As a special season-opening treat this year, Lyric's magnificent Chorus will be featured in two showcase concerts on September 12 at Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church (right on Michigan Avenue) and on November 22 at Northwestern University's Millar Chapel in Evanston.
The concert features excerpts from operas featured in Lyric's 2014-15 Diamond Anniversary season, plus some beloved choral favorites with solos from certain Chorus members. Soprano Kimberly McCord is one of the featured singers, and she took the time to give us a bit of her background—and let us in on her own Lyric love story!
When did you know you wanted to be a singer?
I always loved singing and as a child would spend hours singing along to the few but diverse LPs my parents had, such as Jo Stafford, The Sound of Music soundtrack, and The Fifth Dimension. My preschool teacher told my parents to get me piano lessons, which they did. I thought music would be a tough career, but, thanks to my parents' support, I decided to pursue singing as a career my junior year in high school.
(McCord, back row fourth from left, poses with her fellow nuns and Jenn Gambatese, center / Maria, during Lyric's production of The Sound of Music.)
When did you join the Chorus? And what brought you to Lyric or Chicago?
I joined the chorus in 2008. I had been living in Europe for eight years, singing mostly Baroque music, giving recitals, and teaching privately. When I was ready to come back to the States, I thought Chicago would be a friendly, livable, culturally vibrant city. I was right!
What was your background before joining the Chorus?
I earned my Bachelor's of Music from Indiana University and then received a Fulbright grant to study Early Music with Dame Emma Kirkby. I was getting a lot of work singing Baroque music, but I felt that I needed to transition into opera in order to develop my voice and artistry more fully. This process led to a serious vocal crisis but I eventually learned how to integrate my vocal technique and emotional expression more fully. Now singing is even more artistically satisfying.
You're one of the featured singers in Lyric's upcoming Chorus concerts—what about the concerts is most exciting to you?
There is something truly cosmic about sublimating your individuality to express something in sync with 47 other people. It's a thrilling and visceral experience for us and the audience! I'm also excited about performing with Maestro Black conducting and our rehearsal pianist, Jerad Mosbey, accompanying. They prepare us in the crucial daily, behind-the-scenes rehearsal process. The public gets to experience this very intimate working relationship for the first time in these concerts.
Can you talk a little bit about the piece that you're featured on during the concert: "Placido è il, mar" from Mozart's Idomeneo?
On the surface, this piece seems like yet another graceful Mozart composition, but I hear real longing in the big vocal leaps upward and weariness in the short repeated phrases. Connecting with these deeper human emotions while performing technically difficult music is what Mozart demands of us. I hope I am able to do his genius justice!
(Salzburg Festival 2006 production of Idomeneo)
What has been your most memorable experience at Lyric so far?
I met the love of my life at Lyric! Dan Pyne, a software salesman by day, supernumerary occasionally by night, walked into our first staging rehearsal of Lohengrin, and I was thrilled to be placed near him in the opening scene. It gave me the chance to strike up a conversation and we've been going strong ever since. (McCord and Pyne pictured right.)
What is the most outrageous costume you've worn on stage?
Probably the witches in Macbeth. In fact, the costumes were so crazy, with all these dangling pieces, that one chorister accidentally performed the first scene with a bra caught on her costume. No one noticed it until we were back up in the dressing room! We had a good laugh about that one!
(Kimberly McCord and her fellow witches having fun at Lyric, both on stage and off. Top photo: the witches on stage. McCord is third from left; Bottom left: Fire witches Laurie Seely Vassalli, McCord, Nina Heebink (the chorister with the "wardrobe malfunction") and Carla Janzen; Bottom right: The three types of witches, Snake, Earth, Fire. L-R Rachel Crim-Holzhausen, McCord, Desiree Hassler, and Pamela Williams.)
What do you enjoy most about being in the Chorus?
I consider it a great privilege to dedicate my energy to singing. Working diligently on giving fresh expression to classic stories of human experience is a deeply rewarding way to earn a living.
When you're not a Lyric, what are some of your hobbies or other projects?
I enjoy creating things that are more concrete than sound waves! I am a serious cook, I do lots of different crafts, from sewing to embroidery to crochet, and I also love home renovation projects.
What do you love most about living in Chicago?
The diversity of people.
And a few fun questions:
Do you have a go-to karaoke song?
Anything by Heart
("Barracuda" from 1977)
Who is your favorite singer?
What is your favorite opera?
(Royal Opera House 2014 production of Don Giovanni)
And what is your favorite musical?
(Live performance from the 2008 Tony Awards of Lincoln Center Theater's production)
Photos courtesy Kimberly McCord
(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)