Greatness expresses itself in different ways. Sometimes in indisputable artistic talents, and other times in profound displays of humanity. And sometimes, as in the case of today’s subject, Sarah Reese, it’s both. The soprano, who just this week celebrated a landmark birthday, is a singer of rare gifts whose career encompassed some of the world’s greatest stages and concert halls who later in life returned to the region where she grew up (in Sarah’s case, South Carolina), to give back to the community as a music teacher and choir director, in which capacity she has positively impacted the lives of countless students who came into contact with her warmth, skill, and generosity of spirit. Earlier on in her personal saga, Sarah made history when in the late 1960s she was the first female Black student at Furman University in Greenville. Through her persistence, courage, and determination, she rose above the ostracism and abuse she experienced there to become enshrined as a legend, with the school’s theater recently permanently renamed in her honor. Though her voice and artistry were acknowledged worldwide, her recorded legacy is small, with only one commercial recording (Samuel Barber’s Prayers of Kierkegaard) which nevertheless won a Grammy award in 1993. It is our great good fortune that in recent years a number of precious live recordings have emerged that show quite clearly the range and extent of her gifts. I present all of them here on this episode: from a concert recording of Verdi’s rare 1848 opera Il corsaro co-starring legendary Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi, to a broadcast concert with the Detroit Symphony led by Isaiah Jackson in which she sings Mozart and Verdi arias, as well as Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. The episode concludes with a recently resurfaced 1988 performance of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem led by Herbert von Karajan the year before his death, one in which Sarah Reese’s heavenly soprano bestows a comforting benediction upon us all. Blessings upon this living legend, and gratitude galore!
Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.