It was like eavesdropping on old friends. Such was the level of intimacy and fun at William Parker's recital at the Terrace Theater Saturday night, with William Huckaby at the piano. The unusual program of mostly American music included songs by Carpenter, Barber, Chanler and Beveridge, closing with Thomas Pasatieri's hilarious "Vocal Modesty." There was also a deadly cycle by Bartok and a delightful "Owl and the Pussy Cat" by Stravinsky.
Thomas Beveridge's 1975 cycle "A Man's Love," to John Donne poems, was an exciting revelation. It is firmly rooted in today's trend toward accessible and beautiful new music, in this case with the sweetness of blues and the momentum of jazz. Parker was at his best here, his small but rich voice delicately caressing the lovely vocal line over Huckaby's gentle playing.
John Alden Carpenter's 1913 setting of Rabindranath Tagore poems is a lovely watercolor with French tones brushed on an American canvas. It is light and gorgeous, at times naively representational of the poems and always delightful. Parker's top remains a tad pinched, and he is forced to use portato when singing soft passages more than one wishes. But his gift for communication is more than enough. Indeed it is his attention to words that make his singing so special, and great names like Souzay and Bernac came to mind more than once.
It was to the great French baritone Pierre Bernac and to Samuel Barber that Parker's performance of Barber's "Melodies Passageres" was dedicated. The cycle's ebb and flow of discretion and loud beauty was rediscovered by Parker, as if he were singing to each person individually in the sold-out house.It was a fine concert.