Ewell Concert Series presents: Fiançailles

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COURTESY PHOTO / GRACE OLSEN

Saturday night in Ewell Hall, soprano Laura Strickling, accompanied by pianist Joy Schreier, graced the stage with her performance of “Fiançailles.” The performance was comprised of renditions pieced together by 20th-century composers Francis Poulenc, Benjamin Britten and Libby Larsen. Following the recital, Ewell Concert Series manager Richard Marcus hosted a reception in Ewell Hall where attendees were able to meet the performers and enjoy refreshments and hors d’oeuvres.

Originally from Chicago, Strickling currently resides with her husband and two-year-old daughter in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

When the U.S. Virgin Islands were left in ruins following the landfall of both Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Strickling and her family fled to the mainland of the United States. There for seven months, Laura brought her friends and family together to present a recital at the Opera America Center in New York City to benefit the island’s recovery effort. Just over a year after the storms, the family finds itself back home in St. Thomas, where life has resumed as normal. 

“I’ve always sung,” Strickling said. “I can’t remember a time where I didn’t find great joy in it.”

Strickling’s first memories of performing date back to singing “Away in a Manger” in her father’s church at the age of two. From there, she continued to pursue her passion for music, eventually obtaining a degree in voice at Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute. Following graduation, she continued her education at The Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and graduated with her master’s.

Strickling recently performed “Poulenc Gloria” in Asheville, North Carolina, with the Asheville Symphony. Being a soprano, Strickling has had the ability to work with an extensive range of other performers.

“The opportunity to perform with such a wide variety of musicians is incredible,” Strickling said.

Strickling mostly does recitals, but she also does concert work, or oratorios. As she is classified as a soprano, or classical singer, it is unique that Strickling rarely takes part in opera. Next month, she will be flying to Seattle for the world premiere of “Music of Remembrance,” which will feature work composed by melodists of the 20th century and earlier.

“The concert, recital and chamber music experiences are what I find most fulfilling as a singer,” Strickling said.

Strickling’s talent has brought her all around the continent, including Mexico, New York, Chicago and Boston.

“I am a freelance singer, meaning that I am not attached to any one group,” Strickling said. “If I am working, I am traveling.”

Mady Wright ’21 was one of the attendees of the event, and as a young college student she stuck out in the sea of elderly community members around her. Wright is pursuing a degree in voice and took immediate interest in the event. She has attended other events in the series and plans on attending more.

“It’s really amazing to have professionals come and perform, and also to be in such an intimate environment with them,” Wright said.

Marcus also commented on the intimate scene of the recital.

“Unfortunately, because we had to reschedule this one, we didn’t have quite as large of an audience as I had hoped,” Marcus said.

Despite Strickling being a well sought-after soprano, the size of the crowd had not been as extensive as expected. Marcus reported that the average attendance of the previous concerts in the series had boasted upwards of 100 attendees, while Strickling and Schrier had only attracted around 50. 

After the performance, Marcus commented once more on Strickling’s talents. The versatile range of Strickling left lasting impressions on the event manager, who hopes that the same impression was left on the audience.

“I found it astonishing, and I don’t think I am the only one,” Marcus said.

Strickling and her pianist Schreier have been working together for 10 years now. Having first performed together in 2009, Strickling commented that the two had an instant “musical chemistry,” and that the fluidity of their own talents balanced the other’s celestially.

Strickling and Schreier have been working on a CD together since early 2017, which had to be put on hold due to the hurricanes that year. While in Williamsburg, Strickling and Schreier will put the final touches on the CD which will be released later this fall.

After Strickling and Schreier, the next installment of the Ewell Concert Series is Ensemble Schumann and the VSO String Quartet, who will take the stage through mid-March and into early April. The series manager hopes that the success of Strickling and Schrier’s performance will attract more attendees to the final concerts of the Ewell Concert Series.

“I think it’s a terrific and wonderful opportunity for the students, but also the community,” Marcus said.