Rebecca Castillo performs in the Kentucky Bach Choir's Audrey Rooney Vocal Competition. Provided Photo.

CCM Singer Awarded in Kentucky Bach Choir’s Audrey Rooney Vocal Competition

We are thrilled to share that CCM Master of Music student Rebecca Castillo won the Encouragement Award after participating in Kentucky Bach Coir’s Audrey Rooney Vocal Competition on Saturday, April 9.

Singers Zackery Morris, Emily Yocum Black, Julius Cruse Miller III, Rebecca Castillo with vocal competition sponsor Audrey Rooney and Kentucky Bach Choir Artistic Director Marlon Hurst.

Singers Zackery Morris, Emily Yocum Black, Julius Cruse Miller III, Rebecca Castillo with vocal competition sponsor Audrey Rooney and Kentucky Bach Choir Artistic Director Marlon Hurst. Provided Photo.

Nine student singers from six different states and nine universities competed in the live vocal competition, held at the First Presbyterian Church in Lexington. The singers competed for a Grand Prize of $1,500, an Audience Choice Award of $750, and two Encouragement Awards. As a recipient of the Encouragement Award, Castillo was given $500 and the opportunity to return as a paid guest soloist in future Kentucky Bach choir concerts.

The Grand Prize winner was Emily Yocum Black, who is pursuing a Master’s in Vocal Performance at the University of Louisville. The Audience Choice Award went to Zackery Morris, who is in pursuit of a Doctor of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance at the University of Kentucky. Julius Cruse Miller III, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance at Indiana University, won the other Encouragement Award.

Castillo is a soprano studying under the tutelage of Amy Johnson, assistant professor of voice, as part of the Master of Music program at CCM. She recently performed in the ensemble of CCM’s production of Leos Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen. Last fall, Castillo performed J. S. Bach’s B Minor Mass with Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson.

She graduated from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor of Music Education and previously taught choir at South Houston High School. While there, she performed with Houston’s Bach Society Choir including works B Minor Mass, St. Matthew’s Passion and Magnificat.

About the Audrey Rooney Vocal Competition
In its sixth year, the vocal competition was created to encourage exceptional student singers in the study of the solo repertoire of J. S. Bach, Franz Joseph Haydn, and W. A. Mozart. Singers are selected for the live competition in Lexington by submitting recordings to Kentucky Bach Choir Artistic Director, Marlon Hurst. The competition was adjudicated by Hurst, Associate Professor of Voice and Director of Opera at the University of Alamaba Dr. Krintine Hurst-Wajszczuk, and Zach Klobnak, director of music at The Presbyterian Church in Danville, Centre College organist and instructor of organ, harpsichord, and piano. Klobnak also serves as the accompanist for the Kentucky Bach Choir. All singers in the competition were accompanied by Nan McSwain, vocal coach and lecturer in opera with the University of Kentucky Opera Theater.

Ms. Audrey Heyman Rooney became the sponsor of the competition in 2013. A member of the Kentucky Bach Choir Board of Directors, Ms. Rooney has been a longtime advocate for the arts and for the encouragement of young artists, making significant contributions towards these ends in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Kentucky.

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One of the design inspirations for CCM's new production of THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN.

Discussing the Cycles of Life Presented in CCM’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’ with Director Vince DeGeorge

Leoš Janáček’s fantastical opera The Cunning Little Vixen comes to the CCM stage April 8 – 10 as part of this year’s Mainstage Series. To share what inspired his vision for the anthropomorphic production, Stage Director and Choreographer Vince DeGeorge reflected on the relationship between humans and nature with CCM Public Information Graduate Assistant Charlotte Kies.

A mask from CCM's 2016 production of THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN. Photography by Mark Lyons.

A mask from CCM’s 2016 production of THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN. Photography by Mark Lyons.

Could you tell me about your inspiration for the design of the masks in this production?

I’ve had this little vixen figurine for about 10 years. It was a gift from my wife, and it has become a touchstone for this project. You’ll see the geometric nature of the fox sculpture reflected in the masks by third-year graduate student and Costume Designer Oran Wongpandid. They’re very cool looking. There’s a sort of formalism about this little creature that I love, but there’s also a playfulness that embodies the spirit of this production.

CCM’s production of Leoš Janáček’s 'The Cunning Little Vixen.’ Photo by Mark Lyons.

CCM’s production of Leoš Janáček’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen.’ Photo by Mark Lyons.

How do they use these masks?

They carry the masks and sometimes wear them. They don’t sing with the masks on. One of the things that is most prevalent in this opera is the relationship between humans and animals. The actors come on stage as humans and they transform into animals in front of the audience. It’s a simple transformation through movement and mask work.

Is this something traditionally done, or is this a new idea of your own?

That’s something that I bring to it. Mark Halpin, the designer of the set, and I have never done a show together but we’ve worked a lot together. He sort of understands my aesthetic and he brought his own point of view to it as well. He has come up with this design that I think really embodies this very human aspect of this story. We become animals to tell a very human story.

'The Cunning Little Vixen'

CCM’s production of Leoš Janáček’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen.’ Photo by Mark Lyons.

What is that human story?

I think the human story is that every day, life is happening all around us. Often times we are too distracted, or aggressive, or controlling to notice. If you actually take the time to be aware, you will experience everything that’s going on around you. You may not experience all of it, but you will be more receptive to experiences. That’s the journey of the Forester, from very aggressive and controlling, to very open and receptive.

CCM’s production of Leoš Janáček’s 'The Cunning Little Vixen.’ Photo by Mark Lyons.

CCM’s production of Leoš Janáček’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen.’ Photo by Mark Lyons.

The Vixen has a different journey. She starts very innocent, open and receptive. Then events occur that change her to become more aggressive and more controlling. She eventually finds her way back into a much more open and receptive place with her love, the Fox.

What’s so beautiful about this opera is that it runs in cycles, in circles. Someone starts a scene and ends up in almost the same place, but something has changed within them. There is a giant cycle that’s going on within the entire opera and the Vixen has a cycle that’s running through her and the Forester. We don’t see the top of the Forester’s cycle but we see him changing back to this more open and receptive person. The music just cycles and cycles in a wonderful repetition and revision that Janáček is an expert at creating.

That sort of fits in with what I’ve read.

The opera is full of life cycles! But within them are tiny little journeys that are going on within ALL of the characters.

That is one aspect that makes this opera so amazing, and another reason why Mark and I decided to set it in a more distilled, abstract way, as opposed to setting it in the 1920s or in Czechoslovakia. To nail it down to a certain time period could diminish the universality of the performance. It doesn’t have a time period, but I think the story in itself is timeless. I’m not saying this is the way to approach this opera, this is the way we approached it.

'The Cunning Little Vixen'

CCM’s production of Leoš Janáček’s ‘The Cunning Little Vixen.’ Photo by Mark Lyons.

Is this opera often translated into English?

Well, I’m not an expert at that. What I can say is that when I was an undergrad here, David Adams was my voice teacher. Then he did the translation of my first opera here!

That’s a nice little cycle!

Yes, it is! And even though he is a professor emeritus here, David has been at a lot of rehearsals. He has been really involved. It’s been fantastic to work with him in a very different way and still learn from him.

Was it his choice to put this in English?

Actually, David wrote this for Professor Kenneth Shaw’s production here but then retired after spending a lifetime here. This is one of our ways to thank and honor him and the work that he’s done for CCM.

Are English-sung operas a theme this year?

Well, that’s something that we as a department really made an effort to do this year. Both Mainstage Operas were in English, which is more challenging to sing than other languages. The students need to learn how to sing in English and make it understandable and not lose their vocal quality.

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Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen runs April 8 – 10 in UC’s Corbett Auditorium. Mark Gibson conducts with stage direction and choreography by Vince DeGeorge. This production will be sung in English, with a new translation by CCM Professor Emeritus David Adams. You can learn more about the production here.

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