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Award-winning London-based voice/piano duo Jared Michaud and Christina Koti will perform a recital of art songs influenced by Greek traditions and culture by Greek and non-Greek composers alike. (Photo: Yiannis Moralis)
NEW YORK – The award-winning, London-based voice/piano duo of Jared Andrew Michaud and Christina Maria Koti perform a recital of art songs influenced by Greek traditions and culture, titled Greece & Art Song: In Myth and Tradition, on Friday, February 17, 8 PM, at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, 450 West 37th Street in Manhattan. Franco-American baritone Michaud and Greek pianist Koti who is originally from the island of Rhodes, have been working closely for nearly three years now after meeting at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance in London, where they both received their master’s degrees and studied with Neil Baker, Deniz Gelenbe-Arman, Helen Yorke, and Eugene Asti. The duo has received international recognition for their interpretation of art song, winning first prize at the 2022 Federation of Art Song Fellowship Competition in New York City, the 4th International SGSM Singing Competition in Slovenia, and the 2022 Elisabeth Schumann Lieder Duo Competition in London. The gifted musicians spoke with The National Herald about their music and the upcoming recital which explores the nuanced relationship between Greek music and classical music, and the age-old duality of East and West with an impressive program of songs in Greek, French, German, Russian, and English by composers such as Schubert, Ravel, Berkeley, Constantinides, and Hadjidakis.
When asked if they always wanted to pursue a career in music, Michaud told TNH: “Not necessarily. I’ve been performing in one way or another since I was very young, singing and dancing and acting. I loved to sing from a young age and then was the cantor in my church for many years, but for most of my life I really wanted to be an actor. I only really got into classical singing when I went to university, where they offered free lessons, and I’ve been hooked since. I used to try to balance my academic passions with my performance ones, but now I know that— especially with projects like these— there are ways for both these interests to coexist.”
In response to the same question, Koti said: “Not really. I started taking piano lessons at the age of five but for many years I wanted to pursue a career in dance and particularly classical ballet. My mother is a musician but despite the influences at home it was only when I entered the Music High School of Rhodes that I realized music, and particularly piano, was the thing I wanted to focus on.”
When asked what it was like winning the Federation of the Art Song (FAS) Fellowship Competition, they told TNH that it was “very surreal and surprising! We are quite young, and though we’ve won other competitions in Europe, this one had no age limit and some incredibly talented competitors— we were truly just grateful to have made it to the final round of the competition. But winning was even more amazing, especially since it comes with a whole bunch of concerts like this one in NYC and a lot of support from talented mentors.”
Of how long the upcoming concert took to put together, they told TNH that “as a duo, we’ve always been interested in blurring the lines between canonical repertoire and less commonly performed music, and this fellowship and this concert gives us a nice big platform to do so. Last summer, we received funding from Help Musicians (a UK charity) to train and perform in Greece at the Horto Festival with collaborative pianist/coach Christos Marinos. Since then, we’ve been working on some of the songs featured in our concert program.”
The duo added that Koti has always wanted to perform Greek art song and represent her culture, but Michaud has always been a bit hesitant because of how difficult the language is. But after their experiences in Greece and now this great concert opportunity, Michaud has become really excited about learning Greek and Koti has been a really great teacher as well.
“But ultimately, a lot of this music is fresh and just a few months old,” they told TNH, noting that “more than just practicing the music, we’ve had to do a lot of digging for some of this music, as some of it is not easily accessible to the public or even published.”
Koti also received help from musicologist Myrto Economides at the Lilian Voudouri Music Library of Greece to access some of the scores that they will be performing.
When asked how they chose the pieces to include in the program, they told TNH: “We really wanted to include music that would appeal to everyone— to both classical music aficionados and everyday Greek/Greek-American people. Our aim is not just to present a concert of canonical Western European music inspired by Greece (the myths, the poets, and even the exotic East) nor is it to just perform the works of only Greek composers. Rather, we’re hoping to bring everyone to the concert hall by blurring the lines between these two categories of music and show the influence Greece has had in the art song world, whether through Western fascination or their own composers.”
“We chose some canonical pieces that might be familiar to audience members and have paired them with songs by Greek composers with similar themes in order to share multiple perspectives to ultimately the same message,” they continued. “In the end, we hope that audience members leave not only with a more complex view of Greece and this duality of East and West but also with a new appreciation of some truly stunning Greek art songs that are rarely performed.”
Of what’s next for the duo, Koti said that “we’re performing a different program in May in Princeton and New Brunswick, NJ, so we are preparing for that as well as a variety of other recitals in London. We are constantly preparing for and competitions in competitions around the world, so we will continue to travel the world and get ourselves out there. Jared is performing with Grange Park Opera this summer in the UK, and together we will likely do another duo course this summer to work with a talented mentor and practice some music. Next year, we are looking at relocating to Paris to pursue Artist Diplomas and to work with renowned collaborative pianist/coach Susan Manoff.”
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