Soprano finds own voice to sing opera

By From page B1 | May 09, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Singer Lauren Woody’s musical forte may be opera but she shares a common bond with rock singer Arnel Pineda.

Woody, a soprano, was discovered on YouTube. Pineda got his job as Journey’s new front man the same way, according to his website.

The San Francisco resident will be featured on Brahms “A German Requiem” at Saturday’s Vallejo Symphony show. Benicia’s Paul Cheak will handle the baritone parts.

Vocal support for the pair will come from the Solano Choral Society, Vallejo Choral Society and the Samantics.

The piece is very emotional, Woody said. There are moments of forgiveness and clarity. Singing the final notes brings a sense of relief, she said.

“I’ll bring my personal take on it,” she said. “And, I will pay homage to the singers who have sung it before me. Each singer that sings it brings their own life experience to it.”

The Connecticut native grew up listening to music. She developed a passion for the vocal arts while in high school. In college, nurtured by teacher Susan Duggan, Woody focused on opera singing.

“It was great I had a champion for me,” she said. “It’s fun being able to sing this beautiful music.”

Woody sings opera with Ensemble Mik Nawooj, a hybrid group that performs the music of composer/pianist JooWan Kim, known for injecting Western European classical composition techniques into genres such as hip-hop, rock and pop. The group includes flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, deep funk drums, heavy contrabass, two featured emcees and Woody.

Kim discovered Woody on YouTube and asked her to join the ensemble.

“It’s so new, so fresh and avant-garde,” Woody said of Ensemble Mik Nawooj.

Most of the music is original. The ensemble recently covered Wu Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.” The song is also known as “Cash Rules Everything Around Me.”

Woody now studies with Sheri Greenwald at the San Francisco Opera and calls Greenwald one of her favorite female singers. Greenwald’s techniques are flawless, Woody said, noting that she may be a bit biased.

Maria Callas is another favorite.

“She’s the gold standard,” Woody said.

Two years ago, Woody traveled to China to sing. It was an unforgettable experience with wondrous side trips, including the Great Wall, she said. Travel comes with the profession, she said.

“You accept that it’s part of the job,” she said.

Woody moved from Connecticut to San Francisco as that state’s opera houses began to close. She was impressed with the city by the bay’s support of vocal artists and local musicians.

“There are tons of regional opera houses,” she said. “I can gain more experience and get the wonderful opportunity to pursue my craft.”

Her advice to teen girls who want to follow in her footsteps is to try every style of music in order to find one that bests fits their vocal range.

“Opera isn’t for everyone,” she said.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.


Vallejo Symphony

  • “Eternal Waters”
  • 7 p.m. Saturday
  • Dr. James C. Hogan Auditorium, 850 Rosewood Ave., Vallejo
  • 643-4441
  • www.vallejosymphony.org
  • www.laurenwoody.com
Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.

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