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Audra McDonald @ LoC

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Go Back Home, A. McDonald, A. Einhorn
(Nonesuch, 2013)
Broadway star Audra McDonald was scheduled to appear at the Library of Congress on October 10, when a government shutdown made that impossible. It took a while, but on Saturday night McDonald finally came to Washington to sing a score of her favorite songs, including some from her new album. Her appearance was originally intended to help launch the Library's new digital resource, Songs of America. As Susan Vita, the Chief of the Music Division, explained, one can use the Web site to browse and research digital versions of over 84,000 American songs, including sheet music, recordings, photos, videos, and performances.

I begin at the end of this concert, because it was there and only there that McDonald set aside the microphone she had used all evening, for her two encores -- Summertime from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess and Harold Arlen's Somewhere over the Rainbow. Both are American classics, both are probably too familiar from too many performances, and yet she sang both beautifully and with touches that were entirely hers. The Coolidge Auditorium, where this concert took place, is one of the most flattering acoustics in the city, and it always feels somewhat like sacrilege to use amplification in that space, but such are the conventions of McDonald's chosen genre.

Other Reviews:

Jason Victor Serinus, Audra McDonald Conquers Again (San Francisco Classical Voice, January 18)
Over the course of two hours, with no intermission, McDonald charmed, smiled, and coquetted her way through Broadway songs both familiar and not. Often her introductions and ad libs overshadowed the songs she sang, but any composer whose work she champions -- Jason Robert Brown, Adam Guettel, Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler, Adam Gwon, Gabriel Kahane, Steve Marzullo on this evening -- should thank his or her lucky stars. Likewise, the classics to which she turned her attention -- Irving Berlin, Walter Donaldson, Jerry Bock, Stephen Sondheim, Frederick Loewe, Richard Rodgers, John Kander -- shone just as brightly. Going without her usual backup orchestra, McDonald had an easy rapport with her pianist, Brian Hertz, who showed facility in any number of popular keyboard styles, even supporting McDonald with some not too shabby vocals. In a remarkable gesture Hertz gave up his bench for one number, during which McDonald accompanied herself at the piano, as a tribute to her late father.

1 comment:

Mark Barry said...

I thought her Super Bowl performance was one of the best ever.