A superb vocal recital at BIG Arts
By Harold Lieberman, special to the Islander
Sanibel-Captiva Islander, Nov. 2006

A vocal recital was presented Thursday, November 30, 2006 in BIG Arts, Phillips Gallery by baritone, Joshua Hopkins and pianist, Jared Mosbey. The concert was sponsored in part by The Kenneth L. Nees Endowment Fund as part of The Laverne and Bill Phillips Endowment Campaign and the Marilyn Horne Foundation which is dedicated to, “encourage, support and preserve the art of the vocal recital through the presentation of vocal recitals and related educational programs in communities across the United States.” During their residency in Sanibel, the artists visited local schools to demonstrate their music and encourage young people to experience and appreciate classical singing.  A near capacity audience was treated to the artistic ambiance and crystal clear acoustics of the intimate Phillips Gallery as the young artists presented works by Schubert, Schumann, Glick, Ravel, Mozart and Rodgers & Hammerstein. The New Yorker Magazine hailed Hopkin’s voice as, “…a honey-toned, unforced baritone and The Globe and Mail wrote, “Hopkins has a robust voice that is filled with personality, subtle yet strong at the same time.” 

These words aptly describe the young baritone’s perfectly centered and resonant voice. Pianist Jared Mosbey, who earned a masters degree in piano accompanying from the University of Michigan and specializes as a “collaborative pianist” in the art of accompanying soloists, accompanied Mr. Hopkins. He supported the vocalist with great sensitivity, anticipating every phrase and nuance. Both artist’s presentation was most professional, both musically and visually. 

The audience was supplied English translations of the different selections. Hopkins memorized every word and his command of German, French, Italian and English was exemplary. The recital began with, “Selected Songs On Flowers” by Franz Schubert (English translations): “By the Brook in Springtime,” “The Beautiful Girl at the Mill,” and “Dry Flowers.” 

The next selection continued the German lied tradition with Robert Schumann’s Song Cycle, “Liederkreis, Op. 24.” Hopkins’ musicality shone brightly during these selections with impeccable intonation, tonal coloration and a minimal use of hand gestures. He effectively communicated the work’s strong emotional feelings with just his facial expressions and subtle body movements. A far different approach was to come after intermission.  Having grown up in Pembroke, Ontario, Canada, he delighted in presenting eight songs composed by Srul Irving Glick titled, “South of North — Images of Canada.” Inspired by the composer’s encounter with paintings, Hopkins felt most fortunate being surrounded by paintings displayed in the Phillips Gallery. The vocalist’s communicative skills took on a more visual dimension as he emphasized various emotions with hand gestures and superb facial and body expressions. 

This was also evident in the next selection, “Don Quichotte a Dulcinee” by Maurice Ravel. Moreover, “Non piu andrai” from “Le Nozze di Figaro” by Mozart was a tour de force both vocally and visually. His rendition of, “Chanson a boire” (Drinking Song) was sung and acted with convincing skill. It was quite a transformation from the serious artist heard in the first half to an emotionally charged, drunken vocalist a half-hour later. Joshua Hopkins showed that he is not only an exceptional vocalist but an equally superb actor.

Naturally, the audience’s standing ovation clamored for an encore, and the baritone reciprocated by singing a song from one of his first roles — as a sixteen-year old “Curly” in his Canadian high school presentation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s great musical, Oklahoma! Not only did he sing the show’s, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” but he motivated the audience to participate by singing, following each verse, ”Oh, what a beautiful mornin,’ Oh, what a beautiful day. I’ve got a beautiful feelin’ everything’s goin’ my way.” It seemed an appropriate finale for a splendid evening at BIG Arts.