Mar 29, 2017–She’ll be singing Gedenken-vergessen, a lieder composed by Frank Valentine Van der Stucken in 1892. But truth be told, mezzo-soprano September van der Stoel would feel just as comfortable singing jazz.
“Jazz is my first love. I absolutely love jazz–singing it, listening to it,” said the now Fredericksburg resident. “I really fell in love with it.”
Van der Stoel will be featured vocalist at this Saturday’s 27th Annual Van der Stucken Music Festival. In a way, her musical path is the reverse of Fredericksburg’s native composer. Frank Van der Stucken was born in Fredericksburg in 1858, but soon moved to Europe where he became a recognized composer and conductor.
Van der Stoel was born overseas, and comes to Fredericksburg after traveling extensively during her childhood with her parents Ross and Elaine Bigelow, who were in the diplomatic services. That exposure to a variety of cultures influenced her career.
She speaks six languages, does dialects, acts, has studied dance, was a state champion gymnast, and has a Bachelor of Music degree from Texas Tech University. She has performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, and on Broadway, and worked with the American Ballet Theater, Gilbert & Sullivan Players, countless symphonies, and Disney Cruise Lines.
“Yes, I’ve sung at pretty much every major venue people have heard of in New York,” she said. “I ticked them off my list.”
But now she and her husband are back in Texas. She is far from retired, and in addition to being on the program with the Fredericksburg Community Orchestra, is sharing her talents and experience with local groups. She performs, works with theater and choir students at Fredericksburg High School and Heritage School, and gives voice lessons at Fredericksburg Theater Company and in her private studio. Teaching is not something she envisioned doing.
“I never ever imagined I would love teaching as much as I do,” she said. “It’s a fun experience. I like that I can be a leader. I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been able to go in and help others hone their talents.”
With all the great roles she has filled, from Aldonza in Man of La Mancha to Pitti Sing in The Mikado, this will be her first exposure to the works of Van der Stucken.
“I had never heard of him before this,” she admitted. “Nothing is recorded so it is challenging to learn something quickly and efficiently like we usually do using the Internet. This doesn’t even have any LP recordings, so I’ve just been plucking away on my keyboard. It’s fun!”
The title of the piece Gedenken-vergessen translates as “remember-forget.”
“It is kind of a sad piece,” she said. She may also perform Serenade, with text by Victor Hugo. “That one is more up tempo. It makes a nice juxtaposition, with complementary pieces. It is sweet music, and more than what I was expecting.”
Of course, learning about Frank Van der Stucken and his works is the purpose of the event. Started in 1991 by Friends of Van der Stucken, the event is now hosted by the Fredericksburg Community Orchestra under the direction of Theresa Britt and has expanded in scope. Also on the program this year with the orchestra is the Angelo State University Chamber Ensemble, Arion Maennerchor under the direction of Mark Hierholzer, Brazilian violin soloist Fagner Rocha, and Hardin-Simmons professor emeritus Dr. Larry Wolz, who is working on a book of Van der Stucken’s life and career.
After this event, you might hear Van der Stoel performing musical theater, canto, an aria, or… jazz.
“If I had to pick one thing I had to do for a living,” she said, “it would definitely be a jazz trio. I would eat that up. If only I had the time.”
But she has no regrets about the path she followed.
“I was fortunate to be able to work and make a living in New York,” she said. “Sometimes I can’t even believe it was my life.”
The 27th Annual Van der Stucken Music Festival will be held on Sat, Apr 1, at 7:30 p.m. at Hill Country Church, 107 East Lower Crabapple Rd., Fredericksburg, Texas. More information is available at www.fredericksburgorchestra.com.