The esteemed Lee University alumna will be a featured guest in the Squires Hall Recital series Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public.
Attending the special concert by the gifted soprano, who regularly performs in the Baltimore Symphony’s Holiday Spectacular shows, promises to be a rare treat for classical music lovers of all ages.
With opera steadily growing in popularity, Walston said she is excited about the opportunity to perform a recital in front of students who are studying this music, faculty who know about it and an educated audience who appreciates opera’s rich and vibrant art form.
“This is a community that doesn’t have recitals all the time,” she said. “There are student recitals at Lee, but people from the community can come and see something a little different than what they’re used to. I’m really excited about it.”
Walston has been described by renowned vocal musician Phyllis Bryn-Julson as showing “incredible versatility on stage.” She added, (Walston’s) “natural ability as an actress is always a hit with the audiences.”
With her lyrical and descriptive stage presence, viewers of Walston’s upcoming performance may be drawn as much to her charming personality as by the sheer virtuosity of her singing. She received her bachelor of music degree at Lee University and her master of music degree and graduate performance diploma at The Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore.
It seems from the beginning Walston, who attended Lorin Maazel’s Castleton Residency for Young Artists, possessed a voice that was brimming with promise.
The Richmond, Va., native was only 6 years old when she made her singing debut in the Easter musical “The Master’s Plan,” presented annually by her church, West End Assembly of God.
“We did about 19 performances in front of about 2,000 people each time,” Walston recalled. “My mom said it was only one of two times in my life that I ever asked her to pray for me before a performance.”
The inspiring singer was 22 and a senior at Lee University when she decided to take her talent to the next level and turn it into her chosen profession.
“Although I had studied classical voice with Tony Deaton for a few years I hadn’t really taken my studies that seriously,” Walston admits. “One day he got frustrated with my lack of dedication and challenged me to try practicing for one month and see if I noticed a difference.
“I am not one to back down from a challenge, so I tried it. I was so excited by the results that I immediately applied for graduate school and declared that I wanted to be an opera singer!”
Since then Walston has played numerous operatic roles including Papagena from “The Magic Flute,” Lucia from “The Rape of Lucretia,” Suor Genoveffa from “Suor Angelica,” Isabel from “El Capitan,” and Zerlina in “Don Giovanni,” among others.
In her role as Phyllis in “Iolanthe,” the Baltimore Sun wrote, “the sweet, nimble singing and deft acting of Sarah Kate Walston was a major plus throughout the performance.”
Describing what it feels like to “be in the moment” of such an exquisite opera performance, Walston said, “Aaah ... there’s nothing like it! Opera is not something that just spontaneously happens. The preparation that goes into learning a role is so much more than anyone probably realizes.
“Countless hours studying diction, rhythms, poetry, dynamic markings, the history of the time period in which the opera is set and character studies are just a few behind-the-scenes things.
“The ‘moment’ reminds you why you were crazy enough to work so hard on all of it in the first place! Everyone’s eyes are on you and you have put in the hours to get to this point. Then you nail it and when you finish there is a stillness in the air. Nobody wants to clap for fear that they will crush the mood that you have just created. That’s what makes it all worth it. That’s ‘being in the moment!’” Walston was most recently engaged as a Spectrum Resident Artist at the Virginia Opera, where she played the role of the page in “Rigoletto” in her Virginia Opera debut and covered Despina in Mozart’s masterpiece “Cosi fan tutte.”
When asked about her musical influences she said, “I admire so many singers, and each for a different reason.”
“Dame Joan Sutherland had such an even tone and unbelievable agility. Renee Fleming’s voice is so rich and expressive. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s interpretations make much of the genre of German Lieder come to life for me, and the list goes on — and that’s just my operatic influences.”
Now it is her own authentic tone being praised for extraordinary control and a ravishing upper register that critics especially love.
Tickets for the performance will be available in the Dixon Center box office today from 3-6 p.m., and at the Squires Hall doors one hour prior to the 7:30 p.m. performance. For “will call” tickets, contact the box office at 423-614-8343.
For more information about the artist, visit www.sarahkatewalston.com.