Tenor Andrew Moore's first solo recital in September 2010 was a traditional affair, with works by George Frideric Handel, Vincenzo Bellini, Johannes Brahms and other usual suspects in classical vocal music. Moore got a little loose in the second half with some Irish folk songs.
As he started planning his second recital, he mentioned to his voice teacher, Phyllis Jenness, that he would like to focus on works by Morehead-based composer Jay Flippin, the longtime accompanist of the Lexington Singers, of which Moore is a member.
"She said, 'Hmmm. What if you did all American composers, even all Kentucky?'" Moore says. "So I started doing research and found quite a few really fine composers right here in Lexington."
His recital Sunday night in the Carrick Theatre at Transylvania University will feature the works of two iconic Kentucky-connected composers, Stephen Foster and John Jacob Niles, and active composers Joseph Baber, Greg Partain and Flippin.
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"I think the recital has turned out to be an interesting and high-quality representation of Kentucky song composers," says Jenness, who founded the Lexington Singers and directed the voice program at the University of Kentucky until 1993.
Moore, a landscape architect by day, says he would not be giving any recitals if not for Jenness.
A native of Baton Rouge, La., Moore started to love singing in high school, but his father told him, "Don't waste your time with music, because there's no living in it." He passed up a vocal scholarship to Louisiana State University to study engineering at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. But he kept singing on the side. When he went to LSU for graduate school, he was told he needed to find an accompanist. He also found a wife, Ivy Alello Moore, an active musician who will accompany her husband in Sunday's concert. They have worked together many times, even as Moore's career evolved from chemical engineering to landscape architecture.
When the Moores moved to Lexington in 1990, they became active in the Lexington Singers. Through the group, he knew who Jenness was, but was surprised when he first heard her sing a solo recital about 2005 or 2006.
"I was blown away that there was someone like her teaching," Moore says. "She was offering this class called 'Be a Better Singer,' and I said, 'Shoot, I'm going to go to that.'"
He told Jenness, "What I'd like to do is get some of these higher notes right," and she said, "We can do more than that."
Moore, 60, had been singing baritone, but Jenness helped him find a higher range, turning him into a tenor. It has been a renaissance for him.
"I don't watch TV or do much of anything else except for work and family, of course," Moore says. "I study lieder (lyrical songs for voice and piano); I learn music."
And this time around, he is learning a lot of contemporary music by composers he can call on the phone and work with directly.
The program includes Baber's works, based on the writings of William Shakespeare and other authors; a few songs by Transylvania composer Partain; and Flippin's pieces, based on the poetry of James Still.
"With each of these, I have tried to go in and say: What was happening in these sonnets that Baber set; what was happening in Measure for Measure; and did he interpret that?" Moore says. "This is not about me; this is about this character that I am as a singer, and I should be able to change from this devilish person to this quiet, calm person quickly. I enjoy that part of it."
Not only has Moore found a new voice in the past few years, but in preparing for this recital, Moore says, he has found a new treasure trove of music.
Contemplating some Kentucky music that he didn't get to put on this program, Moore says, "There may be a sequel."