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Joshua Jeremiah

Josh J

Returning to New York Festival of Song this month in two tour performances of Arias and Barcarolles and other Bernstein Songs, and in December’s performances of A Goyishe Christmas to You!, Joshua Jeremiah is a “rich-voiced” baritone (The New York Times) and our Artist of the Month!

You have performed in NYFOS’s annual holiday show A Goyishe Christmas to You! almost every year since Steve created it in 2010. Are there any other roles or pieces that you’ve returned to over and over in your career? How has your approach to performing those works changed over time?

I think I’ve only missed one year of our Goyishe concert, which definitely puts it in the running for my most performed role… if you could consider it that. I haven’t had the opportunity to repeat many of the roles I’ve performed. I did several productions of a play, The Last Romance by Joe DiPietro written for the lovely and talented Marion Ross and her longtime partner Paul Michael, and probably totaled 200+ performances… but they rack up quick in 8 show weeks. The tricky part about that, is keeping it fresh after so many curtains. But I think it is a testament to the writing and performances in that piece, it never seemed to drift away emotionally. It would still hit me hard, even at the end of the run.

Speaking operatically, I think Silvio might be the role I’ve sung most… a whopping 4 productions. I think I have more premieres than I do repeat roles. The only thing that changes if I’ve done a work before, is that I don’t have to buy a score (hopefully), highlight it, or find recordings. Other than that, I don’t really change much. I try to go into every new production as open as possible.

When you are working on a new (or new to you) piece, how do you begin? What is the first thing you do when you get a new score?

I immediately skim the entire piece, looking at range, getting a sense of the plot, searching for big emotional beats, while highlighting my part along the way. I usually lean either pink or yellow. Then I translate, although I do a surprising amount of English opera, so sometimes I get to skip this step. I make a text notebook, and do most of my memorization from that.

Like many opera singers, your work takes you all over the country. Where is your home base at the moment, and how did choose it? How do you help yourself feel at home quickly when you are away on a gig?

I live in Astoria, Queens with my wife, Dana, and puppy, Hamlet. We’ve been here for a decade, moving here after college. Dana moved here for theater, and I moved here for opera, so it just seemed to make sense.

As long as I have internet, I never feel that far away from home. Dana and I send video messages to each other throughout the day, so even though I’m away, I always feel like I have my family. Oddly, I find that I shop at Trader Joe’s a lot on the road, and I think there is something about that “road diet” that is comforting.

You recently performed in the world premiere of a sensual new opera When Adonis Calls, which was reviewed on the Barihunk blog. Do you notice an increase in the attention paid to the physiques of male performers in the opera world in recent years? Is this something that factors into your preparation for certain roles or productions?

It is a lovely show. Beautiful music, funny and sweet, a little dirty… definitely NSFW. As to the question of physique, I think the trend to hunkify singers absolutely exists. But I was ‘advised’ in a YAP audition to lose 40 lbs “if I wanted to have a career” so I can’t really speak to if it is getting worse or not, but I do think that opportunities to perform are diminishing, and the pool of talent is swelling. A lot of people listen with their eyes, and there are advantages to looking better than everyone else. That said, I never did lose those 40 lbs… But I do go to the gym a lot more if the character is supposed to be fit. I’ve been shirtless a few times, and completely nude for Adonis. I think as long as the audience is expecting dadbod, then I’m good to go.

What projects are you most excited about at the moment and why?

I’m singing the role of Lt Horstmayer in Silent Night this November at Minnesota Opera. It’s a role debut and a house debut, so that always gets me a little more hyped, plus I love the show.

If you could sing with any performer from the past, whom would you pick? What would you sing?

Franco Corelli, and any Verdi duet he wants… although Otello excerpts would be a lot of fun.

What was the last music you listened to before answering these questions?

I’m working on a project with The Angel’s Share, where I am The Monster from Frankenstein, and I was working on that. Music by Gregg Kallor. Good stuff.

When you aren’t making music, what is your favorite way to spend your time?

I love to just stay in with my wife. Make food, watch some TV, walk the dog. I’m pretty introverted most of the time, and prefer relaxation. Maybe some board games with friends? If I’m on the road, I like going to breweries, hiking, or relaxing and playing video games on my laptop.

What is your favorite song? (Qualify your answer to this possibly impossible question as needed.)

I love this question. So short, so direct, and so impossible to answer. In response to such a question, the answer should be similarly short, direct, and impossible. The Greatest by They Might Be Giants

Verdi: Solenne in quest’ora

We’ve made it… IT’S FRIDAY!!!!

So, what genres do I have left on my phone to explore? Well, frankly too many… so I’m going to avoid making you listen to a bunch of Jazz, Pop, Musicals, etc;. And no matter how tempting it is to tell you how They Might Be Giants has probably influenced me more than any other contemporary music, I’m going to go a different route. Instead, I am going to share some opera with you.

I mentioned in Wednesday’s blog how I feel about opera, but let’s just say that we didn’t hit it off at first. When I started college at Shenandoah Conservatory (all those years ago), I was a musical theater major. I loved singing and acting, but I didn’t really have much interest in opera, so I set my sights on Broadway. After one semester of early morning ballet classes, I began to think that perhaps I had chosen the wrong major, and I changed over to voice performance at the end of my Freshman year.

I loved my new voice teacher, Bard Suverkrop, and I  immediately liked the complexity of performing opera… the way it challenged my mind to be present as an actor while also constantly having these systems of memory and physicality running on high priority in the background. It was (and is) very fun to do. I instantly got a lot of encouragement and I felt great about my choice to switch majors… but I didn’t really LIKE watching or listening to opera. It all seemed so staid and boring and safe. I remember conversations with my classmates where I hated on Callas, Terfel, and several other of my heroes (God, I was a douche… a big sorry to everyone I knew in those days).

But then, in a single clarifying moment, the course of my life would be forever changed. I was playing a video game on my computer, and decided to put on a CD that a friend let me borrow. I was just half listening to it in the background… and then, my operatic innocence was shattered by the most powerful high C I’d heard in my young naive life. Franco Corelli, at the end of Di quella pira. I sat there in kind of a shocked stunned silence…and then listened to it several more times. I just didn’t understand how I could be so wrong about opera. This was passionate… almost reckless… visceral and masculine… I LOVED THIS!!! And thus, my life was forever changed.

So, for your listening pleasure, a video of my favorite tenor (Corelli) and my favorite baritone (Bastianini) singing together in Napoli. The thing I love most about this video is how real and unproduced it is. You can see Bastianini stealing looks at the conductor, they aren’t together with the orchestra, you can hear the prompter, Corelli sings sharp, they get hissed at by the audience, and I’m pretty sure somebody throws rotten vegetables at them at the end.

It is real, and astounding, and beautiful… at least to me.

Thanks for reading, and for supporting my friends and colleagues at NYFOS. I’ve had a great time sharing some of my favorite music with you, and I hope you enjoyed yourself. To keep up with my singing engagements, I encourage you to visit my website www.JoshuaJeremiahBaritone.com, and to like my artist page over on Facebook at Joshua Jeremiah, Baritone.

Have a great weekend, and may the force be with you!

Iron Maiden: The Number of the Beast

Welcome to Thorsday! On this day we give thanks to the Norse God of thunder, lightening… and METAL!!!!

Yes, I know Thor isn’t REALLY the God of Metal… but just imagine if that hammer had some strings and frets… it would be magnificent!

But, before I jump into the music, I want give a bit of background on how I came to have such strange musical tastes. I grew up in a very conservative part of central Pennsylvania. We lived in a small farmhouse with Amish next door neighbors and no cable… heck, the internet didn’t even exist yet. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and life was safe and predictable. I remember listening to my parents’ records which were mostly religious music, some classical, and oldies. So to say my musical influences were limited, might be a slight understatement. Almost no popular music at all… no Michael Jackson, no Stevie, no Hall and Oates, no U2, no Bon Jovi. This persisted until puberty, mostly because the lost social capital from not being “cool” didn’t have any negative effects yet, and I had very little time away from supervision to explore music for myself.

But everything changed in middle school when I met a science teacher, Mr. Schwalm, and the chorus and music teacher Mr. Sheaffer. Mr. Sheaffer, whose musical influence probably shaped me more than any other, had something he called the ‘Album of the Month’ which introduced me to artists like Bela Fleck, Jeffrey Gaines, and Live. Mr. Schwalm would often let students play music during tests and quizzes, provided it didn’t have any bad language. These were some of the first times that I heard non-parent sanctioned music and it had a profound effect on me. And, it was during one of our first quizzes that Mr. Schwalm played his music, and exposed me to the unique genius of Yngwie Malmsteen. This Viking can shred. His music is equal parts dramatic 80’s metal, and absolutely astounding musical proficiency. He even wrote a Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar.

Since those early middle school days, I’ve been on a mission to seek out the odd and extreme wherever I can find it.

So, what metal do I listen to now (asked no one)? Well let me give you some highlights…

Yngwie’s newest Album: World on Fire – It isn’t his best, but it is his latest…

Metallica’s newest Album: Hardwired… To Self-Destruct

The Metallica album St Anger rerecorded by a different band. The original sounded so terrible that it was actually insulting to listen to…

AND, my song of the day, The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden. The scream at 1:17, like the band, is a classic!! Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. I’ll catch you tomorrow for my final day on the blog.

Hail Satan and have a great day!

Lil’ Dicky: Pillow Talking

Happy Wednesday aka hump day!

And in honor of hump day, we are going to listen to some rap. That’s right, RAP MUSIC!!

I LOVE opera, and classical music in general… it has SUCH emotional breadth and depth to it, and it allows me to express and feel things in a different way than most men in modern America. I literally would not be who I am (my internal life, that is) if it weren’t for my relationship with music. It often feels as if I’m the clay and music is the potter… being a musician is weird. ANYWAY, I would argue that MANY people in this country feel the same way about rap and hip-hop as I (we) do about classical music. Thus we, the self-appointed ‘artistic elite’, owe it to our fellow Americans to give their contemporary musical philosophers a serious and thoughtful listen.

Before we jump into it, I just want to say that there is SO much good and important hip-hop being made right now and I’m barely going to scratch the surface (and suffer from an abundance of whiteness), so go find someone with a much better perspective than I, and listen to as much as you can. That said, since I’ve set this blog up as “what do I have on my phone”… what am I listening to at the moment?

Please be advised that most of these playlists will have language that some will find objectionable.

Childish Gambino Donald Glover wrote for 30 Rock, acted on the sitcom Community, created and stars in the show Atlanta, and raps under the name Childish Gambino. This guy does it all, and does it REALLY well.

Kendrick Lamar – His album DAMN. has a lot to say about politics, inequality, violence, and a host of other topics. It is worth a listen, and then several more listens.

Run The Jewels I first heard of Killer Mike (part of the RTJ duo) when he was campaigning for Bernie Sanders in 2015. He is fantastic, and I love the inescapability of politics in his writing. Their music is free on their website, and I encourage you to grab it and give it a listen.

KAMAU, Eminem, Macklemore, Vince Staples, and A Tribe Called Quest also have a place on my phone.

Now, on to today’s feature. Have you ever watched something and immediately wanted to share it with the world? Well, allow me to share with you Lil’ Dicky’s “Pillow Talking”. I recommend you also open a window for the lyrics, courtesy of genius.com (a fantastic resource for reading about rap lyrics). There is so much going on… it mostly revolves around the uncomfortable small talk after a hookup, but veers wildly, covering vegetarianism, Pangaea, the purpose of life, and aliens… am I lying? Maybe… only one way to find out… [watch “Pillow Talking” on vevo.com]

Tune in tomorrow for Heavy Metal Thorsday!!!

Andy Hull and Robert McDowell: Montage

Greetings, and a happy Tuesday to you all! My name is Josh, and welcome back to the NYFOS blog, where I’ll be sharing some music with you this week. Yesterday I threw some bluegrass at you, and today I’ve decided to tackle one of the largest playlists on my phone… film scores!!!

The impact that music has on a movie cannot be overstated. It literally becomes an invisible omnipresent character that manipulates us, both with its presence and its absence. But, instead of talking about movies on a music blog, I’m just going to jump right into the sharing aspect.

So, I OBVIOUSLY have the latest John Williams Star Wars score: The Last Jedi (a brilliant movie btw… haters, PLEASE come argue with me on Facebook). It contains many of the themes from the original trilogy, and some fantastic new music… I also currently have The Force Awakens on my phone, BUT, neither contain a significant vocal element, which was the only guideline they gave me for the blog, so I guess I will continue to dive deeper.

No discussion on the topic would be complete without mentioning one of the greatest composers ever to write for film; Erich Korngold. I’m currently traveling with both his Adventures of Robin Hood score, and his incidental music for Much Ado About Nothing. His music is transfixingly beautiful, and should not be missed. But, again, no voices… my search continues.

Other soundtracks that I like to keep on my phone, but which lack a substantial vocal elements are:

Conan the Barbarian AND Conan the Destroyer by Basil Poledouris – I find these to be excellent for boosting confidence on my subway ride to auditions, and a nice reminder of what is best in life.

Howard Shore’s music for the Lord of the Rings saga. One of the wonderful things about a film score, is that it is often so associated with the movie, that just listening to it replays all your favorite parts of the movie. This is the easy way to relive the wonder of Tolkien’s books/Peter Jackson’s movies in a fraction of the time and without annoying my lovely wife.

Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, Nico Muhly, and several of the Star Trek scores (especially James Horner’s Wrath of Khan) occasionally make it onto my phone as well. They are fantastic, and can really change your commute on a crowded train into something much more gripping.

However, I want to focus in on two scores, WITH voice!

First, and probably one of my favorite things to listen to while walking around the city, is the soundtrack to the comedy Superbad. It opens up with SuperWhat featuring Bootsy Collins, and is just so much damn fun. It’s hard to not to be in a good mood, even if you just stepped in a puddle, and your trains are late, and everyone is just walking too slow… funk it. Relax. Breathe. Smile. It’ll be alright.

And, finally, the piece that I’m most excited to share is “Montage” from the movie Swiss Army Man. The movie itself deals with isolation, anxiety, depression, imagination, loneliness, sanity, and extreme flatulence… yup. It is so odd, and definitely isn’t for everyone, but I took a lot away from my viewing. The score is equally unique, as it is entirely a capella, using only the voices of the main characters and its composers, Andy Hull and Robert McDowell. It is a charming, funny, beautiful, and gripping album, and I suggest you give it a listen in its entirety.

Thanks for reading today’s blog, and I hope you’ll come back tomorrow as we dive ever deeper into my phone…

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