genial enthusiasm. Cassandra opened with Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” establishing a jaunty rapport with the audience which algorithmically increased by doing a little adroit tap dancing. With intimate tone and gesture she segued into “I Get a Kick out of You,” and moved on to “Sun in the Morning” from Annie Get Your Gun, which she sang with enthusiastic panache beyond common stagecraft as she endowed the song with her own touch of joie de vivre.

“Wishing you were here again” offered plunging nostalgia while “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story supplied Stephen Sondheim’s lightest, upbeat, albeit uncharacteristic, lyric. “If I loved you” was another emotional well that drew fresh water and Gershwin’s “Summertime” lilted in the near-sunset air of turning foliage and exposed barn beams.

Cassandra switched to German, singing with good accent and ardent passion Friedrich Rückert’s “He came in storm and rain” in Clara Schumann’s version. She moved on to Italian with the anguished aria “Batti, batti” (Beat me, beat me) from Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

For finale, Cassandra chose “I could have danced all night” from My Fair Lady as she swept and encircled the audience with exuberant charm. Patterson was note perfect with absolute rhythm and sparkling éclat. Performers received a robust standing ovation amid cries of “Encore.” Cassandra subdued the audience with the sober sentiment by singing “If I loved you” once more.  A short convivial reception in several languages was held on a deck before guests drove off into the pale reds of sunset.