While most students are settling into the groove of the fall semester, Ashley Abbott has topped off her academic glass. On Mon., Sept. 10, Abbott delivered a stunning performance that will be long remembered as both eclectic and energizing. Divided into four parts, Abbott’s senior voice recital displayed both technical mastery and emotional expression.
Lasting over an hour, she was able to share more than just her classical vocal pieces and art songs. She shared a taste of her history and one of her intense musical loves: Bluegrass. The variety only enhanced the beauty of each performance and highlighted the hard work that comes from being able to convey different styles effectively.
Abbott’s instructor, Alicia Massie- Legg, professor of music history, shared what a pleasure it was to work with her and that there was a lot of work over the summer to prepare for the recital. Massie-Legg also explained the choice of Bluegrass as a way to connect with Abbott’s performance history, as well as the college’s tradition of valuing Appalachian culture.
“We wanted to encourage classical technique as beautiful and important, but also show the value other styles of music when performed at a high level of technical achievement.” Massie- Legg said. Experienced musicians and longtime friends of Abbott’s also performed. “It’s important to acknowledge the professional musicianship of the [other] performers,” said Massie- Legg.
The other recital performers were pianist Peggy Hinkle, guitarist Rondo Johnson, mandolin player June Stinnett and violinist Sam Damewood.
“One of the hardest things for me in preparing was trying to figure out what each song was about and what experiences in my own life I could draw on to help me emote when singing those songs,” said Abbott. “But you can’t pick something too personal, or you’ll lose the technicality of the music.” Abbott also experienced health issues leading up to her shining moment. Those who didn’t know would never have guessed that she had laryngitis and a fever days before her recital.
“Being sick before the recital was so scary,” Abbot said. “Having already had to cancel last semester, I was just so worried that I’d have to do the same again, and I refused to let that happen. I didn’t speak a word for four days before the recital.” But for the performance, Abbott’s vow of silence was broken, and the audience sipped in every note.
Filled with longtime friends and family, the whole room seemed to breathe only when Abbott dared to do so. Her voice was fluid and light through her vocal runs. It was connected from her low notes all the way to the top. And by the end of the night, Abbott had all of her audience on their feet clapping and singing along.
“Doing a recital was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Abbott said. “And now that it’s finished, I find it very hard to believe that it’s over. It was just a completely different feeling knowing that everyone in the audience was there just for me.” “Bittersweet” was the word Abbott chose to describe her evening, explaining the support she felt and the desire to be perfect for everyone who came to watch her.
“The minute I walked onstage I was calmed because I knew I was surrounded by people who care about me,” Abbott said. Another aspect of Abbott’s process was accepting her own voice. She described the process of singing along to some of her favorite music and comparing herself to others. Now, she said, “I learned it was okay to sound like Ashley.”
Abbott ended the evening by inviting the entire audience to get on their feet to clap and sing “Wagon Wheel,” a lively close to an enjoyable evening that celebrated her many successes.