Singing all for one and one for all
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.”