Cecile McLorin-Salvant's voice is a stunning instrument. Impossibly clear, devastatingly powerful, almost casually virtuosic, with a range that can slide from wine-cellar low to skyscraper high, sometimes in the same breath. Her most recent album, 2015's For One To Love, is such a confident display of jazz talent that it's difficult to believe she's only 26 years old. Her interpretations of standards by Oscar Hammerstein, Bacharach, and David and Leonard Bernstein are alternately playful, menacing, and heartbreakingly sweet. It seems that she can slip into character as easily as one slips into clothing.
For One To Love would be amazing enough as a collection of covers, but McLorin-Salvant can write as well as she sings. The opening track, "Fog," is a remarkably atmospheric tune that seems to linger in the air like its namesake, haunting and eerie and blurred at the edges. It's this staggering level of talent that's led to an avalanche of critical acclaim, from the New York Times, The Guardian, and the Los Angeles Times, not to mention Down Beat magazine. McLorin-Salvant took home four awards from the venerable jazz publication in 2014, including Jazz Album of the Year (for her 2013 release Woman/Child), Female Vocalist, Rising Star–Jazz Artist, and Rising Star–Female Vocalist. And if that weren't enough proof of her talents, she won her first Grammy in 2016 for Best Jazz Vocal Album. With a potent combination of songwriting prowess, classical training and jazz instincts, it's incredible to think about how much further she can go.
The second week of Spoleto sees a variety of both contemporary and classical music, starting with Wednesday's performance of Music in Time: Ancient Voices of Children. Soprano Heather Buck and pianist Stephen Drury, along with members of the Spoleto Festival USA orchestra, come together to perform George Crumb's Ancient Voices of Children. The program will also feature clarinet and spatial electronics, drawing from Pierre Boulez's Dialogue de l'ombre double, performed by Gleb Kanasevich.
Next Tuesday sees two performances: Music in Time, Serynade with an Automated Sunrise, and Choral Fantasy. Serynade celebrates the pianist Helmut Lachenmann — the brains behind Little Match Girl's score — with a piano solo, performed by Drury. And the performance does indeed include a sunrise, closing with Oscar Bettison's small ensemble piece, An Automated Sunrise (for Joseph Cornell). Choral Fantasy, held in the Gaillard Center, is a triple threat performance, and by that we mean that the Charleston Symphony Orchestra chorus, Westminster Choir, and the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra will come together to present Beethoven's Mass in C Major and Choral Fantasy, along with Olivier's Messiaen's Couleurs de la Cite Celeste. In 1808 Beethoven performed Choral Fantasy, for the first time creating a piece that utilized the piano, chorus, and orchestra.