Sing­ing all for one and one for all

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words - James M. Keller For The New Mex­i­can

When the bari­tone David Far­wig per­forms a recital on Fri­day, April 23, at St. John’s Col­lege, con­cert­go­ers will en­counter a fa­mil­iar face in an un­ac­cus­tomed role. Far­wig, who lives in Den­ver, has been a stal­wart of Santa Fe’s con­cert scene for more than two decades but nearly al­ways as a mem­ber of an en­sem­ble. He be­gan sing­ing with the Santa Fe Desert Cho­rale in 1988 — “I was the baby of the en­sem­ble that year,” he said re­cently — and his name has been on that group’s ros­ter for many sea­sons since, as it will be again this sum­mer.

As the years pro­gressed, Far­wig was tapped for per­for­mances by Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica and the Santa Fe Sym­phony Or­ches­tra & Cho­rus, and he soon moved to the front of the Rolodex for lead­ing choral en­sem­bles else­where. By now he has sung of­ten with the Ore­gon Bach Fes­ti­val, Choral Arts in Seat­tle, and the Texas-based cham­ber choir Con­spir­are, and it’s no won­der. As a singer, he pro­vides char­ac­ter­is­tics that choral di­rec­tors love: a voice that is warm but not woolly, that blends well in a group, that boasts spot-on in­to­na­tion, and that can be molded to serve the ideas of the con­duc­tor. Oc­ca­sion­ally, in a choral con­cert, in­di­vid­ual mem­bers are called on to step for­ward to de­liver solo lines. When such a part falls to a bari­tone, con­duc­tors have got­ten into the habit of point­ing in his di­rec­tion.

“My ca­reer has evolved very nat­u­rally,” Far­wig said. “I got a great start by spend­ing six years with the Sing­ing Sergeants, which was a full-time job within the Air Force, and we sang ev­ery­thing. Af­ter that, I went back to school to get a mas­ter’s in con­duct­ing, and it was then that I started get­ting in­vi­ta­tions to do solo work, usu­ally for solo parts in or­a­to­rios.” In 2003, he re­ceived a pres­ti­gious fel­low­ship from the Carmel Bach Fes­ti­val to sup­port an emerg­ing artist work­ing in Baroque reper­toire. Now, at the age of 42, he finds him­self in­creas­ingly in the soloist’s spot­light. “I al­ways felt I was a late bloomer,” he said. “It does hap­pen with men’s voices, es­pe­cially with lower voices, that the ma­tu­rity, the rich­ness of color, can ar­rive a lit­tle later, and that has been the case for me.”

On a tech­ni­cal level, com­ing into his own as a soloist at this point in his ca­reer does af­ford an ad­van­tage, since the dis­ci­pline of choral sing­ing can spell vo­cal longevity. “A lot of young­sters sim­ply blow out their voices due to the con­stant, full sing­ing that is the na­ture of sing­ing opera,” Far­wig said. “Choral singers usu­ally show less wear and tear. I have sung some opera: some Mozart in col­lege, more re­cently Dido and Ae­neas, Amahl and the Night Vis­i­tors, lighter sorts of roles. But I never set my sights on go­ing off and be­com­ing an opera singer, which is what a lot of voice stu­dents do.” Nor is that where he sees him­self head­ing to­day. In­stead, his in­ter­est as a soloist lies more with lieder and cross­over reper­toire, pre­cisely the mu­sic he sings in the St. John’s con­cert.

“Peo­ple started en­cour­ag­ing me to sing Vaughan Wil­liams,” he said. “It seems my voice does have a good qual­ity for English songs in gen­eral, and I’ve se­lected four of his Songs of Travel for this recital.” He has in­cluded fur­ther song sets that build on the con­cept of “songs of travel,” the prod­ucts of dif­fer­ent na­tions and mu­si­cal tra­di­tions: songs by Stefano Donaudy (of Italy), Robert Schu­mann (Ger­many), Henri Du­parc (France), and, to con­clude, some se­lec­tions by Car­los Gardel, who de­fined the clas­sic era of Ar­gen­tine tango. South Amer­i­can songs are a spe­cial pas­sion of Far­wig’s. “I feel a nat­u­ral con­nec­tion to this mu­sic,” he ex­plained, “since my mother came from the low­land re­gion of Bo­livia.” He is now work­ing on a recital CD, and it will in­clude a va­ri­ety of Span­ish and South Amer­i­can works, in­clud­ing the Gardel songs he per­forms here.

Far­wig isn’t wor­ry­ing too much about where his mu­si­cal fu­ture will lead. Though he’s now al­lo­cat­ing more time to his work as a recital­ist and or­a­to­rio soloist, he would be re­luc­tant to give up his ac­tiv­i­ties as a choral singer. “I sim­ply love choral mu­sic,” he says, “and I cher­ish the re­la­tion­ships I have with var­i­ous choral groups. So we’ll see. My con­cern, re­ally, is just bring­ing who I am to what­ever mu­sic it is that I present.”

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