As the icy wind blew snow along the pavement like sand through a frozen desert, I walked into Bløm Meadworks. It was just after hours, but the promise of good music had drawn a modest crowd of around 30 people. After beer and wine was distributed and the audience settled into their seats, they killed the lights, and we were suddenly thrust into a warmth and calmness that rivaled even the most roaring of hearth fires. The red and blue glow of smaller lights along the wall and the low hum of the brewing vats beside us made the blizzard outside feel a million miles away.
The concert featured three vocalists: Rebecca HH Rosen, Jocelyn Zelasko, and Hillary LaBonte. Rosen is a singer-songwriter who tours all over the U.S. with various groups; a musical vagabond since 2014. Zelasko and LaBonte are contemporary classical singers, taking part in various operas. All three have immensely strong voices with tones and ranges that are quite unique from each other.
The music from Rebecca HH Rosen and the cellists made me feel such conflicting things at once I became stuck in a tight space, held by the sound, feeling secure and claustrophobic both. Though the songs made me automatically picture peaceful summer images of the sun and breeze and soft, long grasses, I cried through the entire 30-minute set. And it wasn’t as if I began to listen and take in the words, gradually tearing up at the beautiful intersection of voice and my favorite string instruments. No more than five seconds passed from the moment Rosen began singing and I felt tears hitting my cheeks. There was nothing sad about the experience; all at once I felt all that is good and beautiful in the world, every sunny day. The sound of the cellos, guitar, and voice was simultaneously impossibly smooth and strong and sweet. I regret that I could not pay much attention to the lyrics, most of which were written by Rosen herself.
The next singers, Jocelyn Zelasko and Hillary LaBonte, performed together in what proved to be the most wildly conflicting, experimental version of chamber music I have heard yet. Though maintaining a classicality that stretched into opera at times, much of their performance was illogical, though it provoked critical thinking. A few songs had no words at all, but were piercing and emotional enough to stay in my memory for days afterwards. This may have been the effect of the room’s odd lighting, but I swear I lost my sense of sight for a time, LaBonte’s hair and face melting together with her neck and shoulders. I do not have a clear idea of what this fleeting semi-blindness means. The last part of their set used audio description as a medium–they literally put headphones on and described the sounds their phones were playing. It sounds ridiculous and confusing, but it felt like something more. When combined with the wordless songs and the often irrational ramblings of ones with lyrics, I had a sense of reliance on the singers for information, on the stories they were piecing together for us. It was reminiscent of ancient oral storytelling traditions; I was grateful to gather and understand the details they were passing down.