Singing in America is once again a really big deal. From voice competitions on network television ranging across vocal genres, to the critical importance of singers in opera, to “Glee” on television and Broadway musicals where big, rangy voices, which are the hallmarks of shows like “Wicked,” are in demand.
It’s entirely fitting then that the Kennedy Center is presenting an unprecedented three-day (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) festival of voices and singing, called “American Voices.” It’s equally appropriate that soprano Renee Fleming, one of the premiere American and world-class singers will be moderating, curating and leading the festival.
“Everywhere in our country’s popular culture—from ‘Glee’ and ‘106 &Park’ to ‘American Idol,’ ‘The Voice’ and ‘Nashville,’ at sporting events and national ceremonies—the art of singing is suddenly center stage. This festival will explore, across a range of genres, the artistry, business, technology, pedagogy and community of American singing,” Fleming said.
The festival will also feature some of the top vocalists and singers in the country, holding master sessions and performing in the centerpiece “American Voices” concert, 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Kennedy Center. In addition, there will be several symposiums on a variety of subjects, concerning music and singing in America today.
Fleming will also be a part of the “American Voices” concert, featuring Sara Bareilles, Kim Burrell, Kurt Elling, Ben Folds, Sutton Foster, Josh Groban, Alison Krauss, Norm Lewis, Eric Owens and Dianne Reeves with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Steven Reineke.
Heading master sessions will be Eric Owens on classical music at 2 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22; Dianne Reeves on jazz at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22; Alison Krauss on country music at 10 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 23; Ben Folds on pop music at 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23; Sutton Foster on musical theater at 11 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 24; Kim Burrell on Gospel at 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24. Fleming will head a Sunday wrap-up session. All master sessions will be held in the Terrace Theater and will be moderated by Fleming.
There will also be symposiums in the Atrium: “Vocal Health and Illness: Insights into the Past, Present and Future,” 4:30 p.m, Friday, Nov. 22; “The Business of Technology of Popular Singing Today”, 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23; “Voice Training Today” 1:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24.
There will also be free performances at the center’s Millennium Stage by the jazz vocal group Afro Blue and Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist’s Program Friday, 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22; Gospel singer Vanessa WIlliams and the country band Mama Tried, 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, and musical theater performer Erin Driscoll and multi-instrumentalist Jon Carroll, 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 24.