As a boy growing up in Kenora, I practiced piano every morning at home, at the same time: 6:00 AM. I played and recorded this rendition of Bach’s Prelude over 45 years ago, in 1973, at that very early hour. Right below my parent’s bedroom. The fact that they didn’t throw me out into the snow is yet another proof of their unconditional love. I borrowed a reel-to-reel tape deck from school for the recording. It was a bulky machine with two large wheels of magnetic tape that spun in tandem like twin carousels. Thinking about that tech dinosaur brings back fond memories of analog days gone by. As does the music itself, which I love for its fast tempo and repetitive rhythms.
6:00am Every Morning…What was I Thinking?Mark Winkler2022-05-19T01:12:10-05:00
While learning this Nocturne in 1974, at the age of 14, I made a memorable creative breakthrough. I was studying and analyzing the piece intensely when I suddenly felt I understood how to interpret a musical phrase. I had gained the confidence to make this piece work musically within my own creative vision.
My piano teacher at the time, Sister Gabriel Bruyere, was wise enough to let me follow my instincts and only chimed in when it was obvious I was lost. The creative freedom she allowed me gave me confidence. Confidence that later in life, enabled me to take the creative risks that would be so crucial to my success as an adult.
Nocturne means “night music” and this 3-minute jewel from Chopin is especially beautiful to listen to before going to sleep. Apologies for the technical quality of the track. But what do you expect? It was done in my parent’s basement — below their bedroom — in 1974!
My First Signs of Showing CreativityMark Winkler2022-05-19T01:12:27-05:00
Here with Melody Jacobson Krever, my first and I guess the only girlfriend. We were so young then!
Song: You’ll Never Walk Alone
Composed By: Rodgers & Hammerstein
Sung By: Melody Krever & Mark Winkler
Accompanied By: Ruth Girard
Date Recorded: 1980
This is a musical moment I will never forget. A duet recorded over 37 years ago with Melody Jacobson Krever my first – and last – girlfriend. By this time, I was seriously considering becoming a professional singer. And Melody, bless her, was very gracious in this performance. She took a back seat and, as you can tell from the photo above, let me wail away. And, while the piece is somewhat compromised by the poor recording quality, there’s something about our unpolished youthful energy that I really like.
On a Side Note
Ironically, my voice teacher at the University of Michigan, Katherine Hilgenberg, originated the role of Nettie Fowler in the Lincoln Center version of Carousel. And Nettie was the character who sang You’ll Never Walk Alone. That’s why, a scant 35 years later, I would like to dedicate Melody’s and my performance to the memory of Katherine Hilgenberg.
You’ll Never Walk AloneMark Winkler2022-05-19T01:12:55-05:00
Anyone who has attended music school (mine was at The University of Michigan School of Music) knows that your jury recital is one of the most daunting experiences of your life. Because your jury recital is your final exam. Its outcome decides whether you graduate or not. And the terror is compounded by that fact that there are only two grades possible: pass or fail. Drop a beat? You fail. Miss a note? You fail. You don’t graduate. Your life is over. And, if that isn’t pee-your-pants scary enough, all your friends, all your classmates, all your family, all the faculty are in attendance!
So, no surprise, I was a hot mess going into this trial-by-vocal-cord. I had been battling laryngitis the entire week before. And, my opening selection, Mi Parto, is not an easy piece to sing. So, as I walked out on stage, I had no idea what was going to come out of my mouth. A choking croak? A high-pitched screech? Nothing? All I remember is repeating to myself, over and over, “I am a professional … I will get through this.”
And then, I found myself onstage. I hit my mark. I opened my mouth. And it was…
Good! A strong voice. No trace of laryngitis. And, best of all, a few measures into the song, I settled down and hit my stride for the rest of my program.
For those who are interested in technique, take a listen at the 1:25 mark. I surprised even myself with how well that high “E” came out. For a baritone, very high and yet very soft (pianissimo) spells trouble most of the time.
The program that I sang for my graduating recital.
To the left is the Earl V. Moore School of Music in North Campus at The University of Michigan located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Top-notch students, top-notch faculty, a top-notch school.
A Terrifying Moment… What’s Going to Come Out of My Mouth?Mark Winkler2022-05-19T01:15:04-05:00
The second song of my jury recital is performed in memory of Yakov Kreizberg. Yakov, my accompanist was a fellow Michigan student who was a Russian Jew studying to be a conductor. Having your friends, family and faculty in attendance were daunting in itself. So, I can honestly say that his support for me during the recital was the only way I got through it.
Years have passed since then and, when I googled his name a while ago, I found out he’d become one of the top three conductors in the world. He replaced the legendary Herbert Von Karajan at the Berlin Philharmonic. So I reached out to him, and we briefly relived some very nostalgic moments from school. Yakov was an incredible musician. Yakov earned high respect among opera singers around the world. A musician who was known for his ability to understand the individual needs of the singers he was coaching. Yakov put that knowledge into his conducting so the orchestra he was leading supported the singers in the best way.
I say “was” because when I looked up the correct spelling of his name for this post, I was shocked to discover he died of cancer on March 15th, 2011. The news of his death hit especially close to home since we shared the exact same birthday. But, not only the same birthday, but he died from the very same cancer I had at the very same time.
So I post this recording in memory of Yakov Kreizberg, and though I am far from perfect in it (but I didn’t drop a beat), I can tell you it was one of the greatest moments of my life to have been accompanied by this world-class musician.
In Memory of Yakov KreizbergMark Winkler2022-05-19T01:13:48-05:00
Extra singing moments with accompanist Ruth Girard at my first vocal recital in Kenora July 1980
What follows are extra singing moments. In other words, thirteen additional vocals that defined my first few years as a singer.
Extra Singing Moments in 3 Parts
The first six “extra singing moments” are from my graduating recital at the University of Michigan in 1982. They’ve all been cleaned up digitally, which significantly improved their sound quality. But what really makes these songs so special is my Russian-born fellow student accompanist, Yakov Kreizberg. Simply put, Yakov can make a simple piano sound like a full orchestra. I am very fortunate to have had such an extraordinarily talented musician accompany me on these works.
The next six “extra singing moments” represent my introduction to opera in 1980. Recorded all in one day in a practice room where I was still learning the music. I was getting ready for a voice lesson where I was going to sing these new songs. My accompanist Mark Hsiao was sight reading this music that I had just sprung on him.
And finally, the last extra singing moment is from my first operatic performance at The University of Michigan. The opera was “The Consul” by Menotti. Having a full orchestra underneath me was pure magic. This excerpt ends with me attempting a high “F.” A note which never came out right in rehearsals. However, on this recording, luck was with me.
Abschied – Schubert
Au Cimitiere – Faure
American Folksongs – Copland
Der Floh – Beethoven
Mai – Faure
Si tra i ceppi – Handel
Abendstern – Wagner
God is My Shepherd – Dvorak
I Will Sing New Songs of Gladness – Dvorak
Guglielmo’s aria “I Would Like a Word with All You Lovely, Lovely, Lovely, Women.” from the opera Cosi Fan Tutti – Mozart
Arm, Arm Ye Brave – Handel
Count’s Aria from The Marriage of Figaro – Mozart
Excerpts from The Consul – Menotti
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