Get to know TBSI soprano Emily Yocum Black

Emily Yocum Black

Soprano Emily Yocum Black joins us at TBSI this season from Paducah, Kentucky. TBSI, the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, is an intense two week course that includes masterclasses, orchestra and choir rehearsals, chamber ensembles, private lessons, dance classes, opera scene study, and an array of lectures and workshops.

Despite the busy schedule, we were able to catch up with Emily. Get to know Emily with our Q&A.

How did you get into singing?

I grew up with singing in the house – my mom and grandmother are really wonderful singers and they both play the guitar and sing in harmony by ear so I was brought up in that environment. My interests widened to musical theatre and choir in high school and when I went to college I really became interested in all genres of vocal repertoire. From the beginning of my formal music training, baroque music seemed to fit very naturally with my voice and throughout my undergrad and graduate degrees, I explored more and more of this repertoire. I still really enjoy singing and performing many different types of music!

Why did you decide to come to TBSI?

I first heard about Tafelmusik when I attended a summer program called SongFest in my undergrad. One of my roommates was from Toronto and she introduced me to the group and their recordings. Some time after that, I “followed” Tafelmusik on Instagram and saw their post about TBSI and I decided to apply! I am one year out of my masters and I am now trying to get a little bit of focus going forward in my career. This program seemed like the perfect fit for really immersing myself in early music with some of the very best instructors in the field!

What is one of your favourite parts about TBSI so far?

I love collaborating with all of my fellow colleagues in the various ensembles. So far, I’ve worked very closely with not only my fellow vocalists but with flutists, violinists, viola d’amore players, harpsichordists, cellists, lute players, etc. I have learned so much just by being involved and in tune with their processes in music-making and how that intertwines with mine.

What is one of your most memorable gigs?

My very first gig with period baroque instruments was Handel’s Messiah with Bourbon Baroque in Louisville, KY where we performed the entire work with 12 singers – each singer also acting as soloists throughout. I’ve performed this gig with them for the past three years and even though it’s something that is done so often, especially during Advent, getting to do the piece with such a small ensemble really brings life and energy to Messiah that I think is sometimes lost.

Who is your favourite composer to perform? (Doesn’t have to be baroque)

Oh gosh, this is like asking what kind of cheese you like best (also a hard question for me to answer). I’d probably have to say Mozart, although Bach is way up there as well.

What is your ‘guilty pleasure’ music to listen to?

90’s country pop … especially The Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces album. I know every word.

What are the last three songs/pieces you’ve listened to?

Handel – Tornami a vagheggiar (Alcina)
Nickel Creek – The Lighthouse’s Tale
ABBA – Super Trooper
(I feel like this is a very accurate representation of my wide musical tastes)

What is your favourite thing to do in your hometown during your free time?

I love to cycle down to our local brewery and have a beer out on the patio with family right around sunset.

What do you look forward to seeing/doing in Toronto?

Well, we visited the Toronto Islands this weekend and that was beautiful! I loved the view of the city from the islands and all the cottages. I am also looking forward to having some poutine – which I know is really a Quebec food however I’m sure it’s going to be more authentic than the poutine I’ve eaten in my native state of Kentucky. We do fried chicken much better than poutine, I think.

What is your great ambition?

I honestly think my greatest ambition is to make music as long as I can to the best of my ability with authenticity, beauty, love, and passion for the art form. From singing on a big concert stage to a gymnasium full of kids, I hope I can always adhere to that ideal.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

My parents, for certain. They have supported me so much in everything that I’ve done and have always encouraged me to do what makes me happy. They are the most compassionate and caring humans I have ever known and I would do well to live life half as fully as they do.

Where do you see yourself 10 years in the future?

I see myself traveling around the country performing with various ensembles specializing in the early music repertoire, yet certainly being able and open to performing all different kinds of music. But always returning to my home-base in Paducah, KY where I’d like to continue to foster new music-makers and lovers through teaching voice.

What words of wisdom would you pass onto future TBSI participants?

It is a whirlwind two weeks but there is so much information and knowledge to be gained here. From the lectures to the masterclasses and concerts, soak up as much of it as you possibly can! Where will you find such an amazing assemblage of faculty and students all intensely focused on the baroque for 14 days?!

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What’s cooking at TWI this year?

Ruth Denton. Photo: Emily Ding

By Ruth Denton, oboe and box office staff

T-What?
The Tafelmusik Winter Institute, affectionately called TWI (pronounced Tee-Wee, rhymes with kiwi), is a week-long intensive study program for experienced period musicians. This year we will be focussing on music performed in France during the baroque era.

Ingredients

  • 40 musicians
  • 10 Tafelmusik mentors
  • 27.5 hours of orchestra rehearsal
  • 3 baroque dance classes
  • masterclasses
  • 1 amazing admin team
  • 1 concert

    Ruth’s baroque oboe. Harry Vas Dias Oboe by THOMAS STANESBY, SR., c. 1700, after original in the Hamamatsu City Museum, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, ex Rosenbaum Collection.

Musicians come from all over the world
TWI typically hosts young professional musicians from Canada and our neighbours in the US, but has also included students from France, South America, and even Australia! These musicians are attracted by the international reputation Tafelmusik has gained for their expertise in Historically Informed Performance* and their dynamic performances.

*Historically Informed Performance (HIP)
Historically Informed Performance is a practice and an approach to music that involves studying the manner and style of the era in which a work was originally conceived.

HIP can be compared to making an old bread recipe written in the seventeenth century. You research what ingredients and tools were used and do your best to find or reproduce them. You read historical books on bread-making, trying to uncover tips and tricks. This helps you interpret the scripted recipe. Finally you try it out. At TWI we have the opportunity to learn from people who have devoted their careers to the musical equivalent of historical bread-making. They not only share their expertise, but help guide us in our own research and explorations.

Because this is a French TWI, we have the luxury of countless treatises – the French loved to write these musical equivalents of cookbooks. Some treatises even include a legend to the markings in their scores; a literal guide on how to play their music.

Ornamentation “legend” from treatise – Hotteterre: Pièces pour la flûte traversiere, Op.2, second edition (1715)

We also have a chance to look at the early editions and manuscript copies of the scores of the music we are playing, and to discuss how to use these sources to create performing editions. The editions we are using at TWI were prepared by Tafelmusik librarian and keyboardist, Charlotte Nediger.

Manuscript – Rebel: Les Élémens: Le Chaos (1737)

Tafelmusik Mentors
Jeanne Lamon directs the orchestra from her violin in many hours of orchestral rehearsal, but also holds an expectation of leadership from the concertmaster and other section leaders in the orchestra. Tafelmusik mentors from each section of the orchestra spend time coaching sectionals, teaching masterclasses, offering fellowship, and a listening ear to any curious questions participants may have.

TWI-Tip: (I have learned) most questions are best received and answered when accompanied with a beverage …

Music now, questions later
Over the six days before the concert, we have 27.5 hours devoted to orchestral rehearsal. In rehearsal breaks we commune over cups of tea and snacks in the Tafelmusik office. The time between rehearsals is short, but gives us time to bond with fellow participants and to practise. The TWI schedule also includes an open discussion about careers and performing, pub nights, and a seminar focussed on French performance practice (*HIP in baroque France).

Dance (Feuillet) notation “menuet d’Exaudet, Principes de chorégraphie de Magny (París, 1765)”

Bring your dancing shoes!
During the week we will be (re-)introduced to the world of baroque dance by Jeannette Lajeunesse-Zingg, Co-Artistic Director and Choreographer of Opera Atelier. Participants: expect to be humbled, and/or amazed by your colleagues’ ability (or lack thereof) to remember dance steps and gracefully accomplish the minuet.

What happens in masterclass
Masterclasses offer participants the opportunity for individual performance and teaching. Each instrument has its own classes, and each participant has chosen a French solo sonata or suite to play for their colleagues, and to work on in detail with their class teacher. I am preparing a suite from Les goûts-réunis by François Couperin. I am especially glad to play another suite written for two oboes by Pierre Danican Philidor, oboist & great-great-nephew of the Philidor who designed the baroque oboe with Hotteterre.

The Dream Team
TWI is largely managed by the dream team: Charlotte Nediger, Caitlin Cross, and Mara Brown. These three have put countless hours into planning and thinking through logistics of this annual event, and that reflects in the many participants (like me, third time’s the charm!) who return or (I would highly) recommend the program to their colleagues.

As a lucky member of the Tafelmusik staff team, I cannot express what it means to me to be a member of the Tafel-family. My experience as a young artist and new Torontonian has been shaped by the attitude, mentoring, and example of the individuals in the orchestra, choir, and staff. These amazing people live and work for others, and sometimes short of a miracle, that teamwork (and some stubbornness) has been the cause of many enriching and successful events. I am particularly grateful knowing they will be the ones working behind the scenes to make TWI 2018 another one of those successes.

Lully, Rebel, Campra, Rameau, and more!
All the hard work and preparation finally culminates in a Pay-What-You-Can public performance on Wednesday January 10, 2018 at 7:30PM in Jeanne Lamon Hall. Including operatic music by Louis XIV’s composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, the king of French opera (doomed to die by his own baton); Lully’s student Jean-Féry Rebel; André Campra, who followed Lully’s footsteps writing tragédies en musique and opéra-ballets; and lastly the dramatic composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. This is the real test: come and taste what we’ve been cooking!