On Delicious Numbers Albany Records (TROY1645), Gregg’s voice as a composer of solo works is being heard in commercial release for the first time! –three major works dating from 1972, 1984, and 1998.
These works–a scena on a scandalous story from the Apocrypha (poetry of Wallace Stephens), a virtuosic sonata set on Milton’s L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, and a jazz-inspired cycle on poems about life from a NYC perspective, by our own Kim Rich Norton- were chosen from Gregg’s 50 works for solo soprano, most of them written for Rosalind Rees.
Under Gregg’s direction, soprano Eileen Clark, pianist Thomas Schmidt, violinist Ari Streisfeld, and clarinetist Evan Ziporyn joined forces.: “Gregg advised us at rehearsals and recording sessions for Delicious Numbers. He lent his sharp ears to the editing process. In a memorable moment together (we had been working for hours on edits), he looked up with a satisfied smile and said, ‘I really like the way I composed these pieces.’”
This recording was Gregg Smith’s last project.
The first time I met Gregg Smith, I sang an F major scale. It was one of Gregg’s classic phone auditions for the world famous professional chorus, The Gregg Smith Singers. During that F major scale my life changed, but I didn’t know yet.
The second time I met Gregg Smith, I sang one measure of the Mozart (Gasparini) Adoramus Te in C minor, within The Gregg Smith Singers. That was the moment I knew my life had changed. I could not sing past the first measure! I could only listen . . . and begin dreamily preparing for a long career as a professional listener. My path, my career, singing for Gregg and other fine conductors via his kind recommendation, has meant listening as first priority, paying attention to perfect tuning and blend, giving up my own sound to lock onto the sound of another standing beside me.
But there are times I’m asked to step forward, bringing my sound to a solo. When Gregg turned 80 and I had known him for 25 years, it seemed the right time to explore his file cabinet of solo compositions. All had been performed by soprano Rosalind Rees, and most had been written for her, but almost none of them had been recorded. Recording . . . just a few of them, but which few . . . was on my mind. On a subway ride from Yonkers to Brooklyn one night, I finally held the borrowed stack of oversize yellowed manuscripts on my lap. Passing through the Upper West Side on the 3 train, I wondered if other musicians riding the train would want to know who wrote the library I so closely guarded there. Since that day, certain pieces have floated to the top of the stack. I have been lucky to record them with Tom, Ari, Evan, and Adam.
To any singer who listens here and enjoys: I hope you will perform these pieces! And while you are at it, perform and record additional pieces by Gregg, until we can say they all made it safely into the canon of American art song. My thanks to you then, for your future work. And my thanks to the musicians on this recording, and to Rosalind Rees and Gregg Smith.