During what would have been Spoleto Festival USA’s 44th season, we’ve spoken with several artists who were slated to arrive in Charleston about their weeks in quarantine. How do they stay motivated to practice? What’s in their ovens? How do the folks who inspire us so much stay inspired themselves? Our “What I’m Watching” series asks just that. Read on this week to hear from Alicia Hall Moran.
Acclaimed mezzo soprano Alicia Hall Moran has performed on some of the top classical stages as well as on Broadway and beyond, presenting her own music as well as collaborating with some of the top artists of our day. During the 2020 Spoleto season, Alicia and her husband, jazz pianist Jason Moran, were to mount Two Wings: Music of Black America in Migration, their multidisciplinary program examining the Great Migration through text, song, and compositions new and old. We caught up with Alicia to find out what’s on her daily to-do lists.
What have you been binge-watching?
I figured out that I could watch all of Tyra Banks’s America’s Next Top Model going back to Season 1 on Amazon Prime, and that has been my most guilty pleasure. It’s such a window into a way of looking at the world that I can’t get anywhere else. I think any time one of these shows becomes a hit, it’s interesting to trace the producers’ choices in subsequent seasons. The passion it takes to invest in these things before they are a hit? I’m also fascinated by the risk involved for the first group of competitors, and the shifts that contestants make—or miss—once the show has a public template and a track record. I love shows that look obsessively at choices. Like Ozark: I‘m obsessed with the reasoning of those characters—both as the writers wrote them and as the actors choose to portray them! Of course, I’m also binge-watching Governor Cuomo’s daily Covid-19 briefings—already the stuff of legend. I can’t wait for that opera to be written. We are going to need so much healing.
What book is on your bedside table?
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Do you have a go-to cookbook?
Right now I’m indebted to the chefs who understand that families with growing teenage kids need to pack in the flavor and keep things very hearty, ample, and fun! Recipes from three books are at the center of our meals multiple times per week: Mad Hungry, by Lucinda Scala Quinn; Express Lane Meals, by Rachael Ray; and Alexander Smalls, Joseph Johnson, Veronica Chambers’s Between Harlem and Heaven. I’ve never cooked so much in my life, and I’m actually getting much much better. Cooking requires more focus than I’ve usually given it in the past. Now though, it’s just me and that chicken on the counter. There aren’t a lot of distractions, and my family needs the meal to keep their heads up, quite literally.
Do you have quarantine buddies?
My sons and my husband are my human contact. I’ll admit I’m cherishing this opportunity to be really close as family while society as a whole is having to reassess its priorities. It’s the grounded experience of having newborn at home, except your fears at this time are about the world outside—and not about learning to be a new parent. My kids have really become my allies in this time. They are great people with such cool interests: aviation, modern dance, guitar, violin, Roblox, survival competitions…I am never bored at home.
How are you continuing your daily practice?
In the last year, I’ve been singing all kinds of things—from a recording of Gabriel Kahane‘s oratorio with the Oregon Symphony, which is in a quasi-classical style, and another world tour of a piece where I sing a really wide-ranging setting of an old gospel hymn next to music that feels, in my voice, almost like rock opera. Two Wings requires another range altogether: jazz influences, formal art song, my own composition, and Negro Spirituals. So my practice now is a continuation of those explorations, and I’m practicing online with my teacher. Growing my repertoire at the same time gigs have disappeared has given me time to really embrace my music again—and for a different set of reasons. You have to be guided by passion, too, not only by opportunity or because you won an audition. What would you sing just because you wanted to or if no one was listening? This experience is teaching me how much I love the music that I do sing. I miss it, and I miss the audience, its surprise, and immediate feedback. And, yes! I also miss the sound of applause…an entire room of people breathing and contemplating the same thing at the same time. It’s delicious.
Want more? Visit aliciahallmoran.com to see Alicia Hall Moran’s work and updates about her projects. And be sure to follow @SpoletoFestivalUSA on Instagram for info surrounding the Festival and its artists.